Personnel: John Lombardo (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Jeff Erickson (guitar); Melanie Luciano (acoustic guitar, background vocals); Mary Ramsey (violin, viola); Bryan Eckenrode (cello); Eric Crittenden (alto saxophone); Robert Browning (tenor saxophone); Oliver Chezliak (trombone); Dennis Drew (piano, Hammond b-3 organ, keyboards); Steve Gustafson (bass guitar); Jerome Augustyniak (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Armand Petri.
Recording information: Fun House, Silver Creek, NY (09/13/2014); Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, Jamestown, NY (09/13/2014).
Photographers: Don Hill; Mike Thut; Lori Savaree; Gregory Hodges; Chad Ecklof.
Arriving on the heels of the veteran jangle folk-pop outfit's 35th anniversary, the aptly named Playing Favorites finds 10,000 Maniacs delivering a (mostly) career-spanning show before an adoring crowd at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts in their native Jamestown, New York. Only the group's second live album in three decades, the 14-track set is also their first full-on electric concert LP -- 1993's MTV Unplugged was just that, all acoustic. Playing Favorites also marks the return of co-founder John Lombardo, who joins a seasoned crew that includes Jerome Augustyniak, Dennis Drew, Jeff Erickson, Steven Gustafson, John Lombardo, and Mary Ramsey, the latter of whom assumed vocal duties in 1995 after Natalie Merchant left the fold to pursue a solo career. Delivered with warmth and vigor, and comprised chiefly of fan favorites/hits like "My Mother the War," "Like the Weather," "These Are the Days," and "Because the Night" -- for whatever reason, the band chose not to include any material from their well-received 2013 comeback album Music from the Motion Picture -- Playing Favorites is a largely fan-centric affair, but its charms work outside of the circle as well. ~ James Christopher Monger