Countless artists pour their hearts and souls into making the "next big record". A precious few sell millions, some have maintained a comfortably small fan base, and others never rise from obscurity. But all are susceptible to one possible dubious fate: The shelf of your local thrift store. These poor unwanted remnants of the past grace the shelves of your Goodwills, your Salvation Armys, your local mom & pop shop, waiting to be rediscovered... to be loved once again.

Over my years of thrift store scouring, I gradually began to notice certain discs and records that repeatedly reveal themselves on nearly every visit to any location. It left me wondering: Why are these select albums so often discarded, what led them to this point, and will the recognition and love for them ever be renewed once again? Now I can confidently answer YES. I bestow unto you, an appreciation for all discs left behind: "Thrift Store Albums."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Wallflowers: Bringing Down the Horse

Poor Jakob Dylan. The guy can sell millions of albums and yet will always be cursed to stand in the shadow of the most legendary folk musician known to man. It makes me wonder if he ever thought of saying "screw it" and becoming an accountant. And yet, he persisted and made a pretty darn good career for himself. "Bring Down the Horse" was, no doubt, the pinnacle of his success.

"So long ago, I don't remember when, that's when they say I lost my only friend..." begins the sophomore album, and hit song, "One Headlight", by Dylan's alt-rock ensemble, The Wallflowers. You can hear hints of his old man in Dylan's vocal style, but there's a notably husk and graininess to his voice (one that ol' Bob has seemingly taken on as he has aged). The reverb-soaked guitars round out the dark, mid-tempo mood of the album, one that would help to define the alternative genre of the time.

The album hit big at a point when riff-driven commercial rock was all the rage, and a number of "one hit wonder" bands were capitalizing on it: "Closing Time" by Semisonic, or "The Freshman" by The Verve Pipe, for example (either of which may very well show up on this blog at a future date). Adding to the appeal was the melodic first single, "6th Avenue Heartache". With (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist) Mike Campbell on slide guitar, and Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz providing backing vocals, Dylan clearly had some friends in high places. "And the same black line that was drawn on you, was drawn on me," he sings, "and now it's drawn me in."

As was so often the case with breakout hit albums, subsequent releases failed to maintain the spotlight that it created. It's the kind of rocket-to-fame scenario that makes even a half-million record sales on the follow up album, "Breach", seem like a disappointment. Dylan would continue on with a consistent solo career, releasing two solo albums, and continuing to perform on-and-of with the band. Call it a blessing or a curse, some of us were just born to live in somebody's shadow, but I'd say that through his own means, Dylan has done the name proud.

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