By Arya Jha
Twenty-two years after the Dave Matthews Band was founded, September 11, 2012 marks the release of the best selling band’s 8th studio album. Entitled Away From The World, this album was highly anticipated by Dave Matthews Band fans, as it is the first studio in which the late Leroi Moore does not appear. Moore passed away half way through the recording of the band’s seventh studio album, Big Whiskey and The GrooGrux King, changing the dynamics of the band altogether. However, do not fret, as this album is highly reminiscent of the Dave Matthews Band from the mid-1990’s, clearly influenced by Grammy award winning producer Steve Lillywhite. Lillywhite produced DMB’s first three studio albums, ending with the 1998 best selling album Before These Crowded Streets as well as the famously unreleased but vastly leaked album The Lillywhite Sessions, which is still known to be the band’s rawest, darkest studio recordings. Away From The World provides a conglomerate of the earlier storytelling jams of the Dave Matthews Band with the newer uplifting pop-folk funk that the band began experimenting with during the new millennium.
On a lyrical sense, the songs of Away From The World reflect a different, more hopeful Dave Matthews Band then previously Lillywhite-produced albums. Dave sings about saving the world on several of the tracks, including their single for the album, “Mercy”, depicting Dave Matthews in a much different light from the heroin and alcohol abuse he once sang about. Dave Matthews Band and Steve Lillywhite perfectly combined the band’s live-jam talents into a studio recorded song with “Gaucho”, using several bridges to create a 4 minute 25 second song full of slow tempos picked up by engaging saxophone/trumpet solos, followed by light acoustic guitar and folk-rock singing, only to be once again raised to a whirlwind of energy via Boyd Tinsley’s Fiddle Solos. The song finishes off with vocal distortions by Dave Matthews and a choir of children singing, “We gotta do much more than believe if we want to see the world change.”
And of course, the Dave Matthews Band stayed true to form, creating an album including various love songs. Track 8, “If Only”, stands out as an impeccably written love song, providing sensual high notes through guitar solos by the amazing Tim Reynolds, a slow and steady bass line, light subtle drumming, and an oh so smooth saxophone solo and keyboard jam in the foreground to top it all off. It is somewhat reminiscent of “Dreamgirl” from 2005′s Stand Up.
Away From The World, in its entirety, combines the genres of sound that the Dave Matthews Band has created throughout their past 7 albums, into one sole album. Almost as if it’s a tribute to their greatest hits, proving the band’s abilities to create a range of music, the second track on the album, “Belly Belly” is reminiscent of the funky jams of Everyday, with horns blasting and a funk bass line, as played by Stefan Lessard, slapping its way throughout the track. “Mercy” provides an eerie yet magical Tim Reynolds solo, against light, soulful twelve string acoustic guitar just as Dave Matthews’ song “Oh” did on Some Devil. “Belly Full” has strong folk influences, while “Snow Outside” has heavy bluegrass influences yet on a slower tempo. “Sweet”, the fifth track on Away From the World, demonstrates a blend of musical styles, featuring a light mandolin riff against Dave’s exploration of various octaves of singing.
The most original song on the album is the ninth track, “Rooftop”. It provides strong minor bass chords with heavy fast tempo drumming, creating a heavier rock influenced song. Every instrument, from the fiddle to the trumpet, will blast through your speakers at once. The Dave Matthews Band is know to showcase each of their instruments on a solo and individual level, allowing this track to provide a very redeeming element of surprise and individuality on the album. It ends with a long jam and the sound of footsteps, where Jeff Coffin’s saxophone skills blend into a melody reminiscent of “The Stone” reprise from Before These Crowded Streets. If this wasn’t enough of a clear influence by Steve Lilywhite, (who is known to edit in subtle band-speak and white noise recordings from the studio sessions) the final track on the album, “Drunken Soldier” combines various genres of music played by the band into one final track. Starting off with Bluegrass elements and subtle speaking in the background, the 9-minute 45-minute track progresses into Santana style Spanish guitar rhythms, heavy horns, and electric guitar solos, followed by heavily instrumental moments to solos of each of the band’s featured instruments. It is a fitting ending track to an album sampling different musical influences and styles.
Ultimately, I do recommend Dave Matthews Band’s Away From the World. Although I miss the originality and raw, angry emotion and overdrawn jamming of the early days of DMB, the vast styles and emotions that this album portrayed allowed me to appreciate the band once again. Besides one track, nothing truly sounded new to me. However, if you were a fan of anything in the last 20+ years of the Dave Matthews Band it is worth a listen. Thus far “Mercy”, “Gaucho”, “Sweet”, “If Only”, “The Riff” and “Belly Belly Nice” have already been performed live during the Dave Matthews Band Summer 2012 tour, and you can catch them in California this upcoming week (9/7/12-9/12/12) as they continue on their journey for the last shows of the year.
Album Rating: 8/10
You can listen to the album for free on ITunes until September 10th, 2012 and purchase Away From the World on CD, Digital and Vinyl formats. The Deluxe Edition is available as well with additional live trax, a DVD and photo book.
Pre-orders are now ongoing through the band’s website here.