Put a trio of seasoned musicians together in the same studio — in this case, bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Dennis Chambers and Hammond B-3 maestro John Novello — and you're in for a classy display of fusion. But throw the same three guys on a stage in Japan or Indonesia, and you'll actually hear the sound of three musical minds effortlessly working in unison.
Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers offers 12 tracks culled from shows in the Far East in front of receptive listeners. (No actual recording dates and locations are provided in the liner notes.) From intense jazz fusion ("Three Feet Back") to cool groovin' ("Do A Little Dirty Work") to old-school prog elements ("One Less Worry"), Niacin rip through song after song with no in-between-tunes banter — reinterpreting their own work into even more of a freeform jam session than the band's albums boast. Plus, in a move that's becoming more commonplace, the U.S. version of Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers contains bonus tracks unavailable in other territories: the unreleased studio tracks "Front and Center" and "Gelatin." Both pieces are once again dominated by Novello's Hammond B-3 and wouldn't have sounded out of place on Niacin's 2002 album Time Crunch.
Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers also includes a subdued version of Prince's "Purple Rain" that you may not recognize right away unless you're listening for it. The audience even sings along — something you don't hear too often on an instrumental fusion album. Even less recognizable is a Hammond-heavy version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by The Supremes via Vanilla Fudge. Both covers are odd choices, but their inclusion speaks volumes about Niacin's eclecticism.