Four by Blues Traveler

1994 Album of the Year

Buy Four

Four by Blues TravelerLabeled as a “jam band” since their inception in the late 1980s, many have contended that Blues Traveler does not translate well on standard studio recordings. Their 4th album, Four seems to dispute this assertion as it strikes a nice balance of sonic aptitude, classic sounding blues rock and compositional originality. The album was also the New Jersey group’s commercial breakthrough, fueled by the radio appeal of a couple well-record simple pop songs. But the truly rewarding material on four are the more complex works where songwriting genius meets inspired performance to reach that higher level of indelible entertainment. It is for this reason, that Classic Rock Review has chosen Four as best among all the great works of 1994 and our Album of the Year.

The four members of Blues Traveler started together while still in high school in Princeton, New Jersey in 1987. John Popper was a multi-instrumentalist who aspired to be a stand up up comedian but found his calling on harmonica after an in-class solo performance. Guitarist Chan Kinchla was a promising football player who committed to playing music after a knee injury. Rounding out the quartet was bassist Bobby Sheehan and drummer Brendan Hill. The group was originally called Blues Band but changed their name to Blues Traveler when they moved to Brooklyn, New York following their collective graduation from high school.

While in New York, Blues Traveler began playing gigs and shared resources with Spin Doctors, another group that Popper originally founded. By the end of the decade, the group signed to A&M Records and Blues Traveler released their self-titled debut in 1990. This was followed by Travelers and Thieves, a live EP tribute to Bill Graham called On Tour Forever and their critically acclaimed third album Save His Soul. Blues Traveler also got some national exposure through their appearances on the David Letterman show and their initiative in founding of the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) festival in 1992.

The production team of Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson, who first worked with Blues Traveler on Save His Soul in 1993, stayed on for the production of Four in early 1994. This time, the crew got the full benefit of a public relations campaign by A&M Records, starting with the release of the lead single “Run-Around” and the accompanying Wizard-of-Oz-man-behind-the-curtain themed video, which introduced the group to the MTV crowd for the first time. A long bass slide by Sheehan introduces the album and its most popular song, which is no doubt catchy and entertaining although it never relents from its four chords.


Four by Blues Traveler
Released: September 13, 1994 (A&M)
Produced by: Michael Barbiero & Steve Thompson
Recorded: A&M Studios, Hollywood, February-June 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Run-Around
Stand
Look Around
Fallible
The Mountains Win Again
Freedom
Crash Burn
Price To Pay
Hook
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Just Wait
Brother John
John Popper – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chan Kinchla – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Bobby Sheehan – Bass Vocals
Brendan Hill – Drums, Percussion

Four by Blues Traveler

 

“Stand” is a funk/rap track which features a harmonica and guitar in sync post chorus and Popper’s first great harmonica solo on the record. The bridge is backed by Kinchla’s drenched guitar chords while Sheehan and Hill bring up the speed with clever use of rhythm, adding a progressive rock jam element to the otherwise standard funk rhythm. The ballad “Look Around” could not be more different as a soft rock piano ballad, featuring guest Chuck Leavell on piano. Solidifying the effect is the eighties style power guitar by Kinchla and slow tom fills by Hill. “Fallible” starts with a crazed harmonica solo before it breaks into a rock oriented groove with a distorted to wah-wah guitar. The lyrics speak of taking ownership with the limited life you have;

In the name of all the power that’s centered in your hand
If you crave some revolution take possession of your stand
It’s the only one you’ll get to make, in a moment come and gone
So do your best to stay awake and own the path you’re on…”

Sheehan’s sole composition on the album is the calm, acoustic tune, “The Mountains Win Again”, with moderate bass pattern which is mimicked by vocal melody. Some of the best sounding guitars on this record are in the subtle deep blues riffs by guest Warren Haynes, who sustains absolutely every note and makes it count to the max. Everything else in this song is measured perfectly, even the reprise of the intro harmonica riff, which only lasts a single line to set up the single guitar chord which closes the song beautifully. After an odd and awkward bass intro, “Freedom” breaks into full-fledged rap/rock ala Red Hot Chili Peppers. Lyrically, the song tackles the slippery slope of statism in lieu of freedom;

I’ll defend what’s mine cause what’s mine will be all mine
It’s what I’d fight for it’s for what I’d bleed
I roll the dice on the grand experiment, while I am strong I will get what I need
You take it for granted, I guess that’s what it’s for
But before you demand it take a look out your back door…”

The next three songs on the album are its best sequence, solidifying Four as a bonafide classic. “Crash Burn” is a short and fantastic, riff-driven jam showcase. Starting with a harmonized guitar/harmonica riff, then followed by the frenzied, rhythm-driven verses and then a lead section where each musician takes his moment to shine. Although largely unheralded, “Price to Pay” is the best song on this best overall album from 1994. It starts with a moody harmonica, picked guitar and bass notes and then kicks into a catchy rock/funk for effect and tactfully alternates between the two. Driven by Popper’s potent story-telling, the middle part of the song builds emotionally into very intense rock sections which eventually give way back to the soft melody.

The popular song ,”Hook” is a song that is quite cynically (and brilliantly) baited to prove the psychological point of falling for the frivolous “hook”. With lyrical lines such as “I’ve said nothing so far and I can keep it up for as long as it takes” and “I don’t mean any of this, still my confession draws you near”, the song is lyrically an intentional farce. Yet, it is a performance masterpiece for the group led by Popper’s vocals and harmonica over the chord pattern and tempo similar to the classical Canon in D” by Pachelbel. Solidifying this instant classic is the rapid-fire lyrical rant through the final verse, which makes the song indelible.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is an odd and short instrumental, which really seems out of place in this late sequence on the album. This is followed by “Just Wait”, where Popperplays a 12-string acoustic in a folk song of hope and encouragement, almost religious in its sense of redemption. the album closes with
“Brother John”, a group collaboration in the tradition of Southern Gospel. The song features a wild classic bass riff by Sheehan and many rudimentary shifts, almost like Blues Traveler goes Blues Brothers. There is a  middle vocal section over drums with all band members provide backing vocals in the call and response to the soulful vocals of guest Jono Manson.

Four reached the Top Ten on the U.S. album charts and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. Blues Traveler continued their rise through popular culture, with songs appearing on several television shows and movies in subsequent years. Beyond this commercial success, the album has held up beautifully over the past two decades and has earned its place in the pantheon of classic rock albums.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums and our album of the year.

 

Live Through This by Hole

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Live Through This by HoleFor their second album, Hole took a much different approach than on their debut, Pretty On the Inside. That first album featured a straight-out, punk rock approach, while Live Through This is forged more in the nineties style pop/punk approach presented by Nirvana. Of course, this is far from coincidence as Hole’s front woman Courtney Love was married to Nirvana’s front man Kurt Cobain, and Cobain had at least some influence on this album (the exact amount of his input and influence has now been a controversy for 20 years). Whatever the case may be, Live Through This received much critical accolades along with the band’s first taste of commercial acceptance.

Hole was formed by Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson in 1989. Love had briefly been a member of Faith No More before moving to Los Angeles to pursue work as an actress. The duo used Michael “Flea” Balzary’s rehearsal space and began writing material for what would eventually be their debut album in 1991. Released on an independent label, Pretty on the Inside got a positive reception from underground critics who appreciated its loud, abrasive and deliberately shocking approach. That same year, Love became romantically involved with Cobain as Nirvana’s Nevermind achieved international success. Late in 1992, Hole signed an eight-album contract with Geffen Records in late 1992.

In early 1993, Hole permanently added bassist Kristen Pfaff and drummer Patty Schemel to halt the rotation of temporary rhythm players. With a full band in place, they released the single “Beautiful Son” and set out on some short tours before heading into the studio later in the year. Produced by Paul Q. Kolderie & Sean Slade, the album was recorded at Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia.


Live Through This by Hole
Released: April 12, 1994 (Geffen)
Produced by: Paul Q. Kolderie & Sean Slade
Recorded: Triclops Sound Studios, Marietta, Georgia, October 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
Violet
Miss World
Plump
Asking For It
Jennifer’s Body
Doll Parts
Credit In the Straight World
Softer, Softest
She Walks On Me
I Think That I Would Die
Gutless
Olympia
Courtney Love – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Eric Erlandson – Guitars
Kristen Pfaff – Bass, Piano, Vocals
Patty Schemel – Drums, Percussion

Live Through This by Hole

 

The opener “Violet” starts the oft-used, fire-one approach of three-cord riff / vocal line / repeat. This is an effective way to get a message through and gives off the vibe of a modern day Velvet Underground. The song, which explores themes of sexual exploitation and self-abasement, was released as a single and peaked at number 29 on the Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. “Miss World” starts as a lazy acoustic before becoming more potent with a gradual building and good drums by Schemel. Apparently referring to the album cover, the song’s lyrics touch on the theme of self-image and pageantry as put forth by the lyric; “I’m miss world, somebody kill me!” the more electric-based “Plump” follows as a short vessel for Love to emotively rant.

“Asking for It” is one of the more substantive tracks, inspired by an occurrence at a concert in which Love was assaulted and had her clothes ripped off of her while crowd-surfing. This song, with a calmer approach musically which lets Pfaff’s bass come through, includes the phrase which gave Live Through This its album title. After “Jennifer’s Body”, which explores the humiliation of a faithless lover, the album moves to the folksy and moderate “Doll Parts”. The song went on to peak at #4 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and became one of the band’s most popular songs. This dark song contains some entertaining and potent melodies and was written by Love during the early part of her relationship with Cobain with whirlwind lyrics such as; “I love him so much it just turns to hate”.

The latter part of the album tends to thin out a bit, with the one exception being the deep and indelible “Softer, Softest”, which features Cobain on backing vocals. Erlandson and Love wrote the song in 1991 with the original title “Pee Girl” and the track references some childhood traumas of Love. “She Walks on Me” is a pure punk track with screaming vocals during verse and more melody during chorus, while “I Think That I Would Die” is more interesting in its approach, with finely picked acoustic during verses and harmonized vocals, cool bass, and some keyboards during bridge. “Gutless” is not terrible in a punk/new wave approach, but it is very tiresome at this point on the album. The closer “Olympia” was a last second replacement for a track entitled “Rock Star”, switched out so late that the album mislabeled the final song. The actual final song criticizes the Women’s Studies department at Evergreen State College, where a lot of “riot grrl” bands which were emerging at the time.

Most critics consider Live Through This to be the finest output of Hole’s career. However, a significant cloud was put over the critical success of this album, as Kurt Cobain was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot four days prior to the album’s official release. Adding to the tragedy, bassist Kristen Pfaff (who had already decided to quit the band) died of an apparent heroin overdose just two months later.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.


1994 Images

 

Amorica by The Black Crowes

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Amorica by The Black CrowesAlthough not a particularly strong seller, The Black Crowes may have reached the quality peak of their career with their third album, Amorica. After two commercial blockbusters in the early nineties, the band was not able to sustain their commercial momentum. However, they may have strongly elevated their artistic credibility as they completed their evolution towards quasi-improvised, groove-constructed tracks that improve with each listen. Produced by Jack Joseph Puig, the album is also a sonic masterpiece, has just enough rock elements are strategically placed in the cracks between the funk and blues inspired structures.

The group’s 1992 album, The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion, saw them expand their sound with a chorus of backup singers and two new permanent band members. On this album, the six-piece band went “old school”, finding plenty of space for each musician to exercise their respective chops, while guitarists Rich Robinson and Marc Ford stayed firmly above the fray. Lyrically, vocalist Chris Robinson wrote highly introspective lyrics.

On the popular music front, Amorica is noted for the controversy over its racy original album cover (taken from a 1976 cover of Hustler magazine). As a result, early pressings were banned from many retail outlets and an alternative cover (pictured above) was put together for later releases.


Amorica by The Black Crowes
Released: November 1, 1994 (American)
Produced by: Jack Joseph Puig
Recorded: May-June 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Gone
A Conspiracy
High Head Blues
Cursed Diamond
Nonfiction
She Gave Good Sunflower
P.25 London
Ballad In Urgency
Wiser Time
Downtown Money Waster
Descending
Chris Robinson – Lead Vocals
Rich Robinson – Guitars
Marc Ford – Guitars
Eddie Harsch – Keyboards
Johnny Colt – Bass
Steve Gorman – Drums, Percussion

Amorica by The Black Crowes

 

A percussive start by drummer Steve Gorman leads into the opening track “Gone”, a raw, slightly out of tune guitar jam that sounds rough and unrehearsed track, but still carries cool charm. “A Conspiracy” is similar but a bit more refined, after starting very choppy with the illusion of being highly unfocused. The guitar arrangement between Ford and Robinson provides the thrust behind lyrics laced with a sense of dread. “High Head Blues” is really the first really accessible song on the album, as an upbeat and entertaining track reminiscent of Eric Burden and War. The percussion is provided by guest Eric Bobo and drives the long verse sections before the driving rock of the refrain.

“Cursed Diamond” is the first of several ballads, although this includes some loose and wild instrumentation which really picks up in intensity as it goes along. “Nonfiction” has a country feel and features picked acoustic with sweet overtones of slide guitar, accordion, bass, and fine keyboards by Eddie Harsch. Harsch starts “She Gave Good Sunflower” with a cool, 70’s-inspired distorted electric piano before meandering into a more standard Black Crowes-style rock and soul arrangement, although most of the remainder of the song is a simple, upbeat jam with flailing wah-wah guitars. “Ballad in Urgency” is another completely unique track on the album, with calm but potent guitar tones and phrasing and decidedly downtrodden lyrics. The song dissolves into a piano section with fine bass added by Johnny Colt.

The highlight of the latter part of the album, “Wiser Time” is driven by the excellent beat by Gorman, slide guitars by Rich Robinson, and duo lead vocals. The extended verses are carried by this fine three chord repetitive sequence, with sparse rock chorus sections breaking up the song. Later on the track there is a great four-part lead section, starting with a bluesy acoustic, followed by electric piano, then a single wailing electric guitar, and finally soaring harmonized guitars, giving this song buckets of variety. “Downtown Money Waster” contains ragtime piano and slide acoustic with scat percussive effects, while Chris Robinson does a great Delta blues impression vocally. The closer, “Descending” is a long ballad with more great slide guitars. The thumping bass riff of Colt picks things up a bit in the middle section before a true piano solo brings song and album to a calm ending.

Amorica eventually reached Gold status by selling 500,000 copies and the band enjoyed a successful tour the following year. In 1996, the group followed up with Three Snakes and One Charm, the final album with this lineup before several members parted ways in subsequent years.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.


1994 Images

 

Comebacks and Reunions

Woodstock '94 stage

Through the long history of rock and roll, there have been impressive second acts. We’ve spoken about such comebacks during some of our late 1980s reviews, most prominently the full re-ascent of the band,  Aerosmith, and the  Traveling Wilburys 1988 Album of the Year. As for reunions, the group Yes made the ultimate attempt with their 1991 album Union, which included all eight past and (then) present members from various eras of the band.

1994 Albums and Tours

The year 1994 was a particularly active year for comebacks and reunions. We’ve touched on some of these in recent weeks with our reviews of The Division Bell by Pink Floyd and American Recordings by Johnny Cash. For Pink Floyd, it was their final album and sparked what would be their last world tour, while for Johnny Cash it was the beginning of the last great phase of his long career. Below is a list of four additional “reunion” albums released during 1994.

Hell Freezes Over by The Eagles

Hell Freezes Over
The Eagles
November 8, 1994 (Geffen)
Produced by Stan Lynch, Elliot Scheiner, Carol Donovan, & Rob Jacobs

As the title suggests, by the early 1990s an Eagles reunion seemed like a very remote possibility. But The Eagles had reformed after a fourteen-year-long break up, with the same lineup which was intact when they disbanded in 1980. Hell Freezes Over, its accompanying video, and the subsequent two-year tour which followed were all very successful. Even though there were only four new tracks on this live release, the album sold over six million copies. Music fans were more than ready for an Eagles reunion in 1994 and they enjoyed the newer arrangements of classic songs while propelling two of the newer tracks to Top 40 hits.

Far From Home by Traffic

Far From Home
Traffic
May 9, 1994 (Virgin)
Produced by Steve Winwood & Jim Capaldi

At the urging of Bob Weir, the living members of Traffic reunited to open for The Grateful Dead during their 1992 summer tour. Two years later, Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi recorded and released a new album under the name “Traffic”, the first such release in 20 years. Although Far From Home had no involvement from the other four members of the group, it reached the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic and sparked an independent tour. This tour included an appearance at Woodstock ’94 (more on that festival below) and provided the content for a 2005 double live album and DVD package called, Last Great Traffic Jam.

Voodoo Lounge by The Rolling Stones

Voodoo Lounge
The Rolling Stones
July 11, 1994 (Virgin)
Produced by Don Was, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

Their 20th studio album, Voodoo Lounge was the first new release by The Rolling Stones in half a decade. With the influence of producer Don Was, this was also mainly a return to the blues, R&B, and country rock which the band had employed during their classic late 1960s/early 1970s recordings. The result was a critical and commercial success as the album debuted at #1 in the UK and reached #2 in the US, spawned several radio hits, and is considered by many as the last great studio effort by the Stones.

No Quarter by Page and Plant

No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded
Page & Plant
November 8, 1994 (Atlantic)
Produced by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant

After nearly a decade and a half of anticipation, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant finally reunited for a 90-minute “UnLedded” MTV project, a stripped-down, “unplugged” concert of Led Zeppelin classics recorded in various locations including Morocco, Wales, and London. With a great response to the television special, the duo decided to release an album called No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded. Along with the re-worked Zeppelin tunes, the album features four new original, Eastern-influenced songs, something the pair desired to compose since the Houses of the Holy sessions more than two decades earlier.

Woodstock ’94

A quarter century after the original, historic Woodstock festival, a new geneation experienced “3 More Days of Peace and Music” in Saugerties, New York at Woodstock ’94 on the weekend of August 12-14. The location of this concert (10 miles from the artist colony of Woodstock, NY) was originally intended for the 1969 festival, but that concert was ultimately moved to a farm in Bethel, New York.

Woodstock 94 muddy crowdThere were some striking similarities to that original concert, starting with the larger than expected crowd which ultimately caused the gates to be wide open and several thousands to enter for free. Ultimately, an estimated 350,000 attended Woodstock ’94, a huge crowd but about 100,000 short of the 1969 show. Another striking similarity between the two festivals was the rainy weather on the second day, which in this case turned much of the entire field had turned into mud.

Although the bulk of the more than 80 performance acts were contemporary performers, there were a respectable amount from the original Woodstock who appeared at Woodstock ’94. These included Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, The Band, John Sebastian, Santana, and Country Joe McDonald. Also, some members of original groups Sweetwater and Jefferson Airplane along with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, were additional Woodstock alumni to appear at the festival.

This concert was also a special event for three members of Aerosmith who attended the 1969 concert as teenagers and performed as a headliner in the 1994 festival. This was also a showcase for Peter Gabriel, who headlined the last night of the festival and closed Woodstock ’94.

21st Century Reunions

In more recent times, we’ve had Rush make an incredible comeback in the 2000s, various reunions by The Who, and a full reunion of the four core members of Pink Floyd for one single set during the Live 8 concert in 2005. Led Zeppelin also finally came together for a single reunion concert in London on December 10, 2007, with Page and Plant being joined by John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham, son of original drummer John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin 2007 reunion concert

As the years go along, there are increasingly more comebacks by classic rock acts.

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Ric Albano

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

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Purple by Stone Temple PilotsStone Temple Pilots reached their peak early in their career with the release of Purple in 1994. This second album builds off the sounds forged on the band’s 1992 debut album Core, while bringing that sound to a more enriched, mature, and entertaining level. This was accomplished by expanding on the sub-genres fused with the core hard-rock, grunge approach, utilizing some folk, jazz, funk, and Southern rock elements. Lyrically, the songs contain many references to vocalist and lyricist Scott Weiland‘s struggles with drug abuse and the collateral damage brought on by this addictions. This serves to add a tinge of darkness and foreboding to the otherwise inspiring musical vibes.

After the release of Core in September of 1992, the group received some negative reviews blasting them as “rip-offs” of more established contemporaries like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. However, these critical reviews were in sharp contrast to popular opinion, as illustrated in one Rolling Stone magazine poll where the band was simultaneously voted “Best New Band” by the magazine’s readers and “Worst New Band” by its music critics. Still, by the time the group returned to the studio to record this second album, they were determined to make their mark of distinction on the rock world.

Producer Brendan O’Brien was again brought on to strike the sonic balance of the raw compositions written by the band. Brothers Dean DeLeo and Robert DeLeo nearly equally shared the musical compositions, with Weiland later adding the melodies and lyrics. Production of the album was completed in less than a month, and Purple was greeted with great fanfare, debuting at number one in the U.S. upon its release.


Purple by Stone Temple Pilots
Released: June 7, 1994 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien
Recorded: Southern Tracks Studio, Atlanta, GA, Spring 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Meatplow
Vasoline
Lounge Fly
Interstate Love Song
Still Remains
Pretty Penny
Silvergun Superman
Big Empty
Unglued
Army Ants
Kitchenware & Candybars
Scott Weiland – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Dean DeLeo – Guitars, Drums
Robert DeLeo – Bass, Guitars
Eric Kretz – Drums, Percussion

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

 

Dominated by dual guitar riffs of DeLeo brothers, “Meatplow” is a slow rocker that strategically bends flat in overall tone, starting the album with a methodical edge which slowly churns towards the desired vibe. “Vasoline” is less patient, with a pure rudimental riff by Robert DeLeo that at once contrasts and compliments Weiland’s melodic vocals. Released as a single, the song reached the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. The song verse’s syncopated riff in non-standard timing is grounded by the steady 4/4 beat of drummer Eric Kretz, which builds a rhythmic tension that is released in the chorus.

Kretz is particularly impressive with drums and percussion throughout “Lounge Fly”. This track starts with a unique, backwards-masked riff with interludes by complex, rolling drums before it works its way towards a more normal rock arrangement. During the middle section, this song moves to a pure acoustic folk arrangement with duet vocals before building back to a hard rock format with a screeching guitar lead credited to Paul Leary of the band Butthole Surfers.

Perhaps the best song ever composed by Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song” leaves an indelible sonic impression on the listener and the succinct arrangement ferments a desire for more. The much too short acoustic intro by Robert DeLeo breaks into the finest of riffing, which alternates between the layered blues rock and twangy overdub of the interludes and the funky, crunchy riffs of the verses. Weiland’s vocals are also top notch and potent throughout, as he delivers the lyrics that deal with the lack of honesty in hiding his addiction to heroin;

Waiting on a Sunday afternoon for what I read between the lines, your lies, feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame, so do you laugh or does it cry? Reply?”

“Still Remains” has an almost outlaw country (or at least Southern-fried rock) approach with twangy guitar layers and more very good, moody vocals. Dean DeLeo’s “Pretty Penny” takes another radical turn in style with Eastern-flavored acoustic instruments and various hand percussion. This calm and steady track never relents by breaking into anything harder rocking and harkens back to the English folk of Traffic or even Jethro Tull, but with distinctive STP vocals during the chorus. By contrast, “Silvergun Superman” is a progressive song which gets better and better as it goes along. Starting with slow, heavy metal rock riffs, the chorus breaks into a soaring vocal and moving bass section and then bridge further adds variety to the arrangement before a shredding guitar lead brings this song up to yet the next level. However, there is a bizarre breakdown at the end of the track which is a bit unprofessional and drains all the afore momentum.

“Big Empty” is fueled by the bluesy and jazzy slide guitar of Dean DeLeo above the bouncy, funk bass of his brother Robert. The song originally appeared on the soundtrack to the movie The Crow and was later a successful single that reached the Top Ten of the Mainstream Rock charts. “Unglued” is, perhaps, the most upbeat and “dance-ready” rocker on Purple, short but sweet and entertaining with none of the droning of most of the other tracks. Another unique track, “Army Ants” starts with a moody, descending riff, drenched in heavy flange before it breaks into a harder rocking song that jams at top level for a couple verses and choruses before returning to the intro part and starting all over. The closer “Kitchenware & Candybars” may be the most melodramatic of all tracks complete with orchestral effects by O’Brien. The song includes a hidden twelfth track sung as a lounge song by guest Richard Peterson, who provides a closing overture that explains the album’s back cover, which displays a cake with the phrase “12 Gracious Melodies”.

Within a few months of its release, Purple had sold over three million copies and propelled the band to headliner status. The following year, Stone Temple Pilots recorded their third album, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, which took an even more radical music departure. Here critics were more favorable to the band’s sound, while fans were not quite so impressed.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

 

Smash by The Offspring

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Smash by The OffspringOften overlooked by their more lauded West Coast contemporaries, The Offspring were nonetheless a hard rock powerhouse in the mid to late nineties. Their aptly named breakthrough album, Smash, achieved platinum sales and reached the Top 10 in over a dozen countries, peaking at #4 on the US album charts. Unlike the group’s first two releases, which were close to hardcore punk in genre, this third independent album leans more towards the emerging grunge rock and pop punk sound, which brought the critical and commercial success. In total, Smash has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling independent label album of all time.

The Offspring began in Southern California in the mid 1980s with guitarist, lyricist, and front man Bryan “Dexter” Holland and bassist Greg Kriesel. Later on the group added Ron Welty and guitarist Kevin Wasserman to round out the quartet. In 1989, the group recorded their first album with producer Thom Wilson, who continued to work with the group on their 1991 sophomore effort and on Smash.

However, when they began studio work on this album in 1993, the band’s relations with Wilson had begun to strain. Still, the team worked well enough together to forge a successful sound which became highly influential over the coming decades and still resonates with listeners to this day.


Smash by The Offspring
Released: April 8, 1994 (Epitath)
Produced by: Thom Wilson
Recorded: Track Record, North Hollywood, CA, October–December 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
Time to Relax
Nitro (Youth Energy)
Bad Habit
Gotta Get Away
Genocide
Something to Believe In
Come Out and Play
Self Esteem
It’ll Be a Long Time
Killboy Powerhead
What Happened to You?
So Alone
Not the One
Smash
Dexter Holland – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Kevin Wasserman – Guitars, Vocals
Greg Kriesel – Bass, Vocals
Ron Welty – Drums, Vocals

Smash by The Offspring

 

Aside from the single cover song, Holland composed all songs on Smash, which includes a spoken-word narrator who makes three appearances, starting with the 25 second intro “Time to Relax”. Welty’s relentless drums drive the track “Nitro (Youth Energy)”, with dueling vocals and guitars buried quite a bit back in the mix and a constant refrain of “living like there’s no tomorrow”. “Bad Habit” takes a different approach as Kriesel’s slow, accented bass riff dominates the intro and first verse before the second verse brings additional punk structure and drive. Later there is a naked vocal middle section laced with profanity, which may actually be the overall most creative and interesting part of the song.

“Gotta Get Away” starts with a drum roll and bass intro, reminiscent of a 1960s pop beat, before the song morphs into a more hard rock oriented arrangement which seems to be heavily influenced by Nirvana. Released as a single, the song reached number 6 on the Modern Rock chart. “Genocide” is mainly structured more like a heavy metal track with distorted riffs and double-kick drums but the vocals keep it grounded within the pop/punk realm. Overall not a bad tune, just thick and slow in the melody hooks. “Something to Believe In” is an honest attempt at 70s-style punk, before it later dissolves to a bass driven bridge.

The song this band was born to play, “Come Out and Play”, with an anthemic, shout-along chorus, was the catalyst that brought the Offspring great success. Although not officially released as a single, the song hit the airwaves and raced to the top of the Mainstream Rock charts. Fueled by Holland’s Eastern-style riff, lyrics on adolescence, and an entertaining stop-start arrangement, the song struck a unique chord in the rock music universe. The second most popular song on the album, “Self Esteem” is a fun song with great, pathetic, philosophical, and almost comical lyrics about an unhealthy relationship. Beginning with full arrangement, the song leans on strong bass and deadened guitars during the verses and a fuller arrangement elsewhere as the truth of its lyric puts it over the top;

the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care…”

Later in the album, the material thins out a bit. “It’ll Be a Long Time” sounds like a fast-paced Black Sabbath song, more worried about the riff and the jam than the noise and attitude of punk. “Killboy Powerhead” is the a cover by contemporary punk group The Didjits with a cool, Saturday morning cartoon vibe. “What Happened to You?” is a very short but entertaining excursion into ska where the performance and production is tighter than anywhere else on the album, while “So Alone” is pure filler of 100mph punk that lasts barely 70 seconds in total duration. “Not the One” is where surf music meets punk, setting up the closer “Smash”, which almost sounds like a pimped-out, punked-out version on the previous track. This final song does pick up a bit in intensity before abruptly ending with “closing comments” by a narrator.

The unprecedented success of Smash garnered attention from major labels like Columbia Records, with whom The Offspring signed in 1996. The following year, the group released their much anticipated follow-up Ixnay on the Hombre, which continued to elevate the group’s success.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

 

American Recordings by Johnny Cash

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American Recordings by Johnny CashReleased in Spring 1994, American Recordings was (incredibly) the 81st overall album by Johnny Cash and was the ignition point for the second great comeback of his long career. Like the first great comeback, which initiated with the live , At Folsum Prison in 1968, Cash made a radical pivot to spark this new musical chapter. This time, he stripped bare any external production and recorded songs “old school” with a simple acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement. With this core arrangement, Cash shines brightest and the listener is struck by how one man and one guitar can still fill the sonic universe at that moment with utter beauty and creativity.

After a successful stretch through the 1970s where he expanded beyond recording and into television and film, Johnny Cash became the Country Music Hall of Fame‘s youngest living inductee (at age 48) in 1980. However, the 1980s were a less than stellar decade for Cash where his multiple records failed to make any impact on the charts and Cash himself admitted that a lot of the “magic” was missing from the music and he was just going through the motions. Cash also relapsed into a painkiller addiction as he suffered with several health-related issues. Cash’s relationship with the Nashville establishment and his label Columbia records were also strained during this era and in 1988, after three decades with the label, Columbia dropped Cash from his recording contract.

Enter producer Rick Rubin, who sought out Cash to work on a project for his brand new label American Recordings. Rubin recorded Cash in his living room, with Cash selecting from a long list of originals and covers that he had long desired to record. In fact, Cash stated that he had wanted to do an album in this fashion for “about 20 years”, but the producers he was working with always wanted to forge his sound in this direction or that and Cash ended up frustrated the the general overproduction of his releases. The result was the beginning of another strong stretch of accolades and commercial success for Cash (who also found a whole new generation of audience), as well as a revival of the Americana genre which continues to this day.


American Recordings by Johnny Cash
Released: April 26, 1994 (American)
Produced by: Rick Rubin
Recorded: May 17, 1993–December 7, 1993
Track Listing Primary Musician
Delia’s Gone
Let the Train Blow the Whistle
The Beast in Me
Drive On
Why Me Lord
Thirteen
Oh, Bury Me Not (Introduction: A Cowboy’s Prayer)
Bird On a Wire
Tennessee Stud
Down There by the Train
Redemption
Like a Soldier
The Man Who Couldn’t Cry
Johnny Cash – Lead Vocals, Guitars

American Recordings by Johnny Cash

 

The songs on American Recordings can be categorized in one of three categories – cover songs, new originals, and revamped versions of older Johnny Cash songs. The opener “Delia’s Gone” fits into the latter category, as a roots County/Western song that was originally recorded by Cash in 1962. It nicely fits his well-forged “man in black” outlaw image as a light and entertaining song on the surface that is really dark in the core. Another remake of earlier material on this album is “Oh, Bury Me Not”, originally recorded by Cash in 1965 as a Western spiritual.

The newly recorded cover songs really spotlight Cash’s talent and diversity as a performer. “The Beast in Me” was written by his ex-son-in-law Nick Lowe, as a song about internal rage, the unextinguished fire, which can be used for good or for ill if not kept in check. “Why Me Lord” is a country waltz by Kris Kristofferson that is a song of thanks and a prayer as well as one of regret and wasted opportunities. Cash met heavy metal artist Glenn Danzig in Rubin’s living room and recorded his song, “Thirteen” ,that very day. Of all the covers, Leonard Cohen‘s “Bird On a Wire” is the one which really doesn’t work with Cash’s style, while the Tom Waits track “Down There by the Train” is done masterfully as Cash steps out of his signature style and performs like a true folk artist. This latter song starts very mellow but quietly builds in intensity throughout as the lyrics speak of some of history’s villains boarding a slow train to Hell.

Two of the covers on American Recordings were recorded live during a historic performance at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Jimmy Driftwood‘s “Tennessee Stud” is moderate Americana, a perfect fit for Cash, and offers a direct passage to Cash’s core beginnings in the 1950s. Composed by Loudon Wainwright, “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry” closes the album almost like a spoof of the “traditional” country song with just about everything going wrong, but with the protagonist eventually getting to Heaven and getting it all back, along with slight tinge of revenge on all who did him wrong.

Still, the best songs on this album are the four new original compositions by Cash, which doubtlessly prove that 40 years into his career,
Johnny Cash could still reach a whole new level of artistic genius. “Redemption” is a poetic and quasi-religious masterpiece that harkens back to the best of Bob Dylan’s classic early work. While maintaining a a deep and ethereal vibe sonically, this track really strikes the soul lyrically;

And the blood gave life to the branches of the tree and the blood was the price that set the captives free, and the numbers that came through the fire and flood, clung to the tree and were redeemed by the blood…”

“Like a Soldier” is another retrospective original and comes closest to being the “theme song for this album (and overall, multi-album “American Recordings” project). Cash’s vocals are particularly excellent on this track, making it an instant classic. The two other originals are similar in tone and vibe, with “Let the Train Blow the Whistle” being a spiritual song of remembrance and “Drive On” examining the “turning away” from life’s horrors and tragedies and continuing on your individual path.

American Recordings did not chart well after its release, failing to reach the Top 100 on the album charts, but it was recognized with a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album of the Year and was a major critical success. Cash and Rubin successfully repeated this formula with five more “American” albums through the remainder Johnny Cash’s life, with the final one being released posthumously in 2003.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

 

Superunknown by Soundgarden

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Superunknown by SoundgardenAlthough it was the group’s fourth overall release, Superunknown was the real breakthrough album for Soundgarden in 1994. This release was a critical and commercial success and the 15 track album, which clocks in over 70 minutes in length and pushes the capacity limits of CDs, would have easily been a double album a decade earlier. Musically and compositionally, Superunknown blended the group’s core metal style with elements of punk, rock, pop, and psychedelia, along with some songs of Middle-Eastern or Indian influence. The band also experimented with different drum and guitar sounds, as well as layering techniques to create a more expansive sonic output.

After the group’s extensive touring following the 1991 album Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden began work on this album with producer Michael Beinhorn in 1993. The four band members worked on material independently and then brought demos to the collective sessions. Ultimately, front man Chris Cornell composed the lion’s share of the material but points out that the recording process was far more important than on previous albums.

Lyrically, the album is a bit dark, with themes dealing with seclusion, fear, revenge, substance abuse and depression. Cornell said that the album’s closing song “Like Suicide” is literal and the album’s cover art includes a black and white image of an upside-down burning forest. The inspiration for the album’s title came from the misreading of a video entitled “Superclown”.


Superunknown by Soundgarden
Released: March 8, 1994 (A&M)
Produced by: Michael Beinhorn & Soundgarden
Recorded: Bad Animals Studio, Seattle, July–September 1993
Track Listing Group Musicians
Let Me Drown
My Wave
Fell on Black Days
Mailman
Superunknown
Head Down
Black Hole Sun
Spoonman
Limo Wreck
The Day I Tried to Live
Kickstand
Fresh Tendrils
4th of July
Half
Like Suicide
Chris Cornell – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Kim Thayil – Guitars
Ben Shepherd – Bass, Vocals
Matt Cameron – Drums, Percussion, Synths

Superunknown by Soundgarden

 

The crisp, rhythm-driven rocker “Let Me Drown” opens the album on an upbeat note but doesn’t contain much variation or movement beyond that. “My Wave” is much better, albeit with the same basic vibe. Guitarist Kim Thayil provides a rotating trance during song proper with odd timings during the chorus hooks and an ending with partially psychedelic section. “My Wave” was released as a single and peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

“Fell on Black Days” is the gem of the early part of the album. It is at once an illustration of the better part of 90s grunge rock and the greater overall post-Beatles hard rock sound. Written by Cornell, it contains a riff in the time signature of 6/4 while the drums of Matt Cameron are straight 4/4, giving it an unsettling but adventurous feel. Cameron wrote “Mailman”, which contains extraordinarily slow riffing during the verses in a kind of droning, but seems to fall short of reaching its intended effect. The title song “Superunknown” changes thing up quite a bit with a more like upbeat, blues rock and anthemic feel. Written by bassist Ben Shepherd, “Head Down” begins with a calm acoustic that is soon joined by doomy arrangement, making for a very interesting and rewarding start. The song latter dissolves into odd drum section by guest Gregg Keplinger, which ends the song awkwardly.

“Black Hole Sun” is the quintessential Soundgarden song, due to the masterful guitar phrases by Thayil and the exquisite composition by Cornell. The effect is a totally unique and cool sound as Cameron holds the song together while Thayil and Shepherd play the slow riffs of the verses. The song topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and stayed there for a total of seven weeks. “Spoonman” is a great riff-driven rocker, with fantastic, soaring vocals by Cornell and plenty of percussive candy throughout. The song was named for Artis the Spoonman, a street performer from Seattle who also performed on the recording, and is the last really great song on the album.

The latter part of the album is less impressive than the earlier part, with a few odd tracks standing out. “Limo Wreck” is an odd yet entertaining waltz rocker with riffing by Thayil and Cameron during the intro and great soulful singing by Cornell, which only gets better as the song grows in intensity. “The Day I Tried to Live” has an intense bass riff, which matched in intensity by all other band members except for drummer Cameron, who kind of stays slow and steady throughout. “Kickstand” is a very short and frantic rocker with not much substance, while “Fresh Tendrils” is built on open riffing and trance-like sounds and features Natasha Shneider on clavinet. This is followed by a couple of weird, de-tuned tracks, the acid-influenced “4th of July”, and the calm but measured “Half”, which features Shepherd on lead vocals along with a viola and cello.

Superunknown debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold over a quarter million copies in its opening week. “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun” won Grammy Awards in 1995 and the album ultimately sold over 9 million copies worldwide.

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1994 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

Monster by R.E.M.

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Monster by REMR.E.M. found great commercial success with their two early nineties releases, Out of Time and Automatic For the People. Still, the group made a concerted effort to rapidly evolve their sound on 1994’s Monster, which is drenched with distorted guitars, high energy arrangements, and minimal overdubs. on this front, the album is distinct in the long and impressive R.E.M. collections and marks the point where they finally realized a full-fledged rock and roll record. Powered by Peter Buck‘s layered guitars and sonic proficiency along with more simple and direct compositions and melodies, Monster was the last high-water mark for the group.

The members of R.E.M. vacation in Acapulco, Mexico early in 1993 to map out a strategy for the next few years. At that point, the group had not toured at all during the decade and drummer Bill Berry was eager to tour and implored that the group produce a more “rock” oriented album for the tour to support. On the past two relatively slow-paced albums (which the band did not tour to support) the band had been using more acoustic instruments, pianos and mandolins, and often “switching” instruments to keep things interesting, but now that would put together something made for live, raw rock shows.

With about 45 songs originally written for the album, the group started pre production at Kingsway Studio in New Orleans to sort out the best material. Co-producer Scott Litt next brought the band to Crossover Soundstage in Atlanta where most of the album’s basic tracks were recorded live. Production later moved to Criteria Studios in Miami Litt’s home studio in Los Angeles, but was delayed due to health issues with lead vocalist and lyricist Michael Stipe and internal tensions which actually broke up the band for a few tense days in early 1994. However, the group reconciled and finished the album which was met with great commercial and critical success.


Monster by R.E.M.
Released: September 26, 1994 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Scott Litt & R.E.M.
Recorded: in New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, & Los Angeles, April–May 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?
Crush with Eyeliner
King of Comedy
I Don’t Sleep, I Dream
Star 69
Strange Currencies
Tongue
Bang and Blame
I Took Your Name
Let Me In
Circus Envy
You
Michael Stipe – Lead Vocals
Peter Buck – Guitars, Organ
Mike Mills – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Bill Berry – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Monster by REM

 

The original, non-CD release of the album was separated into the “Head” and “Tail” sides. The first side starts with the sonic saturation of the lead single “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”, where Buck’s guitar presence through the whole track carries it to the heights along with slight effects and riffs enhancing the song. The song’s title was was inspired by an incident in 1986, where news anchor Dan Rather was the victim of an assault by an assailant who, between beatings, would ask, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”. Inspired by the group New York Dolls, “Crush with Eyeliner” is total new-wave glam with quasi-shock lyrics and potent music throughout. “King of Comedy” takes another turn in genre, towards alternative rock complete with vocal effects and a steady drum beat which makes it somewhat  of a rave dance song.

The sizzle and snarling distortion of Buck’s over-driven amps and cut by Berry;s rolling drumbeat on “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream”. Like the group’s earliest material, Stipe’s vocals, are buried deep in the mix and difficult to decipher due the greater presence of the musicians. “Star 69” is a direct garage rocker with rapid-fire vocals which became a minor radio hit, while “Strange Currencies” finished off the “head” side as a slight tribute to Stipe’s friend River Phoenix, who had recently died of a drug overdose.

The “Tail” side starts with the soulful and unique “Tongue”, which Stipe performs in falsetto throughout. While it is doubtless that Monster is guitarist Buck’s finest hour the melodic bass of Mike Mills is also integral to many tracks along with his piano and organ textures, which are prevalent on “Tongue”. The most traditional sounding R.E.M. song on the album, “Bang and Blame” is steady and hypnotizing and another a real showcase for Mills. Also potent are melodies of Stipe, who restrains the flourishes in favor of lyrical potency, and the fine, strategically placement of background vocals of Rain Phoenix.

The remainder of the album is less than spectacular with further songs dealing with the overall theme of identity problems in the face of growing fame. The highlights here include “Let Me In” where guitars fill the atmosphere throughout the song and “Circus Envy”, which has extra buzzy guitars, pretty melodic hooks and methodical drums that don’t quite match the underlying frenzy of the rest of the arrangement.

Upon its release, Monster debuted at number one on both sides of the Atlantic and R.E.M. set out in January 1995 on their first tour in six years. On the strength of this third consecutive blockbuster album, the group re-signed with Warner Bros. for what was rumored to be the largest recording contract in history to that point. However, fortunes soon turned with further member health problems, trouble with management, and eventual cooling of the band’s popularity.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

1994 Images

 

Vitalogy by Pearl Jam

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Vitalogy by Pearl JamReleased in late 1994, Vitalogy is the raw, aggressive, experimental and somewhat bizarre third album by Pearl Jam. The album was produced by Brendan O’Brien, who also worked on the group’s 1993 album Vs. However, this recording has a much more stripped-down, lean, and slightly improvised sound, which received mixed reactions from critics and fans. Further, the album is very uneven, with some of the most potent material being sandwiched between complete filler or incomplete compositions. All that being said, Vitalogy is certainly original, diverse, and uncompromising and an essential cornerstone of the group’s collection.

Most of the tracks were written and recorded while Pearl Jam toured to support Vs. during 1993 and 1994. Three main studios in cities at opposite corners of the U.S. were used during this time, with the finishing touches and mixing done at Heart’s Bad Animals in Seattle. The album was originally titled “Life”, but was changed when a new packaging scheme and concept were designed by lead vocalist and lyricist Eddie Vedder, who also contributed some guitar playing for the first time on a Pearl Jam record.

There were also increased tensions among the group members, which stemmed from substance abuse and personal feuds among band members and ultimately led to the group’s firing of drummer Dave Abbruzzese once recording had completed. Lead guitarist Mike McCready, who entered rehab during the album’s production, has noted the album’s shortage of solos and the tunes being of a more rhythmic nature.


Vitalogy by Pearl Jam
Released: November 22, 1994 (Epic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien & Pearl Jam
Recorded: in Seattle, Atlanta, & New Orleans, November 1993–October 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Last Exit
Spin the Black Circle
Not for You
Tremor Christ
Nothingman
Whipping
Pry, To
Corduroy
Bugs
Satan’s Bed
Better Man
Aye Davanita
Immortality
Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me
Eddie Vedder – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Accordion
Mike McCready – Guitars, Vocals
Stone Gossard – Guitars, Vocals
Jeff Ament – Bass, Vocals
Dave Abbruzzese – Drums
 
Vitalogy by Pearl Jam

 

Vitalogy starts with a couple of aggressive and high energy tunes. After a jazz improve-like intro, the opener “Last Exit” breaks into frenzy of upbeat drums, and includes a quirky backwards-masked guitar lead. “Spin the Black Circle” is another ripping number with an almost-punk guitar by Stone Gossard. Written as a tribute to vinyl records, the song was released as the lead single from the album. It peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and won the band its first Grammy Award, receiving the award for Best Hard Rock Performance.

“Not for You” is a bit calmer with a steady beat and, with the exception of Vedder’s angst-ridden, strained and out-of-tune vocals, this may have passed as a straight up rock song from the 1980s. In fact, on this track McCready played a 12-string Rickenbacker given to him by Tom Petty. The most melodic song thus far on the album with interesting counter-riffs by the duo guitarists who co-wrote the music, “Tremor Christ” is a slow musical rotation of guitar chops and bass riffs by Jeff Ament. The song was recorded in one night in New Orleans and it managed to reach number 16 on both the Mainstream Rock chart, despite not officially being released as a single. Ament wrote the almost-Americana-like-waltz of “Nothingman”, a searching and melancholy tune which offers a sonic break to the early part of the album.

The first couple of gratuitous fillers come next with Vedder’s volatile and frenzied, four-chord rocker “Whipping” and what sounds like a studio jam of an aborted song called “Pry, To”. Then comes the best overall track on the album, “Corduroy”, which captures much of the same lightning as the better tracks on their debut album Ten. The song begins with McCready’s tense guitar arpeggio and finishes with Ament’s late song bass riff (which is very reminiscent of a similar section in Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”). In between, is desperate yet melodic screed on the pressures of fame and the absurdity that the same brown corduroy jacket Vedder once bought for $12 was being sold for about 50 times that price, because it was suddenly “hip”.

The album falls to its nadir with “Bugs”, a nearly solo track by Vedder, where he spouts absurd lyrics over a simple two-chord accordion riff – a joke song which is much more annoying than entertaining. More prime album real estate is wasted on “Satan’s Bed”, although this is much more listenable than previous song and with a decent sixties-influenced riff by Gossard. The drums on “Satan’s Bed” were performed by drum tech Jimmy Shoaf, as Abbruzzese was hospitalized with tonsillitis.

The highlight of the latter part of the album is “Better Man”, a song Vedder wrote while in high school. After an interesting feedback-laden intro section, the song proper contains emotional and melodic vocals above picked chords with a slight organ played by O’Brien in the distance. This haunting intro takes up nearly half the song before it kicks in with the full band arrangement. The bridge/outro part is best part of song as “Better man” completes strongly as a minor masterpiece which reached the top of the Mainstream Rock chart. After another long fade-in to join a piece mid jam, the instrumental “Aye Davanita” has a slightly interesting groove. The acoustic and strummed electric driven “Immortality” is steady throughout but with not much movement, while the long, sound collage closer “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me” is really a cheap knock-off of “Revolution #9” (which we’re no fans of to begin with) and this monstrous filler tends to cheapen the album as a whole.

In its first week of exclusively vinyl release, Vitalogy sold 35,000 copies and was the first vinyl album to chart due to exclusively vinyl sales in nearly a decade. The album has gone on to be certified five times platinum and was nominated for two Grammys in 1996. With new drummer Jack Irons, Pearl Jam promoted the album with worldwide tours which were continually complicated by their ongoing boycott of Ticketmaster outlets.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

1994 Images