Another DMB album is just 'too much'
By GEOFFREY RAHIE
Scene Music Critic
Most bands try to put out albums once every two years or so. Some bands take even longer, trying to incorporate new sounds and styles into their music. Well consider this: Since 1997, the Dave Matthews Band has released four full-length albums. 1998's Before These Crowded Streets was an excellent studio album, while all the rest were live.
By releasing all of these products, it is safe to say the band has now amassed the wealth to buy a few small countries in Europe. But it also shows that the boys have a pretty big commitment to their hardcore fans. The fourth album released in two years is a double-disc, live show from East Rutherford, N.J., entitled Listener Supported.
The first disc is marred by either long renditions of standard DMB songs or under-tempoed tracks that lose their promise. It starts off with a long, drawn out musical intro. Don't be fooled though: This intro is merely the two opening chords of "Pantala Naga Pampa."
The track is great to listen to while on a date — if you wanted your lovely date to know you were are the most boring person on earth. Seriously, it is basically a wasted track that begs to be skipped over. However, it introduces the listener to the guest keyboard player of the show, Butch Taylor. Taylor flexes his musical muscles all over the CD, but his playing only serves as elevator music on the "Intro."
This leads into the combo of "Pantala Naga Pampa" and "Rapunzel." By the middle of "Rapunzel" it would not be unusual to find oneself falling asleep. This is such a shame because the song is unique for the band. However, the tempo drags throughout the entire track. The rare "#36" also seems way too slow for its own good.
The band moves on to obnoxiously long renditions. This is usually a staple of DMB shows and, for the most part, is very exciting. However, the jam on "Jimi Thing," a song hailed by DMB enthusiasts as "epic" and "awesome," is really neither of these. DMB fanatics also love the song "#36," which is usually passed over by the band at shows. They should keep passing up on it.
Nothing really goes on in this song, the riff repeats over and over and nothing exciting ever really happens. But an obsessive DMB fan will say it is his or her favorite song. Why? Probably because it is thought of as an obscure DMB song and they want to impress people with their knowledge and elitist attitude.
The first disc is not entirely horrible. "#41" is very long, but it is also very good. The band members seem to capture the emotion of the song with their respective instruments. "The Stone" is a driving number that is wicked and beautiful at the same time. Although overplayed to death, "Crash Into Me" is actually a refreshing break from the monotony going on with the rest of the disc. Thank goodness for second chances.
The second disc of "Listener Supported" tries to make up for the sub-par first disc, and almost pulls it off. Mixed on this half of the album are unique versions of standards, three unreleased concert favorites and some covers.
"Too Much" kicks off the disc, and although the song is usually not great, Butch Taylor adds some cool funk keyboard that makes the track worthwhile. He also shows great skill on the 14-minute long "Two Step." This track also shows the greatness of drummer Carter Beauford, attacking his snare with a vengeance.
"Don't Drink the Water" and "Stay" are pretty forgettable however. Dave kicks off the encore with a brief tease of the amazing original "#40." The short track is a blessing to obsessive fans. But it will also anger people because it is only played for a minute. Hopefully a full version will make its way to the public soon enough.
The full band has never released two other standout tracks: "Granny" and "True Reflections." The exhilarating "Granny" is highlighted by three gospel vocalists and shows the band doing what it does best: having fun. "True Reflections," written by the violinist Boyd Tinsley, is one of the greatest songs ever performed by the band. Tinsley takes over the lead vocal job with his deep soulful voice that highly contrasts with Matthews' range. The backup singers also do a fine job.
"Long Black Veil," a song made famous by Johnny Cash, is played near the end of the second disc and might be one of the best cover songs ever chosen by the band. The mix of reflective music and heart-wrenching lyrics makes the song a winner.
The show ends as the band way too frequently closes shows — with Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." The song is good, but enough already. Do not play this song ever again!
DMB is such a great group. They write great shows, make great albums, and put on great shows. But all great groups slip up every now and again, right? This isn't a horrible CD, but looking at the set-list it could have been a lot better. Some of the jamming on the first disc could have been substituted for an extra song. We don't always get what we want however.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, November 30, 1999