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Friday, May 8, 1998
DailyIllini.com

Page B09, Dave Matthews Band

Before These Crowded Streets

RCA Records

Diversions Review by Eric Eastep and Chris Straley, 05/08/98 Courtesy of DailyIllini.com

4 out of 5 stars

The highly anticipated Dave Matthews release Before These Crowded Streets, finally hit the stores last week. After the great success of the band's prior two studio releases, Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash, it seemed that the Dave Matthews Band had their work cut out from them in coming up with new material that could rival their previous hits. However, Dave and Co. have once again come through by turning out an excellent and unique record. With the help of guest vocalist, Alanis Morissette, a string quartet, a banjo player, and the melodic guitar work of Tim Reynolds, DMB has once again reached new heights.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this album is its musical complexity. To put it simply, there is a lot going on in each song as all the instruments work together to produce one unifying sound. The album begins with the short, upbeat song, "Pantala Naga Pampa." Although the song is a mere 40 seconds in length, it sets the mood for the rest of the album as Dave Matthews tells the listener to sit back and put all of their "troubles down" and simply enjoy the music.

"Repunzel" has a very definitive start/stop beat that gives the song a soul feel. Woven on top of the usual horns, violin, bass, guitar and drums, is tight piano work. Toward the end of the song, the sax busts out as all the instruments jam away.

"The Last Stop" clearly appears to have been influenced by the far East. One can picture an Indian snake charmer playing along to the song. In contrast to the first couple of tunes, which were upbeat, Dave sings in an angry voice, "Is hate so deep/must a baby's bones/this hungry fire feed?" About midway through "The Last Stop" a banjo comes in to liven up Dave's sorrowful cries. Finally, the music culminates into an intense explosion before the banjo single-handedly takes the song home.

The slower "Don't Drink the Water," the only song to receive a lot of airplay so far, introduces Alanis Morissette into the mixture of talent, which once again includes the banjo playing of Bela Fleck. The song appears to tackle one of the rougher social issues regarding the exploitation of Native Americans by the white man in the 19th century. This song exemplifies the insightful lyrics Dave Matthews is capable of.

DMB takes a retro-flashback trip to the 1970's with the recording of "Stay (Wasting Time)." The addition of the three "do-bop" girls brings the listener back to the days of bell bottoms and afro's. Beautiful guitar work and funky bass lines by Stefan Lessard in the opening seconds of the song really make "Stay" jive. Leroi Moore also compliments this love song with his extensive sax playing abilities.

Overall, the album was outstanding and ground-breaking. The interlinking of the wide array of instruments brought the band to a new level. The only flaw in this album is that in comparison to some of DMB's earlier work, the songs don't pack quite as much of a punch. However, what is lost in spunk is made up for in musical complexity. Before These Crowded Streets is definitely worthy of anyone's music collection, whether your a Dave fanatic or not. By the way, when the final song comes to a close, let the CD run and you will find one extra diddy not labeled on the album, courtesy of the Dave Matthews Band.