Natalie Merchant Is Featured On The Cover Of 10,000 Manicas' MTV unplugged Disc
This live recording acted as the original Maniacs’ swan song. Natalie Merchant departed after its release, and launched a solo career that started very promisingly. The Maniacs were to continue with viola player Mary Ramsey stepping in for Natalie. The MTV Unplugged disc was to produce the band’s one big hit, namely a cover of “Because The Night” that effectively became their calling card as far as casual listeners were (and are) concerned.
As I think you already know, I usually look askance at live albums. I do love live music, but I don’t enjoy listening to songs recorded live on a disc. Live music entails a communion that is not translated into digital tape. To me, a live album is only any good if you were there that day. It gives you the chance to relive what went down and do it all over again. Others might enjoy it, but enjoying something and being touched by something are two different things. But this particular live disc by the Maniacs is incredible – it is as enjoyable as it is touching. Maybe that is owing to the fact that they were going through the motions when they recorded it. The impending sense of separation might have given them a special cohesiveness that night. The fact is that as the first notes are strummed you feel such a sense of sadness and such a sense of joy that words will never suffice. The first song is “These Are Days”, and Natalie’s voice hints at the power she will unleash all through the concert
The setlist includes many songs from “Our Time In Eden” (“Candy Everybody Wants” is done delectably, and this version of “I’m Not The Man” makes me appreciate the studio take best) and “In My Tribe”. These include a lively “Like The Weather” with the percussion shining like a crazy diamond, and an effective “What’s The Matter Here” – I did never like the song, but Natalie provides such a realized delivery (especially the “and don’t you think/that I won’t use it” part) that it wins me over time and again. Continue reading →
Do you remember what Elton John sang at the end of the “Captain Fantastic” album, in the song named “Curtains” – “Just like us/you must have had/ a once upon a time”. If you don’t, there is not an album that will bring that to mind better (and worse, I am afraid) than “Our Time In Eden”. The Maniacs’ final studio album with Natalie is one of the most poignant farewells you can listen to.
Broken feelings litter the album. Lost friendships abound: “Noah’s Dove” is a final portrayal of lost innocence, and the same applies to “How You’ve Grown” and “Stockton Gala Days”, albeit from different vantage points. The former laments the way we often take innocence for granted in the younger ones, and the latter deals with the shame of hiding innocence lost to someone the singer still deems as pure. Continue reading →
Released in 1987, “In My Tribe” was the first album by the Maniacs to garner both praise and good sales at the same time. It was no coincidence, as they showed a maturity and a deft touch when it came to dealing with sensitive issues such as the environment, illiteracy, violence towards women and children and also the role some institutions like marriage play out in life.
In a certain sense it could be said that some of the songs are preachy, but this is handled in a conciliatory way, without pointing fingers at anybody. Rather than saying “it is their fault” or “you are to blame” the songs seem to say that what happens in society and in life as a whole is attributed to everybody, and the answer must be a collective one. Maybe (and probably) inspired by a single individual, but the message is that only when we move in unison we can make some progress. Continue reading →
Released in 1990, this CD gathers together the first two EPs that this delicious American band released. The first one was entitled “Human Conflict Number 5” (1982) whereas the second went by the name of “Secrets Of The I Ching” (1983).
“Human Conflict Number 5” features a studio drummer named Jim Foti, whilst “Secrets Of The I Ching” marks Jerry’s debut as the Maniacs drummer, and his contribution does not go unnoticed. Both EPs also featured founding member John Lombardo, who set to music two poems from the doomed World War I poet Wilfred Owen. He even takes the lead in one of these (“Anthem For Doomed Youth”, one of Owen’s most anthologized pieces, and one of the album’s highlights as well). Continue reading →
The Maniacs are not the best band I know. Not by a long stretch. They are, however, the band that moves me the most from my whole collection. As you know, they were an American band that was active in the 80’s, and they were very popular among College audiences. The band comprised Natalie Merchant (vocals), Rob Buck (guitars), Steven Gustafson (bass), Dennis Drew (keyboards) and Jerome Augustyniak (drums).
They eventually scored a big hit with their cover of “Because The Night” in the early 90’s, at which point Natalie Merchant left the band to pursue a solo career of note in her home soil. Continue reading →