Recorded over two years ago, shortly after the release of the now multi-platinum Songs About Jane and originally released State-side only, 1.22.03 Acoustic is now to enjoy its first UK distribution shortly before the Brit awards in which Maroon 5 have three nominations.
As the rather utilitarian title suggests, this mini-album comprises acoustic songs recorded on 22 January 2003, in New York. One can’t help but wonder, above the hard-to-shake sub-conscious drone of “cash-in”, why this particular acoustic set, and why now? The wondering continues with the tacked-on-the-end “bonus” electric version of AC/DC‘s Highway To Hell recorded in Hamburg, which has nothing in common with the previous six tracks other than the “live”-ness of the recording.
Opener This Love will be familiar to most people owning a radio, but here it is played calypso style. The instruments are pared down, with the guitar playing particularly clipped, resulting in the bass/piano baseline taking default prominence. Adam Levine’s vocal talents are ably demonstrated as he improvises new warbles in the closing bars like a seasoned pro.
Sunday Morning, with its laid back vibe and piano meanderings is evocative of Sunday brunch in a caf� with a jazz band playing unobtrusively in the corner. Although a reasonable number, nothing present distinguishes it from many other talented bands who have not sold many hundreds of thousands of records.
The set then moves into what became two mega hits for the band – She Will Be Loved and Harder To Breathe. The former is another pared down number, of primarily bongos and voice. Indeed, without the balance of other instruments, Levine’s voice tends towards a slightly irritating nasal whine, especially on the high notes.
Harder To Breathe, by contrast, where the singing is in a more accessible part of the range, with insistent guitar and bass riffs, and great vocal harmonies on the choruses, gets the hips moving and is undoubtedly the stand-out track of the mini-album.
The smattering of applause between songs indicates the intimacy of the gig, with Levine even pausing part way through his rendition of Lennon and McCartney‘s If I Fell to say, “I heard that!” to someone in the audience. This track, which some may call tender or beautiful, to these ears sounds hesitant and slightly off key, while the patchy guitar playing sounds like someone trying to sight-read the chords in their bedroom. The crowd are nonetheless appreciative.
To go from the solo faltering voice to the electric guitars of Highway To Hell and the decidedly more earthy vocals of drummer Ryan Dusick is a shock to the system and although it shows a certain sense of humour, its incongruity is simply too much.
Fundamentally, 1.22.03 Acoustic is for those who were there, or for those fans who cannot survive without owning every item released by their fave band. For the rest, if you really want to own some Maroon 5, just stick to Songs About Jane.