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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

P.O.D. -- SoCal Sessions


Acoustic albums often come across as non-essential or gimmicks. Jars of Clay, a very good band, released an acoustic album that featured songs from their 20 year back-catalog right about the time that P.O.D. released  SoCal Sessions, their own acoustic collection.  As good as Jars of Clay are, the acoustic versions just came across as stripped down, less interesting iterations of those old classics, instead of serving to reveal new facets of the band. Thankfully, P.O.D. doesn't fall into the same trap on SoCal Sessions.
It's helps that these performances are much different than their original incarnations. Jars of Clay had, in many cases, originally performed their songs with acoustic guitars. Most of the songs from P.O.D.'s SoCal sessions were originally electrified head-bangers. This gives the band good cause to re-interpret them in such a radically different fashion--it reveals heretofore unknown facets of the band, and allows certain flavors of their original sound, like reggae, to come out even more..
It helps that P.O.D., pulling from all six of their major label albums, pick such a diverse, yet excellent set of songs. These songs also greatly benefit from the recording choices P.O.D. utilize for SoCal Sessions. While they switch out the electric guitar for the acoustic, they don't neuter their rhythm section, still allowing it room too breathe. They also utilize some additional touches, like subtle keyboard, harmonica, and bells to give the songs some interesting angles. While he isn't credited, I believe the band employed touring member, Luis Castillo, to handle the aforementioned additional instruments, as well as to sing complimentary vocals to Sonny Sandoval.
The overall effect is 45-minutes in a cozy room, kicking back with P.O.D. It's a relaxed time, but not a boring one, and one that exudes an overwhelming feeling of goodwill. The band picked the perfect time to do this, high on their return to radio after a nearly decade long absence, and to more stable life situations.
SoCal Sessions is an easy recommendation for fans of P.O.D., and for those who have admired them, but maybe never dove into fandom, as well. Stripping away all of the distortion reveals whether a song is actually worth a damn. These twelve (even "Beautiful," which I previously disliked!) prove themselves more than worthwhile.

2014 T-Boy Records
1. Panic + Run 3:35
2. Will You 4:47
3. Youth of the Nation 4:22
4. No Ordinary Love Song 3:49
5. Strength of My Life 4:09
6. Alive 3:43
7. Higher 3:20
8. It Can't Rain Everyday 4:18
9. Lost in Forever 3:55
10. I'll Be Ready 4:49
11. Beautiful 4:27
12. Set Your Eyes to Zion 3:56

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