Posts Tagged ‘10000 Maniacs’

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Nonesuch Records announces the digital release of two Natalie Merchant albums, previously unavailable: “Butterfly”, a studio album featuring four new songs and six reinterpretations from her catalogue arranged for string quartet, and “Rarities”, a collection of 15 rare and previously unreleased tracks recorded between 1998 and 2017. For Rarities, Merchant curated a selection of unique home studio demos, album outtakes, live tracks, and collaborations with diverse artists like Billy Bragg, David Byrne, The Chieftains, Cowboy Junkies, and Amy Helm (complete track list below). Both albums were created for inclusion in The Natalie Merchant Collection released by Nonesuch in 2017, and previously only available as part of the deluxe ten-CD box set.

“Since 2010 I’ve performed mainly as soloist with string ensembles and chamber orchestras. I love the subtle emotional quality strings give to my songs and it’s such a pleasure to reinterpret them in this way. In 2015, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of my first solo album, Tigerlily, with an album featuring string quartet versions of that material; with Butterfly, I was able to give ‘My Skin,’ ‘Frozen Charlotte,’ ‘Ophelia,’ and ‘The Worst Thing’ the same attention,” Merchant says.

“There are four songs on this album that I think represent some of the best writing of my career: the title track, ‘Butterfly,’ ‘She Devil,’ ‘Baby Mine,’ and ‘Andalucía’,” she continues. “Written over a period of twenty years, these songs represent such different phases of my life and career. What they all share is that none of them fit into previous albums or I was unable to capture a performance that did them justice. Listening to them today, I hear how they truly belong together.”

Merchant notes, “We have all found ourselves living through a very frightening period of history. Our rare and exceedingly beautiful planet is in peril and all the creatures (our species included) feel on the brink of chaos. In the face of crisis, we still search for meaning and reach out for beauty. I hope that Butterfly is received as my offering of beauty and meaning for these times and that it gives solace to anyone willing to listen.”

Merchant’s career began in 1981 when, as a college student, she joined the seminal alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs. As lead vocalist, lyricist, and sometimes pianist, Merchant released six critically acclaimed studio albums with the band. She left the group in 1993, and in 1995 released her multi-platinum solo debut, Tigerlily, followed by the platinum Ophelia (1998) and Motherland (2001). In 2003 she independently released an album of traditional and contemporary folk music, The House Carpenter’s Daughter. In 2010, Merchant returned with a double album, Leave Your Sleep, her debut for Nonesuch Records. In 2014, Nonesuch released Natalie Merchant, her sixth solo album and first of entirely original songs in thirteen years. Nonesuch most recently released Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings in 2015, and the Natalie Merchant Collection box set in 2017.

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10,000 Maniacs ~ In My Tribe from 1987 produced by Peter Asher. It’s a worry that I still consider it to be quite a recent album.

In My Tribe was the second and best major-label album by this American folk rock group. The bell-like voice and song writing talents of Natalie Merchant were their main assets from 1982-93, after which she pursued a solo career. And even if there’s nothing quite as immediate as ”Back O’ The Moon” the highlight of their previous album, The Wishing Chair, this is a more mature, consistent set, overall. This album introduced a lot of people (including myself) to the wonderful talents of Natalie Merchant. “Like the weather”, “Gun shy”, “Campfire song” (with a guest appearance from REM’s Michael Stipe) and especially the piano ballad “Verdi cries” are still among the best songs she’s ever written.

Though much has been made of the fact that their accessible, mostly mid-tempo songs often dealt with serious themes (such as child abuse on the opening ”What’s The Matter Here”, they’re hardly the only pop act to do so before or since. Their real legacy probably lies in the undeniable hummability of tunes such as the aforementioned, ”Hey Jack Kerouac” and the catchy, stumbling rhythm and nursery rhyme simplicity of ”Like The Weather”.

”A Campfire Song” features an unmistakeable vocal cameo from celebrity fan Michael Stipe of REM, and the chamber-folk calm of the closing ”Verdi Cries” makes it clear Merchant herself was a fan of Kate Bush. Not everything else is essential or memorable, and it’s a shame Bucks ringing mandolin isn’t higher in the mix. The only song that hasn’t dated well is ”My Sister Rose”, which over-indulges the bands occasional penchant for Afro/Latin world music flavours and now sounds rather clunky and dated.

The choice of ”Peace Train” as the only cover must have seemed inspired at the time, but when its author Cat Stephens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) declared his support for Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa on Salman Rushdie, Merchant insisted it be withdrawn from the US version of the album.