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Perfect Day

Chris Whitley

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Album Review

After issuing the spare, entirely solo Live at Martyrs' in early 2000, Chris Whitley returned to the studio with drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood (of Medeski, Martin & Wood fame) to cut the similarly low-key, all covers album Perfect Day. It's a mix of blues standards and rock songs with a poetic bent (writers like Dylan, Reed, and Morrison) all given hauntingly minimalistic treatments. Whitley's guitar work is subdued and spacious, as are Martin and Wood's constantly shifting backing rhythms. The cover photo of a haggard-looking Whitley sets the tone for his performances: he sounds committed but weary, which gives these renditions a darkly compelling power. "Spoonful," in particular, often seems on the verge of falling apart, as Whitley's guitar slashes almost randomly over the rhythm section's syncopations. But — perhaps like the singer himself — it somehow holds together in the face of desperation, which is a handy way to sum up the album's impact as a whole.

Customer Reviews

Would give it six stars if it was an option.

Im an avid music lover and make my living playing and producing music. I can easily say this is one of the greatest records ever made, and is definately my favorite cover record. Perfect Day took my breath away when I first heard it. Crusty, tape saturated tones. Amazing musicianship. Unbelievable renditions of well chosen songs. Very experimental yet very mature. Chris, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood are an incredible combo. What a treat!

you should listen to this

this is great

Hauntingly Beautiful Masterpiece

Wow. For an album of covers, this one sure seemed personal! Much like Johnny Cash's transformation of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," Chris Whitley transformed these 11 covers for this album. Seriously heavy stuff. By that I mean there's a lot of emotional weight in these recordings.
The addition of Billy Martin and Chris Wood only fueled this musical fire even more. What seemed to happen was that the group would start a tune, and then the music would just take over, and become something completely organic, passionate, and new. Conventions be damned: serve the music first!

A couple highlights for me. The first track, beginning with Billy Martin's strange junkyard percussion sounds, juxtaposed to Chris Wood's very clear, consonant bass line, let's us know we're in for something a bit different. When Whitley enters with that slide guitar, it just feels like a completely different time and place.

"Wild Ox Moan" is another example of a tune turned completely on its head. Completely rubato, with swelling guitar strumming, Martin's bevvy of found percussion creating the seemingly contrary (yet still unbelievably beautiful) color, this tune takes on more of a spiritual feeling.

For me, the ultimate highlight is the very next song, "Crystal Ship." Once again, a very metallically-driven, coloristic groove is the underbed for Chris Whitley's intense vocals and guitar work. The color aspect that really sings through this piece is Chris Wood's theremin-esque bowed bass sounds. This colorful aspect, which sounds beautifully jarring against the steady groove and singing, complements so well, and makes for a truly deep listening experience.

This album is pretty much a life changer for me. So simple, yet so complex. Light in volume, yet heavy in emotion. This is a very underrated album.

Biography

Born: August 31, 1960 in Houston, TX

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Chris Whitley was a Texas-based singer/songwriter who initially began his career as a bluesy roots rocker, but as his career progressed, he moved deeper into rock & roll and alternative rock. Though Whitley's albums usually received positive reviews, they rarely sold, and his tendency to rework...
Full Bio
Perfect Day, Chris Whitley
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