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Live in L.A.
November 2009
Released: 2008, Self Released
Rating: 1.5/5
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz

The departure of original vocalist Eric Wagner for the second time should have been a wake-up call for the remaining members of Trouble. For 30 years, Wagner was THE voice of the band. It was the combination of his uniquely melodic rasp with the uber compressed twin guitar tones of Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell that created the signature Trouble sound. It’s that signature sound that made classic albums as diverse as PSALM 9 and MANIC FRUSTRATION immediately identifiable as Trouble. Wagner left the band the first time in 1996 for personal reasons, at which point the remaining members of the band toyed with the idea of a replacement singer (Exhorder’s Kyle Thomas) but ultimately decided it would be better to keep the Trouble legacy intact by putting the band to rest. As history repeated itself in 2008, Wagner again left to battle his personal demons, cutting short a reunion that had barely gotten off the ground.

This time around, Franklin and Wartell have opted to soldier on with a new frontman in the form of Warrior Soul vocalist Kory Clarke, with LIVE IN L.A. serving as a sort of introduction of the “new” Trouble to the masses. I’m open to lineup changes and was willing to give Clarke a fair shake, but after listening to LIVE IN L.A., I have to question how much pot the band had to smoke in order to declare “yeah, this sounds okay to release!” This album fails on so many levels, it’s mind blowing that the band would feel comfortable in this being Clarke’s first impression as the new singer for Trouble.

The main problem with LIVE IN L.A. is Clarke himself. Whether he’s (poorly) trying to imitate Wagner’s vocal delivery to appease the fan base or his own pipes are just really this bad is a coin toss. Either way, he sounds horrible. Whereas Wagner’s scraggly voice had a certain laid back charisma to it, Clarke sounds like a chain smoker with shredded vocal chords signing Trouble songs on karaoke night. His range is too painfully limited to do justice to the nuances that these songs deserve and his performance here sounds uncomfortably forced at times. The songs included here are pulled strictly from the band’s more recent releases from 1990 forward, which I have to think that was intentional. As the band’s early material is regarded by hardcore Trouble fans as gospel. Treating those tunes as poorly as the songs on the disc are here would have been unconscionable.

The secondary problem is the recording quality. It sounds more like a rehearsal demo than a live performance in front of an eager audience. A good live album should make you feel like you’re right there with the band, sharing the live experience. The crowd reactions captured here are inconsistent, popping up on cue and only when prompted, then disappearing into the abyss with the slide of an EQ toggle. Franklin and Wartell’s guitar presence has always been a thick wall of sound, but here it’s overwhelming to a fault. One could suspect that it’s a subliminal assertion of their new roles as leaders of the band sans Wagner, but in any case it sounds uneven. Bass player Chuck Robinson might as well as taken the night off, as he’s nowhere to be heard here and new drummer Mark Lira stays in the background, playing things safe and by the numbers. Incidentally, Lira replaced longtime drummer Jeff Olsen, who quit the band shortly after Wagner’s exit. Coincidence?

Trouble is a band with a 30 year history and plenty of recording experience; there’s just no excuse for a recording this poor to be released to a paying fan base. I understand that it’s a challenge for Clarke to fill the shoes of his predecessor, but being the new singer for a band like Trouble is much more than just kinda, sorta sounding like the old singer (just ask Gary Cherone). LIVE IN L.A. shows a band with zero charisma hoping that the weight that the band name carries will be enough to see them through. Trouble indeed, but definitely not in a good way.
Track Listing

1. Intro
2. R.I.P.
3. The Sleeper
4. Touch the Sky
5. Plastic Green Head
6. The Eye
7. Simple Mind Condition
8. Mr. White
9. Endtime
10. Troublemaker
11. End of My Daze


Kory Clarke – Vocals
Bruce Franklin – Guitars
Rick Wartell – Guitars
Chuck Robinson – Bass
Mark Lira – Drums

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