Remember Two Things (Bama Rags, 1993)
Recently (Bama Rags, 1994)
Under the Table and Dreaming (RCA, 1994)
Crash (RCA, 1996)
Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95 (Bama Rags/RCA, 1997)
Before These Crowded Streets (RCA, 1998)
Listener Supported (RCA, 1999)
Everyday (RCA, 2001)
Live in Chicago 12.19.98 at the United Center (RCA, 2001)
Busted Stuff (RCA 2002)
Live at Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado (RCA, 2002)
The Central Park Concert (RCA, 2003)
The Gorge (Bama Rags/RCA, 2004)
Live Trax (Vol 1-16)
(Bama Rags/RCA 2004-the present)
Weekend on the Rocks (Bama Rags/RCA, 2005)
Stand Up (BMG, 2005)
The Best of What's Around Vol. 1 (RCA, 2006)
-Live At Piedmont Park (Bama Rags/RCA, 2007)
Live at Mile High Music Festival (Bama Rags/RCA, 2008)
Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King (Bama Rags/RCA, 2009)
Europe 2009 (RCA, 2009)
Live at Luther College (RCA, 1999)
Some Devil (RCA, 2003)
Live At Radio City (Walnut Walter, 2007)
The Dave Matthews Band ignited a quiet revolution in the mid-Nineties with a jazzy world-beat stew that appealed to both button-down collegians and peasant-attired neo-hippies looking for a new group to follow. They were the most multicultural and unconventional of all big rock bands, and they helped to launch the Nineties' jam-band craze. Their unusual lineup featured violin and saxophone (no lead guitar!), and the exotic configuration allowed them to weave various stylistic strands (jazz, pop, Middle Eastern, African) into an oddly hypnotic sonic tapestry.
When they signed to RCA in 1994, the DMB had already released two discs—Remember Two Things and Recently, a five-song EP—on their own Bama Rags label and were well established regionally. Formed in 1991 near the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, the Dave Matthews Band—South African–born singer/acoustic guitarist Matthews, sax player Leroi Moore, violinist Boyd Tinsley, bassist Stefan Lessard, and drummer Carter Beauford—built a loyal following at frat houses and clubs around the Southeast. Their grassroots touring strategy became a template for a rising generation of jam bands who saw little for themselves in the conventional record business.
All but two songs from Remember Two Things were cut live, and the longish, meandering tracks included the fan favorites "Ants Marching" and "Tripping Billies." More to the point, the album served to introduce the DMB's unique musical syntax. Under the Table and Dreaming, their first studio album and major label debut, moved them forward. Producer Steve Lillywhite helped focus and streamline their sound, providing an airtight framework over which the soloists added limber coloration. Matthews' sometimes static songs weren't always as remarkable as the band's grooves and textures, but Under the Table and Dreaming succeeded in bringing the DMB to a larger audience, and "Warehouse," "Dancing Nancies," and "Jimi Thing" became cornerstones of their repertoire. Moreover, this unlikely quintet scored an actual pop hit with "What Would You Say," which featured Blues Traveler's John Popper on harmonica.
The group demonstrated further growth and finesse on Crash, fine-tuning its studio persona and bucking the notion that jam bands can't make good records. Crash included the DMB classics "Two Step" and "#41," and netted them their biggest hit, "Crash Into Me."
Before These Crowded Streets marked the point at which the DMB became a good song band as well as a great jam band. Fans, critics, and Matthews himself consider it their quintessential album. It mixed dark, foreboding songs about what Matthews called the "symphony of death"—i.e., the global bloodletting loosed by religious and political differences—and playful tunes about lust and desire. The DMB's instrumental blend was particularly entrancing on "Rapunzel," where violinist Tinsley's swirling lines and Moore's snake-charmer sax animated Matthews' peppery, seductive vocal.
The group next recorded and abandoned an album, known to fans and bootleggers as The Lillywhite Sessions (for producer Steve Lillywhite). In its stead, Matthews split to Los Angeles, where he wrote and recorded a new album, Everyday, with producer Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, No Doubt), involving the band only in the later stages. On Everyday, the emphases shifted dramatically. Matthews assumed an upfront role on electric guitar, while Tinsley and Moore were relegated more to the background. Producer Ballard cowrote every song and played piano throughout, raising eyebrows in DMB land. Everyday was a jagged little pill for many fans, but it served its purpose of getting the band out of a rut.
On Busted Stuff, the Dave Matthews Band took the unusual step of rerecording their lost album. With a fresh perspective on the material, combined with a tighter approach to arrangements gleaned from their one-off with Ballard, they emerged with a bold, moving musical statement. Matthews' fluid voice ruminated about lost love, emptiness, escape, and "busted stuff" as the band cooked up a quiet storm behind him. "Where Are You Going," featuring 12-string guitar, was as pretty a song as Matthews ever wrote.
The group, looking to outfox bootleggers and satisfy fans, took to releasing live albums early in its career. Including its debut album, half of all band and solo releases have been concert recordings. Among this bevy, Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95 captured them early at every big-time jam band's favorite venue, while Live in Chicago 12.19.98 at the United Center documented a solid show from a much-praised tour in support of Before These Crowded Streets. Listener Supported came from an end-of-tour gig in New Jersey in 1999, while Live at Folsom Field, recorded in July 2001, found them revamping their set with fresh material from Everyday and Busted Stuff. The three-hour, three-CD Central Park Concert is preferable on DVD, as the spectacle—more than 100,000 fans at a high-profile benefit concert for New York City schools and parks—is well worth seeing as well as hearing.
Live at Luther College came from one of the solo acoustic tours Matthews occasionally undertakes with guitarist Tim Reynolds. In 2003, Matthews released his first solo studio disc, Some Devil. The material was highly personal, finding its emotional center in a run of songs that worked its way from misery ("Some Devil Some Angel," "Trouble") to salvation ("Grey Blue Eyes," "Save Me"). "Gravedigger," an extraordinary meditation on life and death, won Matthews a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal.
Over the next few years, Matthews challenged even the most obsessive fan with increasingly extensive multi-disc live sets. Recorded in 5.1 audio and shot with over 20 high-definition video cameras, 2002's three-disc set The Gorge found Matthews near his home in Washington, playing a show that focused on crisp, jazzy instrumentation (check the 17-minute virtuoso spotlight of "Lie in Our Graves") rather than loose jamming. Fans selected the show's track list. Weekend on the Rocks—a two-CD, one-DVD set from another Red Rocks stint on September 9-12, 2005—proves that in the decade since they recorded their last show at the venue, they've gained more muscular guitars and a tighter horn section (along with a new cover, a soulful handclap-aided rendition of the Zombies' "Time of the Season").
Around this time, Matthews also began recording Live Trax, the holy grail for Matthews completists. Named for the former Trax Nightclub in Charlottesville, where the band played hundreds of shows during the early Ninties, it captured highlights from 2004 on through the present, paying tribute to venues from Oregon to New York with sixteen volumes (and more on the way). Many of the volumes are multi-disc, leaving plenty of room for stellar performances by Matthews' BFFs Carlos Santana (Vol. 2) and Tom Morello (Vol. 10), some unusual covers (Rick James' "Superfreak," Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer"), and one show that debuted the sound system they inherited from the Grateful Dead (Vol. 4).
By ths time, the group were getting so popular as a touring act, fans had forgotten that their live favorites were born in a studio. So instead of trying to compete with the energy of their shows, the band turned introspective on 2005's Stand Up, focusing on slower tempos and sleek production by Mark Batson (Gwen Stefani, Eminem, Beyonce), who highlighted the individual textures of DMB's 12-piece-band. It's a more sophisticated album, and a sadder one, too: Matthews had recently admitted to having suicidal impulses, and though his lyrics remained largely abstract, his tone suggested he'd entered his Blue Period. The stark piano ballad "Out of My Hands" felt like Thom Yorke at his most alienated. The slinky blues of "Smooth Rider" found Matthews with a gun pointed at his head. The Iraq War protest "Everybody Wake Up" eventually built to a barefoot strut, but it began with a classical-style string section so mortally serious, it could've bummed out Mozart. Strangely, the album's now famous for giving DMB fans the soundtrack to the happiest day of their lives: "Steady as We Go" has become a popular wedding song.
After Stand Up, getting back out into fresh air did the band good. 2006's greatest hits set The Best of What's Around offered a treasure trove of unreleased live performances, and Matthews and Reynolds road-tripped together again for 2007's Live at Radio City, which recalled the acoustic roots of Live at Luther College. The whole band sounded lighter on 2007's Live at Piedmont Park, a benefit concert recorded in Atlanta, Georgia. Collaborating with Warren Haynes and Gregg Allman on "What Would You Say" and a cover of the Allman Brothers' "Melissa," they were clearly having fun. Matthews even lead the crowd in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" to celebrate saxophonist Leroi Moore's 46th. The moment is a moving tribute to Matthew's longtime bandmate, who died unexpectedly the following year following an ATV accident. 2008's Live at Mile High Music Festival was the band's first album without Moore—though saxophonist Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones handles a setlist full of crowd-pleasers as if he'd been around since day one.
Moore's saxophone is the first and last sound you hear on 2009's Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King, and his loss haunted everything in between. "Still here dancing with the GrooGrux King," Matthews declared on "Why I Am," using a favorite nickname for his late bandmate. But he was not so much mourning as raging: Big Whiskey was harder-edged than anything DMB had done before, gritty with electric guitars and swamp-funk grooves and losing-your temper horn-section blow-ups. Producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) had shaped their courdoroy-pants jigs into angry rock anthems—and it suited them. When they played many of these songs live on Europe 2009, a three-disc set recorded in Italy and London, they sounded as raw as Pearl Jam. A band that built its career on the stadium circuit finally had a snarl loud enough to reach the nosebleed seats.
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