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Home to Oblivion: Elliott Smith Tribute

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Audio CD, April 11, 2006
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 11, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: 2006
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: World Village USA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,517 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. coast to coast
2. let's get lost
3. i didn't understand
4. speed trials
5. i better be quiet now
6. roman candle
7. satellite
8. independence day
9. cupid's trick
10. o well, okay
11. no life
12. between the bars
13. christian brothers
14. everything means nothing to me
15. waltz #1
16. not half right
17. stupidity tries
18. bye

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

When the Nebraska-born, Texas-bred singer/songwriter Elliott Smith died in 2003 at age 34, he left behind a rich legacy of strikingly original, darkly evocative songwriting. Each of his albums, right up to the posthumously released From A Basement On The Hill, exhibited progressive development as a composer and lyricist, evoking comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, Nick Drake and even the Beatles. Smith's skewed, mildly dissonant yet achingly poignant sense of melody turns out to be perfect for the piano, especially in Christopher O' Riley's intuitive, sympathetic yet fiery hands. That he was able to capture the manic highs and subterranean lows of Smith's emotional landscape, sans lyrics, is nothing short of miraculous. O'Riley's touch is moody but also remarkably unsentimental; he is well aware that deep truths should be allowed to speak for themselves. Ultimately, the pieces on this album, drawn from various periods in Smith's output, are presented as tone-poems in miniature. His music is revealed as assertively American, infectious yet elusive, with inchoate quotes from Heartland folklore dancing somewhere just beyond the listener's memory.

Christopher O'Riley has gained recent renown for his two albums of piano adaptations of Radiohead songs, Hold Me To This and True Love Waits. He successfully found the inner classical composer in Thom Yorke, and turned the art-rock group's ambitious songs into symphonic excursions for solo piano. O'Riley brings the same technique to bear on Elliott Smith, a singer-songwriter of considerably more fragile design but who still reveled in idiosyncratic song structures and dense arrangements. Like the Radiohead albums, this isn't Smith turned into Muzak. O'Riley probes the dark underside of Smith's lyrics instrumentally, with shrouded chord clusters and tonal washes. He'll often go toward the angular more than the melodic, fracturing songs sideways. The approach is challenging and sometimes oppressive. It's a relief when he emerges from a storm of overtones to an almost baroque minuet on "Coast to Coast." So goes it for most of Home to Oblivion, as O'Riley makes Smith's music his own. "Independence Day" comes off almost as a jaunty boogie-woogie in O'Riley's hands, while "Cupid's Tricks" is a delirious swirl with piano lines tumbling over each other against aggressive left-hand chord stabs. O'Riley finds echoes of Chopin, Mozart, and Satie in Smith's ruminations. I confess that I've not plumbed the depths of the Elliott Smith oeuvre as Christopher O'Riley has so lovingly and obsessively done. But I suspect that fans of the singer-songwriter might find this CD almost worth it just for the pianist's liner-notes meditation on the life and music of Smith, who committed suicide in 2003. --John Diliberto

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Evan Geller on April 18, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I can't get over how moved I was when I first put this cd on yesterday. My goodness. Christopher ORiley truly captured the essence of Elliott. Haunting and vibrant are buzz words I could use to describe it. But, I am hesitant to use words to describe these interpretations, cause ORiley conveys the emotional undercurrent so well without the use of words. This is music that truly speaks for itself.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Brennan VINE VOICE on May 7, 2006
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It ain't easy being an interpreter.

Christopher O'Riley's an accomplished classical pianist, but his biggest claims to fame are three piano interpretations of modern musicians--two discs worth or re-imagined Radiohead, and now this excellent exploration of Elliott Smith.

Most respectable classical musicians don't do this sort of thing--they usually stick to what are deemed respectable composers. And the ones who do bother with anything composed after, say, 1925 and played on anything other than orchestra instruments? They become a little trashy by association, exuding a faint odor of music whoredom as they ride the rock n' roll gravy train from the New Release section to the Bargain Bin. (This happens whether they're re-interpreting the Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd or, heaven help us, Metallica.) Heck, most musicians in general are fearful of doing too much of someone else's work, lest they be seen as bar-band ready tribute acts rather than as the sainted singer-songwriters they'd like to be.

Thank heavens O'Riley's not like most musicians. He seems to see interpretation as something like what it used to be in the Frank Sinatra heydey--something anyone can and should do as much as they want to, provided they're patient enough to really take their time about it and bold enough to make someone else's songs their own. For that's the true test of a musician--not whether or not they cover other people's work, but whether they put in the effort to give their audience something more than a tracing-paper copy of a song's original outlines.

By that standard, O'Riley's latest outing's a smashing success. It is a demanding listen--don't just pop in while riding the subway to work.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 30, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Since Elliott's passing, a handfull of tribute albums have trickled out of the woodwork. Some good, and some not so good. Elliott's elequent music inspired many. His dark meloncolly lyrics shook the shattered hearts of lost souls like me.

O'reily who is known by many for his beutifull renditions of Radiohead's masterful songs has yet again created a near perfect gem. One can tell that he could relate to Smith's music. The mood and atmosphere that is created by Elliott's music still shines trough on O'reiley's effort yet with something more.

Elements of classical masterpieces such as Beethoven's 5th or the darker works of Chopin are alluded to in this somewhat esoteric album. O'reiley grabs Elliott's music by it's fiery horns and submits it to a glorious reworking that i think would make Elliott proud.

Some Key tracks that Seem to reign high on top are track 3. i didn't understand, track 9. cupid's trick, track 13. christian brothers, as well as Track 14. everything means nothing to me. Although nearly all of tracks hold there own weight.

This album although very good does have its few flaws. To one that is not a fan of or is not famillar with Elliott's music, this album may seen foreign. At the times on tracks such as Coast to Coast and Roman Candle the piano work sounds slightly jumbled, although this adds to the mood of these songs.

One final word or words should i say. O'reiley Will not cease to amaze you.

Note: I am not under 13, I am using a public computer.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A.S. on May 20, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Since Elliot Smith's music has inspired me to learn piano (albeit in fits & starts), I felt O'Riley's interpretations were a must-listen. I've listened for about a month now. I'll agree with one reviewer on this: there is a ton of key-pounding, but O'Riley elicits Smith's melodies in often beautiful ways. Elliot Smith, like the Beatles, is a musician's musician, and his music is a melodic well of layers & epiphany. Highlights on this album include: Speed Trials, with its gorgeous chorus; Roman Candle, in which O'Riley moves Smith's pain closer to shimmer than moan; Christian Brothers; Not Half Right; Stupidity Tries & Between the Bars.

Cupid's Trick and Independence Day (--the original nearly a perfect song--) are two of the tracks in which O'Riley's insistent embellishments shift the song's feel in a way that left me tepid. "Everything Means Nothing to Me" is mostly bereft without the vocal and psychedelic, alienated build. Of course, these are interpretations, and I'm happy to give O'Riley the benefit of that. For anyone who wants to examine the structure of Elliot Smith's compositions, this is a valuable collection.
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