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August 2002 Edition
Alternate Recommendation: It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water by the Microphones
Dave Matthews Band, Busted Stuff
So, here's the story, in case you don't know it.
After the huge success of Before These Crowded Streets, with its darker tone, the band went back into the studio with long-time producer Steve Lillywhite. Dave had been writing even darker songs about the death of his father and his own relationship with God. Really deep stuff, darker than anyone could have expected from Matthews.
Suffice to say, Lillywhite did not treat the material with the respect that Matthews felt it deserved so the band ditched him as producer and decided not to release the album they had created. They then moved on to creating another album with producer Glen Ballard--with entirely new songs. This album, Everyday, met with harsh response from dedicated fans. The fans felt that Ballard (veteran of such pop acts as Alanis Morissette) was a producer who preferred style over substance, and that he had made this very visceral band--known for their live shows--sound too polished.
Meanwhile, things being as they are, the unreleased album--now referred to as "The Lillywhile Sessions"--was leaked onto the internet in its full form. The band was rather upset at this, as they obviously were not satisfied with the album in its finished form, and did not feel it represented their vision of the music.
So they decided to make their own version. The "official" album that was meant to be released to begin with. From thence came Busted Stuff.
And it is a great album.
I am not what one would term a DMB fan--I have only followed their radio hits, and had never before bought an album. To give you an idea of my lack of knowledge, I thought the Lillywhite Sessions had been an official release. I had simply heard so much about it, and so many opinions about it, I thought it was readily available in stores. And I would have sworn that I saw copies in stores--I even have an album-cover-image in my head that I think I saw.
But, anyway, the songs collected on this album are some of the best I have heard from the band. "Bartender," especially--which I saw Dave perform on Austin City Limits with Emmylou Harris--is anthemic and immensely moving.
Other highlights are "Busted Stuff," "Grey Street," "Kit Kat Jam" (an instrumental jam), and "Big Eyed Fish." These and the rest are all special in their ways. And the subject matter is definitely a departure from the norm. The only love song, "Where Are You Going," was written for this album and was not part of the "Sessions."
Matthews particular brand songwriting shines here. Obviously, the personal nature of the lyrics has brought out more inventive melodies and changes. The rest of the band is in fine form as well; the saxes particularly, are used to great effect. The rhythm section provided by bassist and drummer Stefan Lessard and Carter Beauford is strong but not overwhelming. One thing I noticed missing was that the violins of Boyd Tinsley were not used enough for my taste. It seems they prefer the sax sound on these songs instead.
But, still, this is a fine album and I, for one, am glad that it was released to the public. I have heard differing opinions: those partial to "Lillywhite" tend to think it lacks substance, while more casual fans are saying it's their best album yet. But then the best music always is father to strong emotions.
Alternate Recommendation: The Microphones, It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water
After hearing last month's recommendation, I was most interested in pursuing this band called the Microphones. My next step, as I saw it, was to move backwards and purchase their previous album, It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water. (Ironically, the title comes the song "Where It's Hotter Part 3," which does not appear on this album).
This was a monumental purchase. It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water is almost as good an album as The Glow, Pt.2. It's infinitely more accessible, with songs like "The Pull" and a cover of the Eric's Trip song, "Sand" gently introducing newer listener to the quirky experimental style of Phil Elvrum, the "band's" only static member.
The centerpiece is an eleven-minute song entitled "The Glow," which is one of the best experimental pieces I've heard in a long time. It goes from a mild voice with acoustic guitar ("The glow came down from the hills"), continues into a nearly-dissonant chorus with organ, back to the guitar-voice combo, then the creepily angelic voice of Mirah ("Hey, wake up, it's me, the glow"). Then, with a sudden crash, it becomes a rock song ("I started to glow"), complete with "woo-woo" backup singing, before eventually fading out into shadows and whispers. But it's even more than that, what with all the layering of instruments and voices. "The Glow" is definitely the highlight of an already great album and is alone worth purchasing It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water.
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