20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2012
NOTE: This is an all encompassing review of the album "Away From The World". I purchased the vinyl edition and the Super Deluxe, but Amazon directed me here to place my review. I'll add my thoughts on the vinyl at the end.
Today and yesterday I spent a lot of time with Away From The World. I was one of those who skipped the leak and waited until I had the vinyl in my hand and dropped the needle before I listened to the whole thing. I'd heard Sweet, Mercy and Gaucho live this summer, Mercy and Gaucho singles and checked out the YouTube videos of The Riff, If Only and Belly Belly Nice, but after that I wanted to stop and wait until I had the final product in my hands to give it a listen. I thought I'd share my thoughts.
Going into AFTW, I wasn't sure what to expect. DMB had evolved and changed, matured and had added on the lineup with more presence from Tim Reynolds and the addition of Jeff Coffin after the passing of LeRoi Moore and the addition of Rashawn Ross on the horns for a developing horn line. Adding Steve Lillywhite to this wasn't going to bring the band back to the beginning to make a BTCS/UTTAD/Crash style album, but I knew it was going to take that newer DMB sound and make an album that was going to be great. I knew the album would be good, but I didn't know it was going to be this good. I'm very impressed with the work that went into this and I think AFTW is just phenomenal. I don't try to say, "This is the Big 4!" because honestly, this is a new work for a different time and a different place in their lives. The Big 3 existed at a time as a work that will always be an example of early DMB. This is something new, something different and a different sound, but still uniquely DMB, if that makes sense.
1. Broken Things - I really like Broken Things. It has a familiar and classic DMB feel and I agree with those who say it has a very BTCS vibe with some very true lyrics. I really dig the use of the baritone sax in this song. I like Boyd's violin work on this one as well. I like the lyrics, and I can easily identify with them. I've always lived my life by a plan but lyrics like "You want to be so sure of every step you take. You can't always know what's coming. You can't always trust the twirl of fate." and "How could we know that our lives would be so full of beautifully broken things?" remind me that you can't always plan for everything, but when you look back on it - it's a beautiful road you took to get there and it's littered with memories.
2. Belly Belly Nice - This song is a straight up jam. It reminds me of a Shake Me Like A Monkey/Rapunzel/Too Much hybrid, a fun jam with some simple lyrics. I don't think this song is meant to be interpreted or has a deeper meaning, it's just a fun song. I've been playing this one a lot in the car. Really love the sax work on this and Boyd's solo at the end kicks ass. The "Belly Jelly" lyric makes me laugh every time.
3. Mercy - When I first heard this song full band in Texas for the Summer 2012 tour it gave me a lot of hope for this album and really looked like a new direction for the band, paying homage to their roots but still moving forward musically. Simple, but beautiful. My favorite part of this song is the outro - it's truly beautiful. Jeff Coffin shines and his sax work really feels like he was channeling the spirit of Roi, hearing him playing in the outro really made me have a new respect and appreciation for him as a member of DMB, it was like for me - that was the moment that it truly hit for me.
4. Gaucho - Gaucho is a cool song, the guitar work and the horns are my favorite parts of the song. It has a really Spanish style flair to it with the guitar playing and the horn work (sounds very Mariachi style). As with Mercy, this one has the "change the world/save the world" lyrical theme. It's a really well put together/produced/mixed song. I may be in the minority, but I like the kids in the choir. It's nice and mellow and I think fits well mid-song after Tim's guitar. Really love Jeff's sax work on the jam at the end.
5. Sweet - Sweet is probably one of my favorites off this album. Ever since I heard it in Chicago at the Caravan in 2011 I've loved this song. It's simple, but really beautiful. Hopeful, encouraging, motivating. The lyrics aren't deep, but can be interpreted a number of ways. For me, as a father, it really connects with me as my daughter just started to learn how to swim, but I can also apply it to a number of parts of my life when I feel overwhelmed. I absolutely love when the jam comes in at the end, it's such a great feel and mellow vibe. My only complaint, and not really a complaint - but I wish that jam had went longer. I don't know why they cut it so early. As this song develops live that jam is going to be beautiful. Boyd's playing and the horns are great, it's such a nice little jam.
6. The Riff - The Riff has a really retrospective/reflective vibe to it. It has a dark vibe to it, it's a very deep song. This is a song that was right for this time. It isn't a song the 20 year old Dave Matthews could have wrote, this is something written by a traveler who has seen the world and everything in it. I'm really liking the lyrics on this one, such as "Funny how time slips away. Looking at the cracks creeping across my face. I remember the little kid living in here. He'll be living in here probably until I'm dead." and "I got dreams to kill and people to forget." Musically it's a heavy hitter. Tim really shines on this one. The jam in the outro is vicious.
7. Belly Full - Belly Full is a very short but pretty little song. It reminds me a lot of #40, it's small but it says what it has to in a small place. Simply Dave saying, "If I could, I would." It sounds like a pledge a man would make to a woman he loves, and he's offering him all he can. I think this song can be brought out more live in the future, but as far as on the album - it's great.
8. If Only - If Only was the 4th song I heard on the album after listening to the tapes of 6/3/2012 Blossom show. I absolutely love this song, it sounds even better on the album (as could be expected). I like the tempo of this song, it's a nice mellow little song. It has a very Sugar Will type vibe to it. The horn line is very chill but present. It has a 90's vibe to it but also a very motown feel as well.
9. Rooftop - Rooftop is a very heavy hitting song, very in your face with a vicious jam and some great musical composition. It has a very classic rock/80's rock vibe to it. Loving Tim's guitar on this one. I really like the hook, very catch. "I....I want you to.....tell me that you want me, you want me...." The horns in the end are killer. The bridge and the outro are very well done. I agree with a lot of the Dreams of our Fathers/Fool To Think/Get In Line references about this song, I pick up that as well. Rooftop really has that "new DMB" vibe to it though, it shows the direction the band has been moving and the lineup with Jeff, Tim and Rashawn really adds a lot to this song and shows the newer DMB sound in it's most full form.
10. Snow Outside - I really like Tim's guitar on this one as well. The slide works beautifully in this song. The lyrics are very loving, and beautiful - it really brings a smile to my face just listening to it. The outro is great, and very well done. Just sitting back with a good set of headphones and listening to it, sometimes I click the beginning of it and just listen to the outro over and over again. It has a great groove to it. Live, I think this song will translate well as D&T, but I think full band it's also going to rock live and that outro and just grow and grow in the live environment.
10. Drunken Soldier - I like the little commercial/jam before Drunken Soldier - it makes me think of what DMB must be like in the studio, Dave's sitting there jamming away with Carter talking in the background then Stefan comes in - it's just a cool little jam. Ever since I first heard about Drunken Soldier and how "epic" it was going to be, I don't think it could ever live up to the hype that it was being surrounded with. All the talks of "Pink Floyd" and "Dark Side Of The Moon" and whatnot. Without that, I think I would have went into this song differently. It's not a bad song, I just think without the hype I'd have a different appreciation for it. That being said, Drunken Soldier is a REALLY amazing song. It's not "epic" to me in the sense of Bartender or The Last Stop, but it's a really well done song. Boyd's violin in the beginning is absolutely beautiful, very haunting. This song has a lot of valleys and ups and downs, it's kind of all over the place, but I think as a whole it's a well put together song. The lyrics sound very reflective/retrospective much like The Riff, but this seems like something Dave would want to pass on, as if to say, "If you remember anything I've said/sang, remember this." For a 10 minute song, it passes by really quickly, I almost can't believe it's over when it's done. Live I see this growing into a 20 minute song easily. It's a very layered song and very well produced. I really like the, "Make the most of what you've got, don't waste your time trying to be something you're not. Fill up your head, fill up your heart and take your shot. Don't waste time trying to be something you're not." The outro on this one is great, a mellow jam - love the horns and Tim's guitar again. If you're listening to the album front to back, I think with the Broken Things opener that comes in hard, the Drunken Soldier outro is a good bookend with the mellow close.
That being said, Away From The World, as a whole, is a great piece of work from DMB. There isn't a song on here I don't like or that I skip. When I listen to it, I'm not going in to pick out my favorite song, I usually start at the beginning and jam from Broken Things to Drunken Soldier. I've listened to this album over and over again since I got it yesterday - at home, in the car - no matter where I am it always makes me smile. I just couldn't be more thrilled with Away From The World. Tim's guitar is a great addition to this, Boyd is more present and it's nice to hear so much from him, Jeff and Rashawn's horn line adds some great grooves and some sick jams, Dave's voice is great and Stefan and Carter grooving along. This album is very reflective and retrospective. A kind of look back, but also leaving thoughts and wisdom of what Dave's learned and what he wants to impart to others. It's hopeful, it's uplifting, and it's beautiful work. AFTW is everything I had hoped it would be and I couldn't be more satisfied.
On the vinyl edition - if you're a vinyl collector, it's definitely worth picking up. It says it's "Limited Edition", though I'm sure they mass produced quite a lot of them. The clear vinyl is really cool, it's neat to see lots of companies getting into limited color releases, and this is no exception. The sound quality is decent, but nothing great, I use a Audio-Technica AT-LP60 turntable and it didn't sound too bad, about as clear as the CD version (mainly because it was cut from the CD master). The vinyl sound quality is very clear, but warm with very little fuzz. I've heard issues from other people about getting warped vinyl, but mine was perfect upon arrival - no warping or center issues. My only complaint about it, which isn't really a complaint, is the sticker on the front promising a free mp3 download of AFTW. When I opened the gatefold, I didn't have any information about it, or a slip of paper with a code or anything - so no way to download the tracks. No bother, I had the CD too, but I wish the packaging would be more clear about this or include a slip of paper with info about how to download the tracks.
The vinyl is clear. Even though it says "limited edition" in some stores, and some don't list it as "clear", they're all clear. The album is listed on the Warehouse (DMB Fan Club site, where I bought the album) as being 180 grain. It doesn't say that anywhere on the vinyl nor does it say otherwise, so I'm taking their word for it on that one.
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2012
After a few listens to this album, I have to ask, where's the energy? Part of DMB's problem is they always sound better live than in studio, but in the past they have at least brought some sort of energy to their in-studio recordings. Listening to this album really has me longing to hear the tracks live (which perhaps the band realized since they included three live renditions in the deluxe version) With this album, it just lacks that something special. The band did a terrific job on Groo Grux of not only bringing some excitement but incorporating all the band members consistently, something they hadn't really done since Before these Crowded Streets. So.... having said all this, I do like many of the songs on this album, number one being the incredibly beautiful "Sweet," It's the kind of song that makes you want to cry but also smile with happiness. Equally good is "Belly Belly Nice," one of the few tracks that brings some semblance of energy to the album (Rooftop also does a decent job). "Mercy" and "Gaucho" are also tracks I think most fans will enjoy.
Most of the current reviews are hailing this album as a return to their 90's sound (or at least a homage)... I would have to say Groo Grux was that return, and Away from the World is more in the tradition of Before These Crowded Streets, but much much more experimental... a lot of tracks will take time to sink in and endear you to them. For fans "just tuning in" to DMB (all 3 of you), this is not the first album I would get. I am not sure where this album will fall in my rankings of DMB records, but for now I can say it's at least better than Everyday and probably tied with Stand Up(though that one had a lot of energy as well but just a little bit too much polish).
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2012
Broken Things 4
Belly Belly Nice 3
The Riff 5
Belly Full 3
If Only 3
Snow Outside 4
Drunken Solider 4
The music often utilizes unique song roadmaps, time signature changes, metric modulations, great ensemble unison play, interesting and unorthodox harmonies for Rock. I very much enjoy what this band does and its ability to make its listeners think a little harder or appreciate a little more what is going on musically. Dave's voice here is more accessible throughout the entire album. The production value sounds great, and there is some interesting layering going on throughout that is sort of a mind trip.
-5:58 Drunken Soldier, tip of the hat to Dark Side of the Moon.
-I've read reviewers here saying that Boyd hasn't been getting enough soloing time, and others who say that he finally has gotten enough. It seams clear to me that he is not very prominent in this album. This is OK with me because he is clearly the weakest musician of the group and much of his soloing can be mundane. Here he proves worthwhile as a "feature," or in unison ensemble play. He does have a solo in the first song.
-Horns and Tim Reynolds are especially tight and increase the average talent of the group. Tim Reynolds is especially pleasurable to listen to. He will step out into the lime light for a rock solo, but he spends a lot of time meticulously enhancing the music without drawing undue attention to himself.
-Belly Full sounds very much in the style and sensitivity of Jack Johnson.
-You've got a good trumpeter in Rashawn Ross. Why no real solo?
-Carter Beauford is pretty fun to listen to as always. Here he opted to play closer in line with his live playing than his more restrained playing of past albums. He pulls out some fun stuff new stuff (Gaucho 1:17-1:20) but can be too distracting as usual. For example, I'm growing weary of the mundane 32nd note hi hat fills that plague nearly every song.
-1:19-2:06 Drunken Soldier sounds like a classic feature of DMB, where you have series of accents over a river-like acoustic part. This is in the same spirit as the UTTAD Warehouse intro, or basically any Two Step intro.
My favorite part:
The transition from verse to chorus in Guocho, where Chorus snaps into 4/4 and gives a sense of urgency and forward momentum to the music. It seams in perfect accord with the lyrics "We've got to do much more than believe, if we really want change things."
Overall a pretty good album with some nice new ideas. It shows, with a few exceptions, this band is continuing to evolve and, as far as the compositions go, refusing to rest on their laurels.