When I discovered that there was a collaboration between the likes of Maynard James Keenan, Serj Tankian, and Flea I was all over it, and quickly ordered it from Amazon. Most of the reviews said it wasn't good at all, but none really said why. I now realize that many of the people who dislike this must have been expecting System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all rolled into one, which is not really what this is at all.
This is more of a chance for these artists to try something new. Serj and Tom Morello especially show off new sides to their music. Tom gives us offerings as The Nightwatchman, under which he performs folk music. While his singing initially caught me off guard, I ended up liking it and the lyrics are great, too. Serj gets a chance to show his ability on the piano, which was barely even explored in SoaD. It'd be interesting to hear some of their songs redone on piano.
While the focus is on Serj and Tom(after all, they organized the show and founded the Axis of Justice, the organization), the backing band is great, too. In addition to Tom on guitar and Serj on piano/vocals, they include the aforementioned Flea on bass, Pete Yorn on guitar/vocals, and Brad Wilk on drums. Most of the songs they play are cover songs, but there are a few cool jams, which should please fans of Rage or the Chilis. The rest of the band also backs up one of Tom's solo songs. Chris Cornell and Maynard James Keenan perform an excellent duet on "Peace, Love, and Understanding", which wasn't recorded at the same concert and is closer to the Elvis Costello original than the recent version found on A Perfect Circle's eMOTIVe. The addition of Jurassic 5's hip hop is odd, but they're one of the few respectable groups in that genre and add some more variety to the concert. Knowledge(a spoken word artist I hadn't heard of before) contributes a couple interesting poems, too, including one that's backed by Serj's piano.
There isn't very much wrong with this album. I do think it would've been nice if Maynard had been the lead singer for the house band. Maynard has shown that he can do a good job at singing other people's songs with both Tool and A Perfect Circle, but his only appearance at the concert was the backing vocals on "Where the Streets Have No Name". With both Serj and Pete Yorn singing on that song as well, Maynard's voice merely blended in. Serj's voice works great for his music, but when covering artists like U2, it sounds out of place. I guess one other problem with this CD is that the stuff isn't necessarily going to appeal to fans of the artists on it, which makes it hard for this to find an audience. I also heard very little in the way of promotion for this disc, so I don't think too many people know of it.
The DVD's video quality isn't great, but it has some material that's not on the CD, and it's nice to see most of the songs instead of just hearing them. It also didn't raise the price of the CD, so it's hard to complain about it. I think the conversations between Serj and Tom could have been much better, though. Instead of showing a video, it shows still shots, but for some reason the pictures shake. Surely there was an actual video of these conversations and not just pictures. They also get cut off several times while they're talking, and it has generic backgrond music playing the whole time. Though, it is nice to hear their views on President Bush, censorship, and the war in Iraq. I also would've preferred they didn't include Michael Moore in their talks. All in all, it's a decent, if rather flawed, addition to an otherwise good DVD.
I'd recommend this to people looking for a unique and varied sound. Just don't expect it to be your favorite bands combining their styles. As long as you listen to it without those expectations, you should find it very enjoyable.