Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

One of my top 5 favorite albums: Soup from Blind Melon

Rock n Roll is a dangerous business. In thinking about today’s post, I started looking at famous rockers who have died. Of course, it’s always sad when a favorite artist goes. But for many, they had years of success and a large body of work. Uncharitably, you might even say some of them may have already done their best work. In this category, I (arbitrarily) include names like Elvis Presley, Jerry Garcia, Freddy Mercury, Frank Zappa, Joe Strummer, and Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee Ramone. Sad, but perhaps not tragic.

Then there are the people who were in full stride. We knew and loved their work and they were still producing vital, fresh music. Layne Staley had put out 6 LPs and EPs with Alice in Chains and a few releases with other bands. Morphine had released 5 albums and were still getting better when Mark Sandman had a heart attack on stage. Duane Allman, Ronnie Van Zant, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Otis Redding were hit makers until the end. We could argue whether John Lennon, Bon Scott, Bob Marley, (I know, not Rock), Marvin Gaye (again), and others were past their peak or not.

The saddest category, though, is the ones who it seems were just getting started. Jimi Hendrix had released just 4 albums. Janis Joplin had only 3 studio releases. Buddy Holly had been famous a year and a half before his plane crash. Jeff Buckley hadn’t finished his second album. Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, and others. Imagine what we lost.

To me, one of the most tragic deaths in that third category was that of Blind Melon front man and lyricist Shannon Hoon. Everyone remembers the Bee Girl from the No Rain video. That was a great single and video from their self-titled first album. You still hear that and Tones of Home from the same album on the radio. It was a great debut release. A lot of jangly, jamming pop, a few rockers. It showed a lot of promise.

Shannon Hoon died before most people realized how great Blind Melon was going to be.

Shannon Hoon died before most people realized how great Blind Melon was going to be.

Their second album, Soup, is what I’m recommending today. As great as the first album was, this one was much, much better. Soup stayed in my CD player the entire fall of 1995. The already substantial songwriting had matured. Their craftsmanship as a band had deepened. Songs were playful, melancholy, evocative, and all polished. An amazing release.

12 of the 14 tracks have a permanent home on my iPod. I love them even though they can make me sad (and a little mad sometimes).

  • Galxie – I think this is one of many songs in which Shannon Hoon expressed dismay that commercial success brought its own problems and was no guarantee of happiness.
  • 2 X 4 – Great work by the rest of the band is backed by Hoon’s lyric genius. “I wish that you’d stop spinning when you’re talking to me.”
  • Vernie – A slow rocker with an enormous chorus and a great bridge. I remember Hoon on stage crushing our heads between his fingers as he peered through his hand at the audience.
  • Skinned – Acoustic guitar and kazoo back this playful tale of a serial killer (allegedly Ed Gein) who wonders when he’ll finally get caught. David Letterman loved this song when they did it on his show.
  • Toes Across the Floor – The inventive guitar riffs and slammed power chords are offset by Hoon’s gentle alto and sweet harmonies. Watch the great video.
  • Walk – A sad and beautiful song in which Hoon laments his progress with depression and addictions is too slow.
  • Dumptruck – Yes, Hoon was cool, but Chris Thorn and Rogers Stevens on guitar, Brad Smith on bass, and Glenn Graham on drums all do tight work on this. I love the transformations many songs on this album undergo and this is a great example.
  • Car Seat (God’s Presents) – This appears to be a story about a childhood memory. It opens with a relaxed, almost loungy feel and then changes to a Middle Eastern vamp behind what sounds like a rambling message or perhaps a poem left on an answering machine.
  • Wilt – This is the best song you will ever hear about bad breath.
  • The Duke – What skillful song craft. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album. The joyful music rises and falls like the tide he’s singing about.
  • St. Andrews Fall – This is the happiest song you will ever hear about committing suicide by jumping from a 20 story building.
  • Mouthful of Cavities – My wife’s favorite song on the album. A wonderful melody with Hoon’s evocative lyrics. “I write a letter to a friend of mine. I tell him how much I used to love to watch him smile. You see, I haven’t seen him smile in a little while. But I know you’re laughing from the inside out.”

I saw Blind Melon touring on this album in the Glenn Ballroom in Boulder on October 17, 1995. Exactly two weeks later, Hoon was found dead of a drug overdose in his trailer. The band struggled to continue without him and actually released an album, For My Friends, last year. I really, really wanted to love this album. It’s good, and the band hasn’t lost any of their chops, but Blind Melon WITH Hoon would have had a hard time following this album. Maybe it’s not fair to use Soup as a club to beat up the new stuff, but the band hasn’t changed its name and singer Travis Warren (who has since left Blind Melon) sounds as much like Hoon as they could find. It invites comparison. I hope they can keep it together and find a new spark

http://www.blindmelon.com/
http://www.blindmelonmusic.com/

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June 4, 2009 - Posted by | Alternative, Popular, Rock

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