Posts Tagged ‘in utero’

Album Review: Nirvana In Utero 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

November 19, 2013

NirvanaIU

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, The Grunge Rock Guru has returned! I have many, many new albums and music experiences, so I will have plenty to write about for a long time. So, without further ado,  let’s get started.

20 years ago (where does the time go??) Nirvana released their follow-up to the seminal “Nevermind” and it was titled “In Utero“. The album was released with a lot of fanfare as it was the first truly new music from Nirvana since the unexpected success of “Nevermind” and fans were clamoring for more. They tried to hold people over with a mix of B-Sides and other unreleased tracks in a pseudo-compilation album called “Incesticide”, but it didn’t work out like they hoped. Were early hit singles like “Heart-Shaped Box”, “Dumb”, and “Rape Me,” the album was poised for success, and it was – both commercially and critically. That was 1993.

Now, in 2013, DGC released the 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition.  There were a few deluxe editions (the two CD version and the three LP version), but I went all out and got the three CD/DVD super deluxe versions, so I will focus on that one. The $150 price tag was a little steep, but I was really impressed with what they did with the super deluxe version of “Nevermind”, so there was little hesitation to pull the trigger. I was not disappointed.

It came with three CDs that had over 70 unreleased tracks, a DVD of the 1993 “MTV Live and Loud” concert (that I do not think has aired since the days right after Kurt died), a two-sided poster, and a 50+ page book. That was the first thing that I gravitated towards. The book started off with a four page fax (ask your parents) from “In Utero” producer Steve Albini. It really lays out his vision for the album and gives the reader insight to why the album sounds the way it does.  In today’s sea of over-produced records that hardly sound anything like what was actually recorded, this Albini quote from 1992 is still a breath of fresh air:

If a record takes more than a week to make, someone’s [expletive deleted] up.

The CDs it came with were great. CD 1 was simply the original album remastered (this was not counted towards the number of unreleased tracks) with 7 extra tracks, including some original Albini mixes for some popular songs. The remastering didn’t add much to the album, and it’s skippable if you are familiar with the original (and who wouldn’t be that has this set?). The Bonus tracks, however, are awesome. The Albini mixes of “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” are as raw as can be. It matched Albini’s philosophy and his recording technique. CD 2 was interesting because it was a brand new mix of the original album. The mix was OK, but it took out things I have been used to hearing for 20 years.  They took out things like Kurt clearing his throat before “Pennyroyal Tea” and the cello out of “Dumb.” I can live without the throat clearing, but I was dumfounded as to why they took out the cello. It’s such an integral part of the song. The demos that were on this disc were also pretty cool because they included instrumental versions of songs like “Dumb” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.”

The third CD was the soundboard audio from the “Live and Loud” concert. I was thrilled it was included because it is one of my favorite concerts of all time and it finally got a proper release. the CD had he entire televised concert as well as songs that were not included on the original telecast. The DVD of the “Live and Loud” concert was just awesome. It included all the songs that were on the CD, but added two versions of the famous “Heart-Shaped Box” video, and live performances from Italy, France, and a few songs what ended up being their last ever performance in Germany.

The celebration of “In Utero” is bittersweet in a way. On one hand, we get to celebrate a band who broke through the mainstream on their terms and changed the face music and pop culture. On the other hand, it is really the last flash of brilliance we got from a very talented song writer as well as a true end of an era, however short it was.

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Nirvana Pt. 2

October 2, 2008

Once Dave Grohl was put into place they could start recording Nevermind. They started in Butch Vig’s Smart Studio in Madison, WI. The set up was low budget and so was the sound. Once they got cleared by their new label (Geffen) to rent a recording Studio they went over to Sound City in Van Nuys to record it on a more professional level. The did, however, use one track from the Smart Studio sessions on the final version of Nevermind – Polly. Soon after recording was completed, they filmed a video for their new song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

After filming they went on a tour of Europe and without the Internet in those days, they were oblivious to the kind of impact their song was making in the US. They were just happy touring. They were able to see album sales climb and they noticed that Smells Like Teen Spirit was in heavy rotation on the radio and on MTV. They came back to the States in October (after playing clubs in Europe) and they sold out Seattle’s Paramount Theater. They had arrived on the scene.

They hated the new fans that they attracted. The “Frat boys” that bullied kids like them were now listening to their music and buying their CDs. After a high demand for new music Nirvana released “Incesticide” which was a compiliation of B-Sides and other rare songs with limited release up to that point. In the liner notes, Kurt wrote a long diatribe about the fans that they did not want. They did not want racist or ignorant people buying their records.

By 1992, Nirvana was on top of the world. Nevermind had been Number one on the Billboard charts knocking off Michael Jackson and they were selling out arenas all over the country. When it came time to make their second record for Geffen, they were in the driver’s seat. They wanted to make a record with Fuzz Master Steve Albini who did most of his work for Touch and Go Records recording The Jesus Lizard.

They trekked up to Pachyderm Studios in Minnesota and recorded In Utero. The entire recording process lasted 2 weeks and Kurt laid the vocals down in one day. Early masters were very raw and Nirvana had them remixed by Scott Litt of REM fame. This caused a riff between Albini and Nirvana because while Nirvana claimed that the label balked at the tapes, Albini feel that Nirvana was the ones who did not like it. The album sold well and early concerts sold out. As the year went on crowds became slightly smaller.

Shows were not selling out until the day of the show andsome were not sellingout at all. Sales of In Utero started to decline. In an effort to pick up ticket and album sales, Nirvana agreed to an “Unplugged” concert for MTV. They wanted to take a different route than the previous concerts. Everyone played their hits like it was Madison Square Garden (paraphrasing Dave Grohl) and Nirvana wanted to do something different. They played mostly thier songs, but detoured a bit and played covers like “Man Who Sold the World”. They Introduced the world to the Meat Puppets when they covered “Plateau”, “Lake of Fire”, and “Oh, Me” (all of the Meat Puppets second record titled II). Kurt capped off the evening with a breathtaking version of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”. Nirvana fever was reborn.

The return to success did not help Kurt at all though. His drug use was heavy and slipped into a coma in early 1994. They canceled a tour in Fbruary of 1994 due to Kurt’s laryngitis. Kurt checked himself into a rehab clinic in Los angeles. Sneaked out to get some cigarettes and never came back. His body was discovered in his Seattle homea few days later. He took his own life. He was 27.

Todd

Nirvana Pt. 1

September 16, 2008

Let me start out and state, in my opinion, there would be no Nirvana without the Melvins. Would Kurt have started a band? Probably. However, the chances of that band being with Krist Novosellic, and Kurt getting to record a demo would be extremely low had it not been for the Melvins. Now then, let’s dice right in.

The year was 1985. Kurt Cobain was in high school without hardly any friends and was being shuffled around relatives for a place to stay. He had heard of the band called the Melvins and went to a practice of theirs (a common hangout place for music people). He saw a really tall guy (6’7″) that he recognized from school. This guy was Krist and he listened to punk rock and could play bass guitar.

Kurt really wanted to start a band with Krist, but Krist showed little interest. He went down to Reciprocal Recordings with Dale Crover (100% of the reason Endido gave this Kurt guy the time of day) and they recorded a demo called “Fecal Matter”. Kurt gave this tape to Krist and he was finally convinced. All they needed now was a drummer.

They had simple requirements – someone who was willing to practice 5 days a week. They found a Chad Channing. He had a goofy drum set, and he didn’t do everything exactly the way Kurt would’ve liked him to, but he was there 5 days a week. Now that they had all the pieces in place, they were ready to rock.

They performed at a few clubs under numerous names (Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew…etc) until they finally settled on a name – Nirvana. They felt pretty confident about their songs and started shopping themselves around to labels. They sent tapes to Touch & Go, K Records, and Sub Pop. Sub Pop was the only label to bite and signed Kurt. They went into the recording studio with Jack Endido.

They recorded their first single, “Love Buzz” and wanted the song “Blandest” to be the B-Side. However, Endido thought the title resembled the song and balked. Nirvana decided to go with “Big Cheese” instead. So the first installment of the Sub Pop Singles Club was Nirvana’s Love Buzz b/w Big Cheese. the 7 inch vinyl’s were hand numbered to 1000 and were quickly snatched up. Nirvana was pissed because they were at shows and people wanted their stuff, but they had nothing to give them. the ploy worked though because there was so much demand that when Bleachwas finally released, there was a lot of underground hype for it.

When Nirvana was recording Bleach, they had to come up with $606 dollars to pay Endido for the studio time. Well, being completely broke, Nirvana did not have that kind of money. Enter Jason Everman. They struck a deal with Everman. If he paid the money, he could join their band. They even gave him a guitar credit on Bleach despite not playing on it. After Bleach came out, they went on tour to promote it. They were living their dream. Kurt noted that the tour was great, but wouldhave been better if “Jason wasn’t such a prick”. Everman was kicked out of the band shortly after the Bleach tour.

After the Bleach tour, they had another problem. They grew increasingly frustrated with Chad Channing, so they wrote him a letter effectively kicking him out of the band. So now they had no drummer again. They played shows with Dan Peters, but h had to go back to Mudhoney. They played some shows with Dale Crover, but he had to go back to the Melvins. They let Aaron Bruckhard play with them, but he still wasn’t what they were looking for. Buzz, from the Melvins knew a guy.

DC Punk band, Scream, was touring LA and their band literally fell apart, and they broke up in Los Angeles. Kurt called their drummer, Dave Grohl, and told him to come to Seattle to be in their band. Grohl had nothing to lose so he went up to Seattle. He was everything Nirvana was looking for in a drummer, and now in 1990, 5 years after “Fecal Matter”, they were complete.

To be continued…

Todd


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