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It's A Wonderful Life Limited Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Limited Edition, August 28, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The 3rd album from the late Mark Linkous' Sparklehorse, It's A Wonderful Life, was the first to be recorded in a commercial studio with a full band. Recorded and released in 2001, after Linkous' near-fatal overdose in a London hotel room, the album is a beautiful and fragile exploration of somber themes. Featuring guest appearances from PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, and Vic Chesnutt, It's A Wonderful Life is a singer-songwriter classic.

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Like Neil Young on the finer moments of Tonight's the Night, Sparklehorse leader Mark Linkous nails the lonesome-man dirge to the wall on this third long-player. Along with his kindred contemporaries (and guest musicians) Mercury Rev and Grandaddy, Linkous makes little secret of his worship for the Neil Young vibe, and he takes it in a direction that Young has never fully realized. It's a Wonderful Life's sweet melodies sound as if they were recorded on corroded tape, with fragility inherent both lyrically and musically; yet this is the least psychotic, and most cohesive Sparklehorse album to date. Linkous and his mates also benefit from appearances by Tom Waits, Cardigans crooner Nina Persson, and the most effectively used guest of all, PJ Harvey, who bites hard on one of the CD's few static rockers, "Piano Fire." Other highlights include the almost-fit-for-radio "King of Nails," the piano ballad "Sea of Teeth," and the hidden bonus track (eight minutes into track 13), "Morning Hollow." Linkous moans on the title track, "I'm a bog of poison frogs / It's a wonderful life / It's a wonderful life." Get the feeling that this might not be for everybody? Thank God for that. --Chris Paul Carter
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 28, 2001)
  • Ltd ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Limited Edition
  • Label: Capitol
  • ASIN: B00005NNF4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,665 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Sparklehorse auteur Mark Linkous has assembled his most coherent, melodic and most emotionally powerful album yet. The lyrics are cryptic, but suggest some private language of symbols waiting to be decoded, thus they can seem immensely personal instead of merely opaque. It's a nifty trick, and one Linkous excecutes stunningly well. The sound of the record is the same lo-fi, decaying, Waitsian-music-box gloom that set the backdrop for the other Sparklehorse record... but there is a new attention to melody and detail. The addition of guest femal vox (PJ Harvey among them) also adds dimension to this album. Waits himself guests on "Dog Door", which, depressingly, is the weakest track on the album... but it's still far from bad.
There is the sense, thoughout this record of things falling apart, decaying, rotting, never being heard from again. Indeed, it delves deep into dark territory, and such a journey carries no warranty of safe return. Take this journey with Sparklehorse if you will, intrepid listener, and be warned: It sounds like a last ride. But, let us rejoice that Linkous's rusting, whiskey stained world still spins on its axis... at least for the time being...
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By A Customer on June 17, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Why this wasn't released domestically first is beyond me (will the tracking be different when it is?) I forked out the cash when, on a lark, I looked for it and found it and now I'm better for it. This so surpasses "Good Morning Spider" that its five star rating should readjust to 4 to accommodate "It's a Wonderful Life" properly at five. It's as beautiful as its title forecasts, but characteristic of Linkus it's also paradoxically unsettling, though the sweet and generous tone of the album renders even its darker moments strangely liberating and hopeful ("I wore a rooster's blood when it flew like doves. I'm a bog with poison frogs." Chorus: "It's a wonderful life, etc."-you'll see what I mean). There are no tracks as fast and furious as Pig here. Instead the tone has mainly settled into the sleepy-sweet pacing of songs like Sunshine and Pain Birds-with some exceptions, of course. All the forgivable inconsistencies of Good Morning Spider are gone with this release, and there's no doubting that its balance and proportion have much to do with Dave Fridman's hand in the production (he plays on the album, too). Fridman has got to be the best producer alive: everything he turns out is aural candy, a quintessential head-phone album, and this is no exception. In fact, judging from my present infatuation with It's a Wonderful Life, this surpasses not only Sparklehorse's own previous efforts, but those of the Lips and Mercury Rev as well. And P.J. Harvey and Tom Waits sing on this album for Christ's sake! There's religion here.
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By A Customer on November 18, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Admittedly, I am a recent Sparklehorse fan. I've only owned this cd for a week or so, and have yet to purchase any previous offerings, so I cannot compare it to previous works.
But it truly is a wonderful life once you add this one to your collection. What the heck is this guy Mark Linkous talking about anyway? Did I just hear that right?--"I'm the dog that ate your birthday cake?"--I don't know, nor do I care.
I'm not a big lyrics guy anyway, but "Gold Day" has made me one. I'm sorry, but this song is one of the most amazing and beautiful things I have ever heard: "...piles of smiles..." You'll be wearing piles of them when you hear "Gold Day" for the first time.
Add the title track, "Sea of Teeth", and the wonderfully fuzzy-strange "Dog Door"(With the equally strange Tom Waits) and you have something truly special. A lot of unusual instrumentation here, innovative and eye- (or ear-) opening sounds that are refreshing and truly something to behold. I swear my entire stereo vibrates while I'm listening to "Dog Door," and it's not just because of the heavy murky bass.
It's A Wonderful Life takes you to wonderful places. There's fuzzy stomping, but never pounding, songs like "Piano Fire" and there's subtle, gentle music that soothes you and lifts you, like "Sea of Teeth" and the bonus track at the end of "Babies on the Sun."
Fantastic cd, and now that I know, I will move quickly to acquire as much Sparklehorse as I can get my hands on. Technologically, there could be some Radiohead comparisons made, particularly from Kid A, but Sparklehorse sounds nothing like Radiohead stylistically.

"I wish I had a horse's head, a tiger's heart, an apple bed.
Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
To the reviewer who said Mark Linkous has gotten too weird on this album, I say, "Poppycock and balderdash." This album would be a great introduction for people unfamiliar with Sparklehorse simply because it is more accessible and homogenous than the others. Though "Good Morning Spider" holds a dearer place in my heart than this album, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a beautifully crafted album and musically it's brilliant. I have no idea what Linkous is talking about half the time (these are some of the most cryptic lyrics I've ever heard), but it makes no difference. He's a musical genius, and this is an absolutely fantastic album. Please buy it. NOW!
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