While you may have to wait for a review of the full deal box-set (with colored vinyl and complete “doo-dads”), what you’ll be getting at this moment is a look at the French electronic duo’s first of two live albums and arguably their best, Alive 1997. Recorded before they turned into the Grammy-award winning robots and made pyramids cool again, a precision exists in their underground acid house rise, which made them one of the most exciting music acts of the late-’90s.
This 45-minute set, from a show they recorded in Birmingham, UK, was released in the wake of Daft Punk’s breakthrough album, 2001’s Discovery, but there’s no traces of that particular sheen found here. The tracks they chop and screw into this set are all from their landmark debut Homework and the vivacity from that album is fully intact; this is Daft Punk at their shrillest and most wildly imaginative, cutting together the danciest tracks from the album with incredible zest for an even dancier album (if that’s possible).
The tracks featured here — “Da Funk,” “Rollin’ and Scratchin’,” and “Alive” — which already featured the duo’s blood, sweat and tears, are practically reinvented in this set. Tempos change rapidly and layers are added and erased without hesitation for a heart-racing experience unlike anything heard before it. It’s so prepared to go off the rails, but Daft Punk are known perfectionists, and though the set itself is filled with their acid house grime, its structure is note-for-note perfect in its execution, driving emotions left and right so much so that it actually maintains an equilibrium effect, making sure you can follow the shifts while still being insanely wild.
Alive 1997 was recorded when Daft Punk was just two kids with vivid dreams of making the best damn electronica album ever, but it unmistakably revealed a duo so well-seasoned to the point that they almost didn’t even need to owe up to their predecessors in the community. They instantly became a part of the pantheon of those artists well before they donned costumes and helmets, and Alive 1997 is a record that looks to preserve the duo’s legacy while still existing as an extraordinary live recording in its own right.
This record was played on an Audio-Technica LP-120 USB using an Audio-Technica DR750 cartridge.
Rhino has repressed Alive 1997 on 180-gram vinyl, and while I can’t compare the original release from 2001 because I don’t have it, you’ll be experiencing some definite enhanced bass (which there is quite a lot of) and refined, equalized volume levels. There isn’t a ton of “depth” considering how the set was recorded, but never did I find any limiting issues, and whoever did record the event did so with surprising clarity. It’s represented here to the best of my knowledge, and considering I’ve only been listening to the record as a bootleg, I commend Rhino for repressing it to satisfying effect and then some.
Alive 1997 is faithfully presented in its original packaging, with the cover looking like one of the duo’s vinyl carrying cases on cardboard stock. The back contains no tracklisting (as was also originally intended) but does provide album credits. It might have been interesting to have some kind of embossed feel to the “used” package, but it’s fine as is.
Inside the single jacket are stickers that were once included with the original packaging and the 180-gram LP is housed in a static-free sleeve. Worth noting is that the interior of the jacket is also printed to look like the album art, which you usually don’t find on a lot of vinyl releases. There are no additional bells-and-whistles with this release — it simply brings the record back to vinyl the way it was brought to vinyl some 14 years ago.
Listening to Alive 1997 now is like taking a trip down memory lane, returning to a time when Daft Punk were at their grimiest and most daring, but it reveals so much about their artistry at such a young age in their career. Their brushes with perfection and precision are that which nobody would have ever thought would flourish into one of the greatest music acts of this generation. It still holds up as one of the most wildly exciting recordings put to live wax and while you might think their second live outing Alive 2007 starts off equally strong and ends up with your body in shambles on the dance floor, Alive 1997 at least makes you feel like you’re right there in the mosh.
Rhino’s repress does exactly what it should do: present the album as it was originally packaged. Now that the album is on 180-gram vinyl, you might be able to hear the difference, though not by too much. There’s nothing really left to say about it because the music stands for itself; if you didn’t already own Alive 1997 on vinyl, now you’ve been given the opportunity to do so.
Both sides because it’s one long set and it’s awesome.