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Before These Crowded Streets

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Album Review

The Dave Matthews Band made their reputation through touring, spending endless nights on the road improvising. Often, their records hinted at the eclecticism and adventure inherent in those improvisation, but Before These Crowded Streets is the first album to fully capture that adventurous spirit. Not coincidentally, it's their least accessible record, even if it's more of a consolidation than it is a step forward. Early Dave Matthews albums were devoted to the worldbeat fusions of Graceland and Sting, but his RCA efforts incorporated these influences into a smoother, pop-oriented style. Here, everything hangs out. Old trademarks, like jittery acoustic grooves and jazzy chords, are here, augmented by complex polyrhythms, Mideastern dirges, and on two tracks, the slashing strings of the Kronos Quartet. Some fans may find the new, darker textures a little disarming at first, but they're a logical extension of the group's work, and in many ways, this sonic daring results in the most rewarding album they've yet recorded. The Dave Matthews Band haven't completely vanquished their demons, however — songwriting remains a problem, especially since relying on grooves, improvisation, and texture allows them to skimp on melody, and Matthews' lyrics can be awkward and embarrassing, especially if he's writing about sex. Still, these are minor flaws on an album that relies on tone and improvisation, both of which are in ample supply on Before These Crowded Streets.

Customer Reviews

This is it. The essential DMB album.

I'm a huge DMB fan, and in being so you could say i'm quite astute on their recorded work. (I think I can name every song on every studio album in order) and if you take it from anybody, take it from me that Before These Crowded Streets is not only one of the best, but THE best of all those recorded works. This album is when the Dave Matthews Band pushed themselves from another good 90's rock band to the apple of their fan's eye. It built the fan base that they carry to this day, and if they had missed this one I daresay they would not sell nearly as many tickets as they do to this day, 11 years later. From start to finish this album exemplifies the Dave Matthews Band's style, relying on improvisation over conformity and switching tones, moods and influences in the beat of a drum. Rapunzel and Stay are swirling tapestries of sax, violin, keyboard and playful, uncompromising lyrics, The Last Stop and Don't Drink the Water are emotional takes on the the ugliness of tyranny and oppression, The brooding Halloween and the enthralling The Stone are about the misery love inevitably brings, Crush is the true love song of the album (as is number 8 on UtTaD, Crash and Everyday) and one of the prettiest Matthew's ever wrote, and then the true gold of the album comes. The last 3 songs are collectively some of the best work ever recorded. Pig's chorus and hook will make anyone dance and sing along with it, and The Dreaming Tree and Spoon are amazing and incomparable meditations on the doldrums of depression and looking back on spent time. Spoon alone, with the involvement of Alanis Morisette's wailing sincerity and Bella Fleck's banjo together with a series of fantastic bridges and an incredibly powerful outro to the main song is enough to separate this from the pack, and the two together on the same album push Before These Crowded Streets into the promised land of 90's music. Busted Stuff was a welcome return to the style this album put the spotlight on, but the other 2 albums the band has released since then, Everyday and Stand Up haven't quite captured the majesty of BTCS.

favorite all around album

My earliest memories of this album come as I gazed across a desert landscape on one of the many family vacations we took as a child. From beginning to start you realize this is different than the glossy three-minute pop music that dominates modern media. The discerning listener ought to hear all the tracks out and really listen each song with the attention you might give to a close friend. "The dreaming tree" is such a cool song and should not be enjoyed on a mere superficial level. The interlude on "the stone" and "Pig" make for awesome introspective songs. The dark, almost haunting tones remind me of the fall with obscure colors, corn fields, and pumpkin patches. "The spoon" provides a surprisingly moving duet that is a satisfying way to end the album. With the exception of "Rapunzel", every song paints a marvelous dreamscape that is very intimate. It's safe to say that I thoroughly enjoy this album and consider it the best that DMB has done.

A Modern Masterpiece

Before These Crowded Streets is a dark, rich blend of musical genius that shows the Dave Matthews Band at the height of their powers. The instrument work is stunning, with numerous different sounds -- adding banjos, electric guitars, horns and strings -- to compliment the work of Matthews, Beauford, Lessard, Tinsely and Moore. The result is a sound that is, at the same time, worldly and familiar with a certain timeless quality to it. Its a testament to the work of all involved that now, some 10 years after its initial release, the album still sounds as fresh and relevant as it did the day it was released. The strength of all the tracks -- from the radio-spun "Crush" to the ethereal "Dreaming Tree" -- helps allow the disc to be listened to with no skipping, as it was clearly intended. Musical interludes and reprises are scattered throughout the album as well, highlighting the idea that this was a carefully crafted album. Even if you aren't a fan of the Dave Matthews Band, this is one album that is simply a must-own.


Formed: 1991 in Charlottesville, VA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in the early '90s by South African vocalist/guitarist Dave Matthews, the Dave Matthews Band presented a more pop-oriented version of the Grateful Dead crossed with elements of jazz, funk, and the worldbeat explorations of Paul Simon and Sting. Matthews populated the group with several Virginia-based musicians -- bassist Stefan Lessard, saxophonist Leroi Moore, violinist Boyd Tinsley, drummer Carter Beauford, and short-lived keyboardist Peter Griesar -- and the band built up a strong word-of-mouth...
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