LIVE is the 4th full length album from the Jpop group NEWS. It was released in September of 2010 and is NEWS’s most recent album released to date. It contains 15 songs on the Regular Edition, 13 songs on the Limited Edition, and features NEWS’s singles “Sakura Girl” and “Koi no ABO”, as well as the song “Be Funky” that was used as the ending song for NEWS member Kato Shigeaki’s Drama “Trouble Man”. The title song, “LIVE”, was written by the producer of the hit Japanese group, Greeeen.
This album contains only 2 songs that were released as singles. Normally, Johnnys groups release at least 3 singles before they release an album, but this album was an exception to this, in my opinion, because they only released 2 singles during the time period between their “Color” album release in October 2008 until the release of “LIVE” in September 2010. I believe because of this long time period in-between albums, they decided to release an album instead of another single. Since only 3 songs (Koi no ABO, Sakura Girl, and Be Funky) had been previously heard, most of the other songs were original. The exceptions to this were the 2 bonus songs on the Regular Edition: “Forever (unplugged Version)” and “Share”. “Forever” was released on NEWS’s album before this, “Color”, and was re-done a bit to make an “unplugged” version. “Share” was released in a live version as a B-side track on the “Koi no ABO” single and on the “LIVE” album, they made a studio version of it. “Share” was actually written by the members themselves during their “NEWS Winter Diamond Party” 2008-2009 tour.
I thought the album, overall, had a great balance between fun and mature. NEWS is starting to get later into their 20’s and this album reflects their “fresh” and “fun” image, but making it mature at the same time. Some of my favorite songs include “Naiyou no nai tegami” (A letter with no content), “Aki no Sora” (Autumn Sky), “Umareshi kime e” (To you, who was born), and Endless Summer. Its funny, because I normally don’t like slow songs and ALL of these I categorize as being slower. I think the reason I was attracted to the slower songs this time is because I think NEWS’s vocals have improved vastly since the “Color” album. There was about a 2 year gap in-between these 2 albums and I think that attributed to the improved vocals. You might be wondering why I say that, but even though the members didn’t do much work together, they had solo activities that helped them improve their vocals. Masuda and Tegoshi did a lot together as Tegomassu, Yamashita released 2 singles his own, Nishikido worked with his other group,Kanjani8, and it was mentioned that though Kato and Koyama didn’t have direct solo work with music, they were taking voice lessons on the side. These improved vocals can really be heard in the “unplugged”, live band sessions on the DVD that came with the Limited Edition.
As for the flow of the album, I think all the songs go well together and the way they are placed on the album go well together. I normally don’t pay attention to the album flow because I like to put things on shuffle and then pick out my favorite songs to listen to as well, but I will say that I think there really aren’t any random songs on the album that interrupt the flow.
The Limited Edition of “LIVE” comes with a DVD that has 4 “unplugged”, live band sessions. They perform 4 of their songs: “SNOW EXPRESS”, “Sakura Girl”, “Aki no Sora”, and “SUMMER TIME” and they have a live band backing them up. The theme of these sessions is the 4 seasons, each song representing one of the seasons.
SNOW EXPRESS: Winter
Sakura Girl: Spring
Aki no Sora: Fall
SUMMER TIME: Summer
These unplugged sessions, I thought, were amazing with the live band behind them and we can really hear their vocals in an intimate setting. The songs chosen are some of my favorite NEWS songs and it was very nice hearing them in a different arrangement. I thought they were really well done because the mood of the session changed with each song, creating a whole new personality for older NEWS songs, like SUMMER TIME and SNOW EXPRESS, and bringing to life some of the newer songs, like Aki no Sora and Sakura Girl.
This DVD also comes with the making of these sessions, which gives a behind the scenes look at the band sessions and their making. NEWS behind the scenes footage is some of my favorite out of all the Johnnys groups I follow and it is always fun to watch them playing around and interacting with each other.
The theme of the packaging seems to be newspaper like, with the main colors being black, white, and grey with bursts of color in the LIVE logo and in the accessories the members wear. The photoshoot for the album is very nice with the Regular edition having them in black suits and the Limited Edition with them in white suits, with a pop of each member’s image color. The Limited Edition comes with a bonus photo book with the lyrics on a “newspaper” and the Regular Edition features one picture with each of the members along with the lyrics.
I really enjoyed this album from NEWS and I like almost all of the songs on the album, verses “Color” where I really only liked 3 or so of the songs. That hasn’t happened from a NEWS album for me since the album”Pacific”, which is by far my favorite NEWS album. Live is #2 in terms of album rankings. I look forward to another NEWS album in the near future!