If you think live albums are "for the fans," think again: Usually, they're little more than music industry Pledge, a quick way to get the dust off old songs so people will, you know, buy them again. More often than not, bands--especially older ones--use live albums to wring the last possible drop from a particular set of songs, issuing live albums a year or so after in-studio efforts with virtually the same track listing. (Neil Young, I'm looking in your direction.) For other groups, live discs are the alternative to greatest-hits collections, the option for a band without the quality material to warrant a proper best-of, and not enough unheard music in the vault to get away with a B-sides-and-rarities set.
Here's the part where I'm supposed to say, "But Baboon's A Bum Note and a Bead of Sweat is different." Or maybe, "And Baboon's A Bum Note and a Bead of Sweat is the rule rather than the exception." Truth is, there's a bit of truth in both statements, though thankfully, more in the former than the latter. Yes, there are gaps to be stopped--Baboon's last new offering, the excellent We Sing and Play, came out in May 1999, and the next won't be ready until later this year, at the earliest--and yes, you've heard most of these songs before. But--and this is where the difference is--Baboon is a band that needs to be heard on a stage, where sweat and smoke mix with the songs and make them stronger, rather than in a studio. More than any other group in the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth area, Baboon is a live band. Which is both good and bad.
There's always been something about Baboon that just won't stick to tape, no matter how hard the band or whomever happens to be producing it at the time tries. Even John Congleton's red-line technique on We Sing and Play couldn't completely corral the group--singer Andrew Huffstetler, guitarist Mike Rudnicki, drummer Steven Barnett, and bassist Mark Hughes, who moonlights as the Dallas Observer's music listings editor. A Bum Note and a Bead of Sweat just about gets the job done, visiting every stage of Baboon's career, from its first single ("Save Me") to its next album (the previously unrecorded Can't Hardly Stand It) and all points between. Compiled from three shows recorded by Congleton and Ben Yeager, the sound is stellar, and the performances are spot-on, so realistic you wanna run to the bar and order another bourbon-and-Coke when "Kamikaze" marks the halfway point. It's not the same as seeing Baboon live, but it's close enough to count.