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Cellar Door

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Audio CD, January 20, 2004
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The newest entry into John Vanderslice's deep and undeniably remarkable catalog is White Wilderness, and it's a record like no other he's made before.

Here are nine new and wildly impressive JV songs captured live over three days in a unique collaboration with the Magik*Magik Orchestra, a collective of classically trained musicians in the Bay Area led by artistic director ... Read more in Amazon's John Vanderslice Store

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 20, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Barsuk
  • ASIN: B00015HVLK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,810 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Pale Horse
2. Up Above the Sea
3. Wild Strawberries
4. They Won't Let Me Run
5. Heated Pool and Bar
6. My Family Tree
7. White Plains
8. Promising Actress
9. Coming and Going on Easy Terms
10. Lunar Landscapes
11. When It Hits My Blood
12. June July

Editorial Reviews

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sair K on April 14, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I was very excited by this album's release, as I am a huge J.V. fan, and I was not let down. John Vanderslice's 4th album again delivers. Like his previous releases, Cellar Door is a rich pop/rock album infused with guitar, keyboards, samples, and of course poetry. John Vanderslice is a brilliant songwriter. While this album departs from the previous 2, in that it is not a concept album, there is definately the theme of family, self-doubt, and regret running throughout. I actually think this album is probably better than Life and Death of an American Fourtracker as it focused more on each individual song, rather than building the story.
Particularly good tracks: They Won't Let me Run, Family Tree, When it Hits My Blood
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By *three imaginary girls* on June 4, 2004
Format: Audio CD
What are we going to do with John Vanderslice? It's been two years since the last taste of anything by the ex-MK Ultra studio whiz, and just by reading the press packet, it's clear the San Francisco analog junky is making some pretty big claims with his new record. First off, he's calling it "Cellar Door," the same phrase a character in the film Donnie Darko calls the most perfectly beautiful linguistic combination in the English language. As if that weren't ballsy enough, the lyrics off the record's first track are directly adapted from Percy Shelley's "The Mask of Anarchy."
Now that's not to say "Cellar Door" is a poor title, or that Shelley was somehow insignificant as a Romantic poet, he pretty much founded the Satanic School of poetry for crying out loud. But to allude that your new album is somehow connected with the most beautiful phrase in the English language, while also borrowing lyrics from one of history's most well-known poets, well, that seems almost arrogant enough to make one not want to listen to the album.
But that would be a mistake, because Vanderslice definitely pulls it off. After 400 hours of recording in his analog-happy San Francisco studio, Tiny Telephone, John Vanderslice - and Seattle's Barsuk Records - have a solidly good record on their hands.
The album begins with "Pale Horse," the borrowed Shelley poem set to music. Behind Vanderslice's rough tenor is the repeated chorus, "Rise like lions, after the slumbering / in greatly unknowable numbers." A meticulously crafted, veritable landscape of sound accompanies him - strings, horns, distorted acoustic guitars - but rather than tracking instrument after instrument just because he can, Vanderslice is sure that every instrument has its place and nothing gets too cluttered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 11, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I'll tell you what. Pure unadulterated genius on every level. But you have to hear it with you own ears to believe me. I personally have not been this excited about a CD in a very long time. I also have seen him live many times and the tunes sound just as good live as on his recordings. He does surround himself with amazing talent but then again I think talent gravitates to this man because he inspires. He is touring right now and do yourself a favor go see the show he has an insanely good band with him right now. For tour dates and schedules check his website at [...] - Please trust me on the purchase of this cd if you were smart enough to even search for John Vanderslice on hear then please reward yourself with buying it. Go ahead. Click it. Click it and then get a ticket.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By George a Pletz on August 21, 2004
Format: Audio CD
It took me a long time to come to terms with the previous album.

I liked it but it just was no Time Travel. Still it had plenty of good, if not excellent, moments. But now with the latest album, the problem seems clear. How does Vanderslice the lyricist come to terms with Vanderslice the producer? There is no problem with the musicianship as always. It is just as the production becomes more involved, how can he keep the lyrics as intimate as previous releases? Whereas the last two albums employed the concept album conceit to give impact (each song is one more piece in a psychological puzzle), Cellar Door offers up a different persona in each song. Subtly, there is a theme of each song equating to a movie, real or imagined. Like in real life, you like one movie more than another. Some themes will connect with you more than others. When it comes right down to it, there are more songs on this album that I like than not.

Personally, I think there is probably just one more "ballad" ( this term is relative, of course) than was necessary. Cellar Door seems like the debut album as if informed by the last two albums. It indicates to me that the next album will be a real departure. Clearly this is an album requiring that ever illusive three and half stars. I'll give Cellar Door that extra half just to account for that growing affection which will come from after several listens. For those looking for a stand-out track, after the obvious "hits" of "Pale Horse" and "Won't Let You Run", I point towards "Bar and Heated Pool". Vanderslice is clearly in a class of his own. Rarely does the personal and the political fit so naturally together.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy L. Petersen on January 25, 2004
Format: Audio CD
CD Review- John Vanderslice: Cellar Door (Barsuk).
Right off the top of my head, I can think of several combinations that might be classified as unfortunate, both because of the simple results of these respective unions as well as the meaning the results hold for the world at large. A few obvious examples might include socks and sandles, George and Barbara Bush, and commerce and art. Speaking of art, one other combination that has continually been attempted only to fail miserably in its product is that of rock and roll and what we'll call high art (also known as High Art). Fine, okay, scream "Tommy!" from the rafters and I'll show you a thousand examples resembling the Stonehenge stage show from "Spinal Tap." This already bad thing gets even worse when one recognizes that a disproportionate number of these experiments originated within the early to mid-80's metal scene and generally involved witches and various elfin woodland creatures. There's really nothing more that needs to be said here.
So what's the deal with John Vanderslice? The San Francisco-based singer-songwriter has released two concept albums in recent years, complete with lyrics based on the poetry of William Blake and Robert Lowell, and even a Bach riff or two thrown in for good measure. That said, Vanderslice has already shown himself to be a unique and thoughtful artist, with an ability to succeed where so many, as I have said, have failed.
His ability, though, goes far beyond being able to pull off high concepts. On the latest release, Cellar Door, Vanderslice seems to have toned down that side of things a bit-though the songs are still linked through themes, and one song, "Pale Horse," draws lyrics from the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
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