Extremely Live

Vanilla Ice

SBK Records, 1991


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There is a negative about being as into music as I am. I'm the kind of person who, once I start learning about an artist or liking them, I have to grab as much of their discography as possible. This can get damned expensive, as was the case when I got into Bob Dylan last year.

When I gave Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme a fair shot on the tape deck, something in my two-volt brain decided that I should be willing to check out the rest of Ice's back catalog -- not the hardest thing to do, seeing he has a total of four albums on the market, and two of those we've already covered in these pages. So, into the eBay pool I dove, and came out with a copy of Extremely Live, Ice's 1991 release.

In one sense, it was really a stupid marketing move for SBK to put out a live album, meaning Ice (born Robert Van Winkle) was touring in support of one -- count 'em, one -- album. (Okay, not entirely true -- if you include Ice's impossible-to-find debut Hooked, which was essentially the same as To The Extreme, you've got two albums. So there.) So, if you wore out your copy of To The Extreme back in the day when it was actually hip to say you liked Ice without the fear of getting hit over the head with your own boom box, Extremely Live is going to sound real familiar.

In fact, there are times when the whole live feel of the show seems to dissipate. I don't know if it's because the crowd is buried in the mix or that a little studio trickery might have been used -- but judging from the screams of teenage girls throughout a good portion of the album, it's hard to believe that they'd shut up just to hear one song. (I don't claim to have any special knowledge about how this album was put together - but if Ice was dancing the way I saw him on VH-1's "Behind The Music," I wonder why he never sounds out of breath.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the other hand, maybe SBK realized that, thanks to the controversies that surrounded Ice's alleged past (or, in this case, lack thereof), they knew that they were riding on top of a commercial time bomb, and that they should try to exploit it as best as they could before it blew.

Extremely Live is your typical concert album -- namely, something is lost without the visual aspect of the show. Not being able to see what is going on is especially disappointing when you realize that Ice is only the front man of the show, and that his entire backing band is just as important to the music as his presence is. That said, this album isn't nearly as wretched as you might expect it to be.

Most of the material is quite similar to their studio versions, though Ice does throw a few surprises into the mix. An extended version of "Ice Ice Baby" - featuring the audience providing 80 percent of one verse at the start - does kick some life into the otherwise overplayed song. Two new tracks, "Satisfaction" and "Road To My Riches," are pretty enjoyable, though I admit it took me a minute or two to get used to the fact that Ice was using the opening guitar line from AC/DC's "Highway To Hell." In retrospect, it did fit the mood and song well.

A studio version of "Satisfaction" (a leftover from the To The Extreme sessions) is included, but it almost seems unnecessary since there's already a live version included.

What strikes me about Extremely Live is that I had built myself up for a major disappointment -- and in the end, it turned out to be a better release than I ever would have given it credit for. Like I said about To The Extreme, it's no masterpiece. Rather, it's a guilty pleasure to occasionally indulge in.

Extremely Live turned out to be the last gasp in Ice's superstar phase; his third album, Mind Blowin', died a quick death and is damn near impossible to find. (There's a little record store in Palatine that still has a sealed copy, but I can't bring myself to pay $10 for it.) If you liked To The Extreme, then chances are you will enjoy this release, and is worth searching for. If you were indifferent to Ice in his heyday, you might be surprised that this isn't the crater some people made it out to be. It's not required owning, but is good for the occasional burst of enjoyment.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of SBK Records, and is used for informational purposes only.