by: Maroon 5

Live albums and EPs are a time-honored tradition of buying time in pop music, and Maroon 5 combine the two in their summer 2004 release, 1.22.03.Acoustic. In another time, say 1993, this would have been called Unplugged, but since MTV pulled the plug on their live acoustic show in the late '90s, bands have little option than to release their own acoustic live shows on their own. These releases now lack the Unplugged brand name, and thereby a little bit of mystique, but they're essentially the same -- the artists run through their hits and a couple of choice album tracks, tossing in either heartfelt or humorous covers to round out the set. That's precisely what Maroon 5 does with 1.22.03.Acoustic, released a few months after "This Love" became a belated hit from their 2002 debut, Songs About Jane. Since they only have one album to their name (their earlier album under the Kara's Flowers moniker is simply a part of history now), they don't have an extensive catalog of songs to draw from for their set list, which may be why this is an EP that runs under a half-hour. Even in that short time frame, they fit in five of the 12 tracks from Songs About Jane, including the hits "This Love" and "Harder to Breathe," plus covers of the Beatles' "If I Fell" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" (which is an electric bonus cut, not acoustic). In this stripped-down setting, the songcraft of Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael shines through on the aforementioned hits, since the bare-bones arrangements emphasize the sturdy, tuneful writing. The spareness can work against the band occasionally, too, since, when he's backed only by acoustic guitars, Levine's vocal mannerisms are at times a bit too reminiscent of Dave Matthews, and he goes severely pitchy on "If I Fell" (not to mention the embarrassing "Highway to Hell," which offers further proof that Artie Lang is the only entertainer with a convincing Bon Scott impersonation). Still, these are minor flaws, and 1.22.03.Acoustic is overall an enjoyable way to bide time until Maroon 5 can finish their next studio album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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