So, Eugene B Sims set out to give Beer Dad Jon and I his top 50 underrated hard rock albums to hear and critique. I have to reiterate that these albums are in no particular order, just Eug’s top 50. The numbers correlate with the review, not it’s ranking. And today we have the first entry.
#1 – Apple by Mother Love Bone.
I will say that Andrew Wood had a great hard rock voice. He wasn’t frying his voice to achieve some crazy vocal effect that a lot of singers that were in the spotlight at the time (Sebastian Bach comes to mind) was using to sound even more “mean” than they were. Looking at some promo pictures of the band, I’d think he’d be a pretty good frontman, as well. His piano chops were admirable.
I was expecting more of a grunge album since it does have two future members of Pearl Jam in this lineup. I’d even venture to say that the reason that Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament got their recognition in the hard rock arena was more for this than it was for Pearl Jam. Honestly, though, I really knew very little of this band. All I knew was the Temple of the Dog tribute stuff that Wood’s pal Chris Cornell put together with Ament and Gossard, included Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and Matt Cameron and was basically Pearl Jam with a better singer, although Eddie Vedder did lend some vox on that album. But, I had never even heard of them before that project came out. I blindly steered clear of anything that wasn’t mainstream “glam metal” or whatever the new chic word for that era is. I’m not proud of that, just the way it was.
I still don’t know that I would go buy this, but there are some really good, dare I say great tunes on it. My clear favorite of the whole album, though, is “Bone China.” I think the dark tone with the bright chimey guitars combined with Wood’s strong convicted vocal performance makes for a perfect storm of melodic waves that the listener ride floating. I don’t know what it is about that song but I really love it. But, that’s not all!
I can see why Eugene likes this album. The guttural growl notwithstanding, Wood reminds me, slightly, of Steve Whiteman, the lead vocalist for the band, Kix. There’s shades of other singers as well. Like, Perry Ferrell of Jane’s Addiction or Mike Tramp, except without the whine. There’s more, but the point is, these vocalists had strong rock voices and Andrew Wood was in league with them, not emulating, necessarily, but standing on his own merits. Drugs are a biotch, though, especially heroin and that’s what killed Andrew Wood.
Not counting the album Ten which actually rocked, knowing the drivel that Pearl Jam was wont to put out, it’s surprising that Gossard and Ament could crank out this kind of rock. Lots of bluesy grooves, this. Like a recent resurgence of Zeppelin or something; it’s riffy. But, it’s more dimensional than that. It’s melodic and subtle at times, it’s hard and heavy at times. There’s some hair aspects, but honestly a lot of those elemental boundaries get blurry as time goes by. But, great guitar tone and solid drumming. I love Ament’s bass tone and his playing is prevalent in songs like “This is Shangra La.” And Ament’s backing vox are pretty good, although they could use a little more fullness in that area.
I like the western aspects of “Stargazer.” It reminds me a little of Cinderella without all the sandpaper vocals like Tom Keifer. Perhaps a little like “Rainbow” from Blonz? The only reason I’m offering so many comparisons is because that’s really all I have to go on. How do I compare otherwise? I don’t think I can. Other faves from this would be “Mr. Danny Boy,” “Man of the Golden Words” (where the name Temple of the Dog came from), “Gentle Groove” and “Crown of Thorns.”
If I have one complaint for this album, I feel the production is a bit tinny and thin in spots. The bass is punchy, which is good, the guitars are bright, but the vocals, as good as they are, seem a bit pushed back, the same with the drums. I little too much depth with the reverb or whatever, but it’s like something is missing, there. Overall, though, I liked it a good bit. I don’t know that I’d spend a lot of time listening to it after this, but I did listen to it twice for reviewing, here. That should say something, right?
Something that I’ve never experienced before with Napster is finding an album completely different than the original track listing. I’ve seen “special editions” and all that, but this wasn’t the case. The order that I listened to it was no where near the same. I talk big about album composition and this wasn’t what was released, so it throws me off a bit.
The album was released very soon after Andrew Wood’s unfortunate demise. My question, though, and this is no disrespect for the band, would it have garnered as much attention had Wood not passed away? Case in point, it was released the same year as Blonz’ eponymous debut. I think they’re comparable in style and sound. Had Nathan Utz passed away from the same circumstances, would that album have done better than it did? Would it have been in the news? Don’t misconstrue this as me putting this album down, it’s just an observation and a chance to catechize that point. It sounds very much like the times it was, 1990. There was a movement to bridge the glam metal and pre-grunge hard rock. Had this album been released just a year later or had Wood not passed on, my feelings are that it would have fallen between the cracks. That would have been unfortunate, too. This is a good album. It sounds good, it’s well written and I liked it. So, it was just a question. RIP, Andrew.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Wanna show you something like the joy inside my heart. Seems I’ve been living in the temple of the dog. Where would I live, if I were a man of golden words? Or would I live at all? Words and music, my only tools. Communication.” – “Man Of Golden Words” (Ament, Fairweather, Gilmore, Gossard, Wood)