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Wilco – iTunes Session

on February 02, 2012, 8:00am

Apple’s 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?

What’s 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?

Don’t go looking for answers from Wilco, because you won’t find any. The band’s iTunes Session essentially sterilizes the energy from the studio tracks they’ve 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 NPR’s website.

The song selections aren’t 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 Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind”, with Nick Lowe himself in tow, no less.

So go check out Wilco’s 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”