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Mermaid Avenue

151 customer reviews

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Mermaid Avenue
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Audio CD, June 23, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

No Description Available
No Track Information Available
Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 06/23/1998

When you first heard that Billy Bragg and Wilco were teaming up to set some Woody Guthrie lyrics to music, you knew it'd be an interesting project. But did anyone realistically think Mermaid Avenue would also wind up being one of 1998's finest albums? That's exactly what it is, a distinction it pulls off by simultaneously honoring Guthrie and blasting away any folksy expectations we might have of his music. Walking Guthrie's World War II-era lyrics into the 20th century's second, rock & roll half, Bragg and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy take turns on lead vocals, and the entire group collaborates on a sound that draws on folk- and country-rock, from Bob Dylan and the Band to Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo. The results are nearly flawless, ranging from yearning laments and playful children's rockers to horny ballads and brave protest songs that are not merely political but also profoundly moral. Like all of Guthrie's work, Mermaid Avenue is music to live better by. --David Cantwell

See all Editorial Reviews

1. Walt Whitman's Niece
2. California Stars
3. Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
4. Birds And Ships
5. Hoodoo Voodoo
6. She Came Along To Me
7. At My Window Sad And Lonely
8. Ingrid Bergman
9. Christ For President
10. I Guess I Planted
11. One By One
12. Eisler On The Go
13. Hesitating Beauty
14. Another Man's Done Gone
15. The Unwelcome Guest

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 23, 1998)
  • Original Release Date: June 23, 1998
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • ASIN: B000007NC0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,939 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Gianmarco Manzione on May 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Every once in a while and usually out of the blue, we are graced with an album that defies time and genre, the type of music that we will be listening to when Mars is terraformed; Mermaid Avenue is just such an album. It is the diamond in the careers of both Bragg and Wilco. Whether it's the boisterous "Walt Whitman's Neice," the thumping drums of "California Stars," or the country folk of "Minor Key," this album offers a richness of sound that will have listeners licking their chops. The innocence of tracks like "Hoodoo Voodoo" or "Ingrid Bergman" creates a fragile balance with the spate of darker songs, like "One by One," which sounds as if pulled from a deep burrow of desire in Woody Guthrie's soul and recalls the sweet yearning of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay." While the album delivers consistently good music, each song is so different from its predecessor that even the most casual listener's attention is unlikely to wander. Nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy, "Mermaid Avenue" is a priceless example of Guthrie's achievement at the dawn of a new century.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 10, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, thought it might be fun to have new music set to Woody's "lost songs" (lyrics to which Woody had music set in his head, but he never published the music). Billy Bragg and Wilco may make a curious, or at least not a very obvious, choice for the task, but boy, are they up for it!
"Mermaid Avenue" (15 tracks, 49 min.) is a true collaboration between the artists. Some songs find Wilco's Jeff Tweedy at lead vocal, Bragg on others. Music on some tracks is written by Bragg, others by Tweedy/Bennett, yet others by Bragg/Wilco. While I'm a huge Wilco fan, I must admit that the Bragg-written songs are more coherent within the Guthrie legacy. Check out for example the sparse "Eisler On the Go", and "Another Man's Done Done" (with Tweedy on lead vocal). The best is "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" (with Natalie Merchant on back vocals). Natalie also sings lead on "Birds and Ships". (So you really shouldn't be surprised by Natalie's fab collection of folk tunes "The House Carpenter's Daugther", issued independently last year).
In all, this is a terrific collection, which deservedly received a second volume as well. Recommended for fans of Billy Bragg, Wilco, Woddy Guthrie, and of course Bob Dylan.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By dev1 on May 9, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The first time I listened to Mermaid Avenue, I was certain that I had heard this music before. After combing my collection, I discovered that Mermaid Avenue was a collection of new songs - and I hadn't heard them before. The sound of Billy Bragg and Wilco is comfortable; as comfortable as Bob Dylan, The Band circa Big Pink, Bruce Springsteen and the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Session. The combination of 50-year old lyrics (compliments of folkie/socialist Woody Guthrie), the bare-bones sound of Wilco and the recording atmosphere of Dublin make for a cozy and perceptive 46-minutes.
Whether you consider Guthrie a socialist or an anti-capitalist, his political commentaries (Christ For President, The Unwelcome Guest) fit neatly in today's social climate. His love songs are sensitive and poetic (Way Off Yonder In The Minor Key, At My Window Sad and Lonely, One By One). Instead of the vulgar and dehumanizing lyrics of much of today's music towards women, Guthrie's sexual double entendres (Walt Whitman's Niece) are refreshing and literate. In fact, refreshing and literate is as good as any summary of Mermaid Avenue. Outside of public high schools, thinking is still considered acceptable social behavior.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Larry Glickman on December 1, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Is this a concept album or a tribue album? Is this an album of cover tunes, or original songs? Working with the Woody Guthrie archives, Billy Bragg and Wilco craft music to lyrics written by Woody Guthrie for which he never had an opportunity to write music. As you listen to these songs, sometimes beautiful, sometimes raucus, you can't help but to wonder if these artists have channeled Woody Guthrie's spirit correctly.
Should "Walt Whitman's Niece" be the rock song that it is? Should "Ingrid Bergman" be this beautiful plea to the seemingly unattainable starlet, or should it be a sing-a-long? As the album progresses, you realize that correctness doesn't matter, and that whether they got it right or wrong, this album works. The songs are a wonderful representation of the variety of different types of songs heard from Woody Guthrie throughout his career, and the collaboration between the long gone Woody, the Billy Bragg and Wilco is inspired, energetic, creative and fun.
Thanks are due to Woody's daughter Nora and the Woody Guthrie archives for dreaming this project up, and for working with these musicians. Would this project have worked with a duo of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan? Of course, but that may have been a little too safe, and a little too expected. Thanks are due to Billy Bragg and Wilco for realizing that working together would result in a much better, and more diverse album than if they insisted on working alone. Thanks are due to Woody Guthrie, for even if his body would not allow him the strength to write music, his mind could still create these wonderful lyrics.
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