A masterpiece from an all-too short lived legendary band
howzat | 01/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shine (1989.), Mother Love Bone's first EP
With the massive success of 1991 albums, Pearl Jam's 'Ten' and Nirvana's 'Nevermind', alternative grunge rock from Seattle ruled supreme. However, the reality was that this genre of music had been around for a great deal longer. One of these earlier bands was Mother Love Bone. Originally formed in 1988, the band consisted of guitarists Stone Gossard and Bruce Fairweather and bassist Jeff Ament, who had all previously been members of Green River, the original grunge styled band. Coupled with drummer Greg Gilmour and charismatic lead singer Andrew Wood, the band released its first EP, 'Shine' in early 1988 and then their first full album release, 'Apple' in 1990. This band, with all of their potential seemed destined for massive success. However tragically, a few days after the release of 'Apple', lead singer Andrew Wood fatally overdosed on heroin. Following this tragedy, the band couldn't carry on and folded. From the ashes of this band came Pearl Jam and with all of their and other band's successes, Mother Love Bone was all but forgotten. So how much of a lost masterpiece is this album?
The work by Mother Love Bone in their short-lived existance is phenominal. The fact that this band was only able to record one full length album is such a pity - they had everything in terms of style, musical genius and attitude. The bands sound is somewhere between that of glam styled 80's metal and that of 90's alternative rock; it's a unique fusion. As an important point though, it must be stressed that eventhough Pearl Jam came about from this band, both band's sound VERY VERY different. So, don't expect an album like 'Ten' with 'Stardog Champion' - apart from the instantly recognisable style of Stone Gossard's guitar on both albums, their sound is totally different. A further point which I want to make is about the numerous comparisons people keep making between Eddie Vedder and Andrew Wood plus Pearl Jam and Mother Love Bone in general. The fact of the matter is that it's stupid to compare both lead singers because they are so different in style but are arguably just as good. Where Eddie Vedder is lyrically introspective and has a much deeper, brooding vocal style, Wood has a more metal sounding vocal sound with differently styled lyrics. Pearl Jam are my favourite band of the 1990's but I see no need for this to be used as a means to be negative about Mother Love Bone. Many say Mother Love Bone wouldn't have been as revolutionary as Pearl Jam in the 1990's - well who knows really? REALLY? Sure, they will have developed differently to Pearl Jam but if 'Apple' is anything to go by, it will have developed and would have been damn good! The reality is, what has happened has happened, there is no point brooding over 'what ifs'.
That aside, what about Mother Love Bone's music. This band were one amazing and diverse musical unit. The album is full of different types of songs. On one aspect, we have harder rocking songs such as 'This Is Shangri-La' with powerful guitars, heavier vocals from Wood but ultimately songs with a fun feel to them. There are the slower more moody songs, such as 'Bone China' and there are some amazing ballads such as 'Crown Of Thorns'. The greatest star of the album undoubtedly is Andrew Wood. The man died way too young and this album is the showing of the musical potential that might have been. In terms of lyrics, Wood has plenty of different styles. Some of the lyrics he writes are a bit silly, but are pretty amusing and crazy but on the flipside he write some amazingly insightful stuff such as in 'Crown Of Thorns' and 'Man Of Golden Words'. His vocals though are legendary though and unique. Don't let the daftness of some of the lyrics or the sometimes 80's style to album let you think Mother Love Bone have a cheesy sound to them; they don't at all. The work stands alone as something out of the oridinary. In fact it amazes me how unavailable this band's music is in Britain - in fact Amazon is about the only place you can get this CD. I was fortunate enough myself to get hold of one whilst on holiday in the States where it is a 'bit' more available. The fact this band's music is so unheard of by many, even some Pearl Jam fans is such a shame as their music is so extraordinary.
So what about the editions of this album? The original 'Shine' EP and the 'Apple' of album can still be separately obtained but the best CD to get is the 'Stardog Champion' compilation which has the work from the EP and the album. The only missing track on the compilation is the hidden track off 'Shine', called 'Zanzibar'.
Now here's the difficult bit for me, giving the album's song their greatly deserved praise in my review. 'This Is Shangri-La' is the powerful opener from the 'Apple' album. After a slow fade in, this song breaks into a strongly guitar driven classic, which is very catchy with an energetic vocal performance from Wood. 'Stardog Champion' keeps up the hard rocking intensity from the first track. This song has a memorable verse and an interesting guitar exit where children's voices are interwoven into the music. 'Holy Roller' has an infectious riff and powerful vocals from Wood; his voice over mid-way through the song has some crazy and random lines but it goes perfectly with the song. Then, for 'Bone China', Gossard and Fairweather slow down their guitar riffs, and create a mellow backdrop to an introspective vocal performance from Wood. 'Come Bite The Apple' is a return to a more rocking sound, again catchy with plenty of nifty guitar work. 'Stargazer' follows; a slow tempo song with brooding but echoing vocals from Wood. Following this is 'Heartshine' and 'Captain Hi-Top'. Both are great songs which have a more distinctively glam rock sound to them - upbeat performances with plenty of energy.
'Man Of Golden Words' though is a simple song which is downright powerful. Andrew Wood plays a great piano sequence throughout the song whilst giving a heartfelt vocal performance - his line about the 'Temple Of The Dog' was the inspiration to the tribute album to him, made a year or so after his death. 'Capricorn Sister' is a rocking song, with plenty of crazy, random lyrics but it is a really fun listen. 'Gentle Groove' and 'Mr. Danny Boy' are both in a similar mold, a bit glam, a bit grunge sounding but are great songs with loads of attitude.
'Crown Of Thorns' .... ahhh what a song this is. In fact, I'd go as far to say this is one of my favourite ever songs. This 6-minute epic ballad is literally awesome. The riffs on the song imposing yet beautiful and melodic. The song is an insightful and scarily prophetic tale from Wood. In fact, in one of the verses he kind of foresees his own death. That aside though, this song is a powerful tale of love and love lost. The instrumental is moody, enthtralling and captivating and builds into an amazing climax with a great guitar and vocal exit. A song beyond description. Following this track are the songs off the 'Shine' EP, 'Thru Fade Away', 'Mindshaker Meltdown' and 'Half Ass Monkey Boy' are all catchy, guitar strong songs. Finally there is the extended 'Crown Of Thorns' with 'Chloe Dancer' intro. The piano opening is great and runs perfectly into the main song, which on this version is more raw sounding than on the actual album version - it's just as great though.
As you can see, I can't give this album enough praise - it's like no other. I really wan't to say it's an album alongside that of grunge albums 'Ten', 'Dirt' and 'Badmotorfinger' but it's just such a unique work it's hard to compare to anything else. That aside, you can't miss out on this album, it's a classic and one that has become sadly forgotten and underrated. Get this album; whether you have to search every CD shop in the world, get this album! This album is divine, legendary material."
Just one correction...
xodiaq | Ashburn, VA | 11/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not to nitpick, but under the section of Edition Notes, it says NOT to buy Shine... Its all on compilation... not EVERYTHING. There's a hidden track on Shine that is one of my favorite MLB tracks because its SO bizzare... Its called "Zanzibar" and is mostly Andy Wood speaking in trippy little phrases and recollected conversations while the band kind of noodles with noise behind him... its at 4:08 on the "Capricorn Sister" track...
"Do you come to these bars very often? Zanzibar! And things like such... It was Thursday afternoon, I was Laughing, Joking, Drinking fruit juice, peppermint herbs, Cap'n Crunch, things like such... she stood six foot three, she looked down on me and asked What? What? What hurts?"
And thats just the intro... Given its a novelty, but any MLB fan or even an Andy fan needs to hear it at least once... its worth it, if only for the strangeness."