Today’s matchup is a funny one, but then any pairing with Eminem was bound to be a little odd. Eminem is the only rapper represented in the contest, a fact that reflects both my general ambivalence to the genre and my admiration for the work of Marshall Mathers.
In a nutshell: Loved their early stuff, really loved the unreleased Lillywhite Sessions, hated the album they released instead (Everyday), resented the inferior official release of those Lillywhite songs (Busted Stuff) and haven’t really liked them much since.
After this, they lost me for a bit with Before These Crowded Streets, won me back temporarily with the unreleased Lillywhite Sessions and then disappeared from my radar completely when they officially released the borefest Everyday and the inferior but “official” version of the Lillywhite tracks, Busted Stuff.
I’ve been pretty down on Dave Matthews Band ever since the non-release of The Lillywhite Sessions, the bootleg album that remains their best work even if it never debuted officially. The band put out Everyday and Busted Stuff instead, the former a generic mess and the latter filled with lesser versions of the Lillywhite songs.
2005’s Stand Up didn’t even reach my radar… to this day, I don’t think I’ve heard a single one of its tracks. For all I know it’s a hidden masterpiece, but I believe it was received rather coolly by critics and fans alike. And then the band did nothing for a few years, after which they suffered the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore, a beloved band member and the key element musically in so many of their best songs.
I’m largely indifferent to Dave Matthews Band these days but years ago, after the release of Crash, I thought they were just about the best thing going. Under the Table and Dreaming, the album that first earned them mainstream success, was fresh and exciting and unlike anything I’d heard before, but Crash took their sound to a whole new level.
That album has one of the best opening lineups of all-time, with the art-funk of ‘So Much To Say’ segueing into the jazz hoedown of ‘Two Step’ all leading up to the gorgeous beyond words ‘Crash Into Me.’
A couple of weeks ago there was some debate over whether I consider myself a “fan” of Dave Matthews Band. I don’t consider myself a fan of the group because I haven’t bought or listened to any of their past several albums (including Matthews’ solo effort). But I was certainly a big fan a decade or so ago after they released the wonderful Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash albums. So did they just lose their shine?
If I had to point to a turning point for my appreciation of the band, it would be after the “release” of the bootleg album The Lillywhite Sessions. As the story goes, the band recorded a batch of songs with respected producer Steve Lillywhite but weren’t happy with the sessions. The songs were shelved but ultimately leaked to the Web.