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Around the Well

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This double CD/triple LP collects songs ranging from out-of-print to never-before-released and spans Iron And Wine's earliest sessions which yielded the band's debut (2002's "The Creek Drank The Cradle") through material recorded for 2007's "The Shepherd's Dog". The double disc is broken into two sections. The first is an assortment of hushed home recordings, unedited and raw, and the second highlights moments captured in the studio with the help of other musicians, friends, and engineers.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 19, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sub Pop
  • ASIN: B001VKSPS2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,632 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Here it is, finally! The collection of songs all of us Iron & Wine junkies have been collecting over the years, together in one package at last. Let me be clear though, Around the Well isn't just for the diehard fans. This is as good of an offering as anything Mr. Sam Beam has ever released. The first disc contains a collection of mostly lo-fi covers and singles spanning I&W's lifetime - most of which have popped up in various places in different formats. Very good stuff, but probably more appreciated by the long-time fans. The second disc is what I believe is really going to surprise a lot of people. Except for the epic fan favorite "The Trapeze Swinger" and "Communion Cups and Someone's Coat", this disc contains songs that are completely new to me, and I've been really quite taken at how wonderful they are. The songs "Belated Promise Ring", "God Made The Automobile", "Love Vigilantes", and "Kingdom Of The Animals" are among the best songs I've ever heard from I&W. As a whole I would say the second disc could easily stand by itself against all of his other full length releases. And with the whole collection closing with "The Trapeze Swinger" I really couldn't ask for anything else. Around the Well is simply a great, well put-together collection for anyone who enjoys Iron and Wine and will definitely hold me over until the next new release.
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Format: Audio CD
Although it's a collection of miscellaneous material - b-sides, rarities, etc. - this new double-disc set from Sam Beam is also clearly intended to work as an "album" that hangs together just as well as an all-new set of songs would. For me, it does work that way... Forget that this is a bunch of tunes collected from over several years, and listen to it as if it was a "regular" album, and it will stand as a really excellent Iron & Wine production. So far my favorite track is the Flaming Lips cover, "Waitin' For a Superman," which I think improves on the original (hard to do, for me). It's one of four cover tunes on Around the Well (the others being Postal Service, New Order and Stereolab songs). I also really dig the gentle folkish vibe and general ethereal-ness of "God Made the Automobile." Gordon Lightfoot meets Swamp Ghost. And those are just two of more than 20 songs and over 90 minutes of music - I expect I'll be greatly enjoying many of the others too. (A really good price for a 2-CD set, too - thanks Sub Pop!)

My only real frustration with this collection is the minimal liner notes. No individual song performance credits, no historical references (i.e., it would be nice to learn where the b-sides and rarities first appeared) [what're we supposed to do, google the song titles individually, or search the artist's web site?], and lyrics are given only for the songs Sam wrote, not the covers. But that's only a minor drawback from an otherwise topnotch release.
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Format: Audio CD
Finally an artist who loves his fans enough to put all this music in one place! This 2 disc set is worth the purchase for all the music you get but it is definitely a must for any Iron and Wine fan. For those of us who have searched for these songs on soundtracks or b-sides on single, this collection is a blessing. Disc one brings the rough charm of the early works like The Sea and the Rhythm and The Creek Drank the Cradle. The disc progresses through Sam's work with new and old personal favorites such as Waiting for Superman, Dearest Forsaken, and Such Great Heights. Disc 2 shows has incredible growth and production without losing the intimate beauty of a live performance. Disc 2 has some of the best songs that always left me wondering why they were never on previous releases. Personal favorites on disc 2 include Communion cups & Someone's Coat, Belated Promise Ring, Kingdom of Animals and the always ALWAYS loved The Trapeze Swinger. Iron and Wine has won me as a fan forever simply for releasing hard to finds and rarities.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a wonderful collection of extras and rarities from Sam Beam. The first disc is pleasant and worthwhile, though not nearly as remarkable as either The Creek Drank the Cradle or the accomanying EP The Sea and the Rhythym. It is most notable for the excellent and sublime cover of Flaming Lips' "Waiting for Superman." I suppose they had to include the "Such Great Heights" cover, but it is almost a disappointment to be reminded this is the track for which I&W is best known.

The disc 2 outtakes from the Endless Numbered Days and Shepard's Dog sessions (and film soundtracks) are highlighted by "God Made the Automobile" and "Kingdom of the Animals," exceptional tracks that are as beautiful as anything Beam has previously relased. Other excellent tracks abound on this disc, including the lovely, dark "Carried Home."

Overall, any of the major releases from I&W are probably better starting points, but if you are a fan of the music, this is an essential collection. There is probably one disc's worth of truly excellent material that is on par with the other releases.
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Format: Audio CD
The improbable and unexpected succuss of Iron and Wine's most recent album, 2007's "The Shepherd's Dog", is the culmination of a long steady road upwards. The once-one-man-band behind Sam Beam has achieved major recongition, and more, in the indie-music scene, which lead the band's record label to the vaults for more material to release while we await a proper follow-up to "The Shepherd's Dog".

"Around the Well (2 CDs; 23 tracks; 93 min.) is neatly divided up in two halves: CD 1 (11 tracks; 41 min.) brings tunes from the early days, meaning just Sam Beam and his acoutic guitar, generally songs so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The opener "Dearest Forsaken" is as representative as anyting from this collection. It's good background music when you're reading a book, but to me it doesn't warrant much repeated listening. CD 2 (12 tracks; 52 min.) is much more interesting as it brings latter-days Iron and Wine, meaning Sam with an actual backing band. By far the best tracks on here for me are "Carried Home", with beautiful harmonizing vocals (sort of reminding me of early CS&N), and the 9+ min. epic closer "The Trapeze Swinger".

In all, this is a welcome, if perhaps overlong, addition to the Iran and Wine catalog. I will generally stick to CD 2, but that's just my personal taste. Given the nature of the songs, it's paramount to have the lyrics to follow along, and the booklet indeed does include the lyrics to about 3/4 of the songs. No rhyme or reason why the other songs' lyrics are missing. I saw Iron and Wine in concert at last year's Bonnaroo Music Festival. The band put on a terrific set, focusing primarily on tracks from "The Shepherd's Dog". Seeing the massive attendance for their set just made me wonder how amazing it is that Iron and Wine has become so successful.
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