Apples iTunes Session series offer a forum for artists to pop in to a studio and re-record songs from their most recent album, along with some oldies and maybe even a cover. There is no audience, and much more often than not, the artists choose to strictly replicate the way the tracks sound on the album, which leads us to this question: why?
Whats the point of hearing these songs again in a studio setting? If there were some fans listening in on the session, you could at least gauge their reaction by picking up on cheers, claps, and maybe a sing-along. If the songs were switched up in some fashion, an artist could lay claim to this reason for showing up. But seriously: If there’s nothing special to distinguish this from the original recording, then why bother?
Dont go looking for answers from Wilco, because you wont find any. The bands iTunes Session essentially sterilizes the energy from the studio tracks theyve chosen to play. For those wanting to hear what Wilco truly sounds like live, go check out Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, or better yet, their live performance from the Merriweather Post Pavilion just last year that is available for streaming on NPRs website.
The song selections arent bad (if they had chosen Capitol City or Sunloathe, this would be a slightly more scathing review) but rather lifeless. There is no driving force in I Might, no bounce to Dawned on Me or Whole Love. The only positive find in this blackened sea of ink is a world-weary performance of Passenger Side, from the oft-neglected A.M. record, and a fun cover of Nick Lowes Cruel to be Kind, with Nick Lowe himself in tow, no less.
So go check out Wilcos The Whole Love for superior versions of the tracks performed here. And please, please, please, stop buying artists iTunes Sessions.
Essential Tracks: “Cruel to be Kind”