During their tour to support the release of As we Make our way (Unknown Harbours), Sophia recorded each (as far as I’m aware) live show which has now lead to the release of As we Make our way (the Live Recordings), their second live album released this year and their fourth live album overall.
The first ten tracks are the entirety of (Unknown Harbours). There are a number of deviations from the studio recordings, with some songs being further improved and some shifting sideways. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but the songs all hold up well. “Resisting” becomes more raw, ragged and urgent whilst “Blame” becomes a more tender tune. “The Hustle” really benefits from sounding more guitar-driven, underpinning the vocals much better and “You say it’s Alright” sounds much more driven and rolling. Like “Resisting”, it too is quite raw and ragged.
“It’s Easy to be Lonely” is still quite a strong song. The way that it unfolds here lacks a bit of the depth compared to the studio version. However, this is compensated for in the guitar work which layers and builds upon itself without becoming a hot mess, and the uplifting feel of the song is retained allowing the song to remain a moving piece of music.
The rest of (Unknown Harbours) sounds good with the slight changes and overall the performance of the album is quite strong.
The remaining fifteen songs are from most of Sophia’s catalogue. It is a shame that nothing from Technology won’t Save us shows up as many of the songs from that album would have worked very well with the track list, but otherwise the chosen songs work well together.
Many of the remaining songs are also altered. “There are no Goodbyes” is a softer and more melancholic song, “The Desert Song No. 2” becomes more bottom-heavy whilst remaining as expansive and “Last Night I had a Dream” becomes a slower song that remains sombre whilst no longer sounding mired by its sombreness.
Some songs are a little more faithful to the studio recordings, such as “So Slow”, “Oh my Love” and “Darkness”. They all work well with the rest of the track list, sounding as tight and as lively as necessary.
One of the standout tracks here would have to be “Razorblades” which might just be the definitive version of the song. The vocals and instrumentation are much stronger than on the original and whilst the original has its own drama through the use of string instruments, this one sounds much better developed. The way that it flows and expands outward without losing its impact is impressive. The solo that has been included feels as emotive as the lyrics “But baby I can’t promise you anything, like anything will change” and carries the weight of the song through the passage in which it appears with ease. It is a fairly sad song but it is also a well-written one that needed an older voice to give it the strength that it needed.
This is now the fifth recording of “The River Song” that we’ve received and it still remains a very strong song. All the visceral bitterness and anger is still there as the song becomes louder and more intense as it progresses.
Also of note is the pairing of “Bad Man” and “Bastards”. “Bad man” is much noisier than its original incarnation, sounding almost like it is crashing in parts whilst not becoming overwhelmed, whereas “Bastards” starts off quiet and builds upon the noise of “Bad Man” into something much more angry, abrasive and gripping.
Overall, the performances captured here are all strong. There’s a lot of clarity in the record and when sounds meld together they don’t become muddy. Robin Proper-Sheppard sounds in fine vocal form throughout the entirety of the album, always matching lyrics and music appropriately without sounding as though there was any struggle to do so.
Sophia sound like a band that works hard which really pays off as, whilst these aren’t the most technically complex of songs, they would still be pretty easy to screw up. Not only does Sophia sound like a band that works hard, but they’re also a really consistent band and Robin Proper-Sheppard is a really consistent songwriter. Whilst the track list could have included some other songs, As we Make our Way (the Live Recordings) is an excellent capture of an excellent band.