Monthly Archives: October 2011

Crash, Part X: Cry Freedom

“Cry Freedom” is one of the first true ballads the Dave Matthews Band ever really had. Even then, it’s not really a ballad. But to me, it’s the best way to classify it in terms of the band’s music. I’m going to tell you right off the bat, this is not one of my favorite songs. While I don’t ‘dislike’ “Cry Freedom,” and a certainly don’t hate it, it’s just not one of my favorites. We’ll leave it at that.

Lyrics.

Song Meaning: It’s about life in South Africa (where Dave originates from), during apartheid.

Studio Version:

Live Version:

Acoustic Version:

Total Play Count: 160

Album Ranking: 12/12

I take that back… “Cry Freedom” is totally a ballad.

I don’t know what it is about this song, but I am just not a huge fan. That being said, I still know all the lyrics, sing along with it every time it comes on my iPod/laptop/car, and know all the music to it. That’s the thing with the Dave Matthews Band, even songs I don’t really like all that much, I still like them. Let’s try to figure this out once and for all.

First things first… Dave’s voice. I don’t really like when Dave goes falsetto in songs. Just a personal preference. He can do it, he has the ability, I just don’t dig it. I prefer him belting out songs, screaming and really getting into the groove.

I also think this song is a little too long. I feel like it drags on just a bit, and could be cut about a minute shorter. Fortunately, the music really carries it, and keeps it going.

Speaking of the music, that’s what I really do enjoy about this song. It starts out a little slow, with just the strumming on guitar, and the light violin in the background. Then Carter comes in on the cymbals, to take the song into its first main verse. Throughout the verses, it’s very simple as well, which is required for a ballad like this. Once in the chorus, though the percussion amps up (with a little sleigh-bells in the background too, at least I think), and it is a solid chorus.

That’s the thing with ballads, though. They can’t have overpowering music or solos, which is the livelihood of 95% of DMB songs. Also, Crash is a more relaxed album. Yes, there are the mega-hits like “Two Step,” “Too Much,” and the upcoming “Tripping Billies.” However, those songs are much more powerful live. On this album (like most songs, really), they are more reserved. That’s exactly why “Cry Freedom” is the way it is, that’s the way the song works. Also, DMB shows a little versatility. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that.

The other main thing to not for “Cry Freedom,” is the lyrics. I would feel like I did a major injustice if I failed to mention the lyrics for this powerful (emotionally/lyrically) song. As I mentioned above, it’s about apartheid in South Africa. If you don’t know much about that, I strongly suggest reading up on it. This is a good start.

Dave Matthews has always done a very nice job of telling stories in songs, but also connecting them to things he believes (or doesn’t believe) in. He has and feels a strong connection to South Africa (rightfully so), and really shows it in his music. “Cry Freedom” only further exemplifies that, by writing such beautiful lyrics.

I strongly encourage you, if not with any other song but this one, to open up the lyrics and listen to the song at the same time. Preferably, after you read about apartheid. The message is very clear, we are all human, we all have hands and feel that are similar, yet other things tear us apart. He puts it much more eloquently than I, but you get the point.

If for nothing else, this song gets MAJOR brownie points for the lyrics and their message.

You know, after writing this review, I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy this song much more than when I started, a whopping 30 minutes ago. My mind remains the same on the “album ranking,” because I think this is the 12th best song on Crash, however Crash is one of the best albums this band has released, so in essence “Cry Freedom” is still a great song. Clearly it doesn’t get played much live, and it is a much more “Dave and Tim” kind of song to be played than anything. That being said… I like “Cry Freedom” a little bit more after writing this.

Hopefully, someone out there (preferably someone reading this) is happy.

Song Rating: 3.5/5

Next Song: “Tripping Billies”

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Crash, Part IX: Lie in Our Graves

Say it’s April, and you’re getting ready to make your “Summer Mix Tape” CD (or iTunes playlist, for that matter). You want to compile some of the summer-y songs, that really embody the summer feeling (relaxation and fun). Well, my friends, look no further than “Lie in Our Graves.”

One of my favorite things to hear at a DMB concert on a warm summer night, is the opening chords to LIOG. Take a listen for yourself down below.

Lyrics.

Song Meaning: Living life to the fullest, and having no regrets when it’s all said and done.

Studio Version:

Live Version:

Acoustic Version (skip to :50, unless you want to hear Dave ramble about sunglasses):

Total Play Count: 692

Album Ranking: 4/12

Listen to the beginning of that live version (or the studio for that matter), and tell me that’s not a great summer song. Even if you haven’t heard the rest of it yet, it’s on its way to being a great song to listen to during the summer.

Now, let’s focus on the studio version (I promised I wouldn’t spend too much time on live versions). “Lie in Our Graves” starts off the same way on Crash, with those classic guitar chords. Dave strums his way through the song, not straying too far from that sound, which really holds the song together. As he strums, you can also hear Tim Reynolds (yes he’s on the album as well… most of them, in fact) backing him up. If you listen to the acoustic version above, it really stands out.

As for the rest of the band… they don’t come in until after Dave sings a few lines. Carter holds down the beat real well, with a killer sound on the snare. Then again, he kills ever song, so there should be much of a surprise here. I realized I don’t mention Stefan Lessard enough in this blog, but it’s because you can hardly ever detect his music. That’s a good thing, though, because it means his bass is right in line with Carter, keeping the beat of the song going along nicely. When we start dissecting some live albums, Stefan’s name will pop up more. For now… just follow him on twitter (@SLessard).

When it gets to the chorus, you can hear LeRoi with some notes underneath the music, and once it hits the first bridge… he really comes out. Some with Boyd on the violin. You can slightly hear it every now and then, but when they hit the little solo bridge, the two of them really pop.

Then, around the 2:19 mark is when LeRoi’s trademark part in this song comes in, followed by his beautiful, yet quick, solo (it’s a little longer in live versions). The band continues to jam away with the simple parts they’ve had. Boyd also gets a part in this solo, but once again they are more prominent in the live versions. On Crash, it’s more of a collective solo, where Boyd, LeRoi and Tim all take turns taking the lead.

If you think the “Lie in Our Graves” solo is pretty sweet on Crash, then you will really enjoy hearing the song live. The song usually last for a solid 10-12 minutes, including some killer (love that word to describe DMB) solos.

Around the 5 minute mark of the studio version… Dave comes back in with a scat-like reprise of the chorus, with some more solid solo-esque music backing him up.

Let’s touch on the lyrics for a second, before I wrap everything up. Hopefully, you’ve listened to at least the entire studio version by this point. If so, you will have heard all the lyrics, which are very easily understandable. It’s a fun, free song about having no inhibitions in your life, and not living with any regrets. Seriously… “would you not like to be, sitting on top of the world with your legs hanging free?” I would… because that means I have not a care in the world. Just read through the lyrics as you listen to the song, and take it all in. This is one of the beauties of the Dave Matthews Band, their music can inspire you to just live your life. That’s what music is all about.

Personal story here, one of my high school art classes (I want to say my junior year, but that’s not important), we had an assignment to make an anti-drug poster. We could put whatever we wanted on it, and it would say, “_________ is my anti-drug.” I chose the Dave Matthews Band. The irony… is that most DMB fans love drugs (weed especially), and Dave himself dabbled in quite a bit of drugs. Either way, that was my decision. Anyway… I drew a picture of Dave from the Central Park concert, and in the entire background, I stenciled in the lyrics to “Lie in Our Graves.” It took me about 3 weeks to get all the letters done, but it was worth it. I have the poster laminated and framed in my basement back home. Moral of the story, “Lie in Our Graves” has a positive meaning, even if you use a band that doesn’t hate drugs, as your anti-drug.

Song Rating: 5/5

Next Song: “Cry Freedom”

Crash, Part VIII: Let You Down

In my opinion, “Let You Down” is one of the first truly emotional, deep songs that the Dave Matthews Band released on an album. It’s simplicity is equaled by its moving lyrics. In terms of underrated songs, this ranks up there.

Lyrics.

Song Meaning: Plainly, it’s a song about asking for forgiveness, and feeling remorse and sorrow.

Studio Version:

Live Version:

Acoustic Version:

Total Play Count: 34 (as rare as they come)

Album Ranking: 7/12

As you can tell by the total play count, and the older live version of “Let You Down,” it’s a pretty rare song. DMB almost never plays it live. The last time it made a full appearance was during the 1997 tour… which was to promote Crash. After listening to it, though, you might be able to understand why it’s not necessarily a live-friendly song.

The first thing we here is some hauntingly beautiful guitar strumming, accompanied by what sounds like bongos and a triangle. There isn’t much to this song, instrument-wise. I don’t think it should be any other way, though. This is a bare song, with raw lyrics and a pure feel to it.

While he sings, Dave voice sounds smooth and reassuring, and you really do get the feeling that he is trying to convince the listener to forgive him, forget his missteps. By far, the most powerful line in this song is in the chorus.

I have no lid upon my head

But if I did…

You could look inside and see what’s on my mind.

Clearly, from the title, you can tell the song is about letting someone down, and now asking for forgiveness, which is evident from the lyrics. Dave reiterates how he’s a “puppy for your love,” which a lot of us can relate to. If you are, or have ever been, in love, you know the feeling of being a “puppy for love,” and wanting to receive forgiveness from someone for something.

Towards the end of the song, after Dave finishes his singing, you here some light whistling, which I think is another very moving part of this song. It’s almost like the song is a journey (most are), that takes you through a making-up process between two people. Right off the bat, Dave says “I let you down.” From there, he continues to kind of explain himself, and continues to repeat himself. In real life, that’s how getting over a fight works. You beg for forgiveness, keep saying how dumb you are, etc.

When we get to the end of the song, the whistling begins, which could signify that things are starting to turn for the singer, and maybe he has been forgiven. I really love how the simple saxophone part only comes in at the end, to accompany the whistling. Truly a well-crafted song.

The reason this song is so underrated, is the fact that it is never played live. Then again, it would be hard to continually play this in a live setting. The band does often play slower, more thoughtful songs, but this wouldn’t work.

An acoustic setting is much more fitting for this. As you can see from the video above, it has been played before. This video is from The Lost Acoustics, which is an unreleased collection of Dave and Tim songs from a number of acoustic performances. You can find it among the DMB blogosphere, and it’s totally worth it.

This is such a beautiful song, and you can really get lost in the story and mood of the music and lyrics. I hope you enjoy listening to it, and definitely check out the acoustic version.

Song Rating: 4/5

Next Song: “Lie in Our Graves”

 

Crash, Part VII: Drive In Drive Out

Man, oh man. I have to say, this might be one of the more underrated Dave Matthews Band songs out there (IMO). If you are a drummer, or like listening to awesome drummers, or just like awesome music, “Drive In Drive Out” is for you.

There is such a fun start to this, and then it just blows you away. I’ll stop wasting your time.

Lyrics.

Song Meaning: About dealing with being alone, or at least finding your own way. It seems there’s a sense of abandonment in the lyrics, which adds to the connection of “driving” oneself crazy. Or at least it seems that way.

Studio Version:

Live Version:

Total Play Count: 301

Album Ranking: 9/12

Once again, don’t let my album ranking fool you. Just because I rank this song in the bottom-fourth of the album, doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. The album is just that good.

“Drive In Drive Out” starts with a bang, and never slows down. The calm before the storm (so to speak) is Dave’s little guitar riffs. That leads into a huge, “BUM BUM BUM!” from the whole band. That goes to show that this song is mainly dominated by Carter on the drums. After a few more of the intro, Carter gets fancy to lead into the first verse.

The dynamics of this song really play out… going from quieter and mellow in the verses, to loud and banging in the chorus. “DIDO” really displays the full power of DMB… especially Mr. Beauford. The rest of the band definitely adds its fair share to the song, including the horn parts in the chorus.

I think the dynamic apex of the song is when Dave gets to the bridge that starts out, “Oh, my head is pounding now. God has all but left me behind.” When he starts this out, Carter immediately cuts his power down to a murmur. He accents the bridge with some hard rolls on some of the drums, which adds to the mystique of this song as well (sidenote: mystique is a pretty good word for this song, because it just feels mysterious altogether. That’s all). But towards of the bridge… Dave seamlessly blends his tempo right back up to speed with the chorus, joined by the full horns and violin. Beautiful.

One of my fondest memories of this song is the first time I ever heard it live. It was in Hartford, CT… and just before Dave started singing the lyrics, he yelled out to the band, “faster, faster,” because he wanted the tempo of the song to pick up (clearly this is a fast paced song). Now, whenever I listen to this song, I yell “faster, faster,” at the same exact part, even though he never says it.

The addictive nature of “Drive In Drive Out” also adds to its underratedness. obviously a repetitive chorus is going to get stuck in your head, but what always gets me is the little violin right after “Drive in drive out, I’m leaving.” It goes back and forth between high-low, high-low. See if you can hear it (warning: it might get stuck in your head).

Another repetitive, yet addictive, part of the song is the solo. It almost feels like a high school band warming up… going up and down the musical scale. Granted, it’s not like that at all, but if you listen to it, you might know what I’m talking about. LeRoi plays notes that range up and down the scale, with some ominous notes thrown in, as Carter keeps up the pace with his killer-drumming.

If you pay close enough attention, and are an experienced DMB-follower, you can tell that “Drive In Drive Out” is an older song. It was actually written well before Crash was ever considered as a record. It was one of the earlier songs written by Dave, and one of the first songs ever played live by Carter. The reason I say you can tell it’s an older song, is Dave almost had a style in his earlier years. Simple, yet intricate. Granted, the song evolved over time, and probably very much so from when it was originally written, to its place on Crash. Regardless, there is just something about it that screams “early-DMB,” like a lot of their other work. I really thought I could have explained it when I started this paragraph. I guess it’s just one of those things.

In the end, “Drive In Drive Out” is the kind of song I hope to hear live. It’s not super long, but man can the band rock the shit out of it (especially Carter). As a drummer myself, I really appreciate and enjoy hearing Carter jam it up, but the song in general is just a fun one to hear. Especially when Dave belts out the lyrics (is is the case with any song, really. The more Dave screams, the more awesome the song is).

Song Rating: 4/5

Next Song: “Let You Down”

Crash, Part VI: Say Goodbye

A friend implored me to “do this song justice” because he loves it so much. Here goes nothing…

“Say Goodbye” was a song that took a while for me to really enjoy. Not because it needed to grow on me, but because I needed to grow on it (follow me here). When I first began my DMB following (2003), I was just starting High School (yes, I’m pretty young). I didn’t fully engulf myself in the band for another year and a half or so (it’s definitely a process with these guys), and then… it took a little longer to really understand/appreciate every aspect of their work. With “Say Goodbye,” it’s a very… mature song… for lack of better words.

From the outside looking in (as a fan or as a teenager in general), this song is just fun to listen to. Once again, I am going to try to base everything off the studio version, even though the live version (and acoustic for that matter) rock. Upon further listen… and an older age… this song takes on a different meaning. Even if you knew what it meant at a young age, there’s still some maturity needed to enjoy/appreciate the song. Let’s just get into it already…

Lyrics.

Song Meaning: As “AntsMarching.org” so simply puts it (and as is evident by reading through the lyrics), “Say Goodbye” is about a one-night stand.

Studio Version (I like the versions with the lyrics on them already):

Live Version:

Acoustic Version:

Total Play Count: 392

Album Ranking: 6/12

First things first… watch/listen to the first video. Do it while you read the rest of this post… that’s cool too. Then, if you like the song, listen to the other two versions. It’s pretty cool, because I was at the live version. Someone recorded the shows (with decent quality, might I add), and it gives a very updated version of how the song sounds live. Plus, I was there, so that’s cool too. Finally, the acoustic version is from one of the best acoustic albums ever (Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Luther College), which is a must-own as a DMB/Dave Matthews/Music fan.

One of the harder things to get by with this song, especially so early, is the extended intro. It has it on the studio version, and it has it live. On Crash, it’s started with some cool drumming by Carter, and some very elegant flute-playing (fluting? floutistry?) by LeRoi Moore. I believe it’s on the penny-whistle, but am probably wrong. It almost sounds like Carter is playing some bongos or something, but no… they’re his amazing drums (trust me, it’s WAY more impressive live). But about that flute. Correct me if I’m wrong, but elegant does seem to be the best choice of words for it. Roi just cruises through his solo, taking you from point A to point B, and you don’t even realize it. What a talent we are missing.

In case you’re wondering, the singing starts at the 1:30 mark. I don’t think I need to reiterate the fact that this song is about a one-night stand. If you read the lyrics, you know. If you have ears and listened to the song, you know. However, Dave does a nice job to match the music and mood of the song, with the… “mood” of a one-night stand (or at least the thought of one). The song is somewhat playful, not too overpowering, and is really smooth. I would hedge a bet that a good number of people have used this song to… get in the mood.

What I really like is how the song doesn’t move far from its base. It’s a light, airy, smooth, playful song. When it gets to the chorus, Dave does raise his voice a little, throw some passion in there. But aside from some cymbal crashes leading into the chorus, everything stays the same. You can hear Boyd on the violin, and then LeRoi throws in some more beautiful flute parts.

In either version (studio or live, but live way way more), my favorite part is the end (around the 5:00 mark) where Dave really belts out the lyrics. Especially the line, “just for tonight, one night, I love you.” Although the “I love you,” sounds more like, “love yeahhhhhhhh,” and it’s awesome.

So while the song is pretty playful and fun… it does have a major climax at the end (pun definitely intended). A finish to a song… only suited for a song about sex. If you think back through the song… it is a lot like a sexual interaction. Builds up slowly, it’s playful yet smooth. Then it has one big climax at the end (ok, it’s starting to sound a little weird… I’ll stop). Well done, Dave Matthews Band.

Now, don’t take my “Album Ranking” as a sign that I don’t like this song. You have to remember, this is one of the band’s top 4 albums ever. Crash is one of the “Big 3.” Until Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King came along, all other albums paled in comparison to Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash and (what we will get to soon) Before These Crowded Streets. So 6 out of 12 on an amazing album… isn’t too bad.

Song Rating: 4.5/5

Next Song: “Drive In Drive Out”