The jockeying for Grateful Dollars intensified this summer as New York City nouveau-hippie icons Blues Traveler released a two-disc collection of that kooky live music those crazy Deadheads all seem to love. I may oversimplify a bit, but the adaptation of Dead tape-cover lingo for a Traveler CD seems a naked attempt to make Jerry’s lost children feel at home; somewhere in the middle of the second disc, John Popper and Co. offer up a musical stew designated as “go->low->go->run,” an unbearably long 20-minute blend of “Go Outside and Drive,” a funkless reading of War’s ’70s anthem “Low Rider,” (couldn’t call it “rider,” lest they leave thousands of Deadheads looking for “china”) and “Runaround.” The members of the Dead had their loyal road following because they were defined by their shows; their condensed studio offerings were an afterthought by comparison. But Live From the Fall sounds like Blues Traveler groping for ways to stretch songs that took four minutes in the studio into 10 or 15 on stage. While Popper may have no equal on mouth harp in rock ’n’ roll, the novelty runs out about halfway through his seven-minute solos. Even the band’s big pop hits, such as “Runaround” and “But Anyway,” give in to messy rambling. Traveler’s best moments come when the group stays focused, especially for a stretch on the first disc, as Popper balladeers at the top of his lungs throughout “100 Years,” and the band tears its way through “Crash Burn.” But if it’s Blues Traveler bang-for-your-musical-buck that you want, go back to the self-titled first album, when nothing was taken for granted.—Eric Friedman

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