Before These Crowded Streets

Dave MatthewsBand – “Before These Crowded Streets””Before These Crowded Streets,” the Dave Matthews Band’s third studio album, accomplishes what several other “live groups” (such as Phish and Rusted Root) have failed to do: produce an album that blends the energy of their live shows with a heightened creative focus. “Before” captures the flourishing band as it pushes toward a more adventurous sound and incorporates an even greater level of instrumental prowess.

Lead guitarist and vocalist Matthews has improved his song-writing skills (once the weak link of the band). Some may attribute this improvement to the fact that five of the songs are the results of collaborations with other band members. Nonetheless, the writing has improved. The most notable achievements are the allegorical “The Dreaming Tree” and the wistful “Spoon,” with Matthews singing that “maybe you’re a little crazy but laughing out loud makes it all subside.” Bassist Stefan Lessard is given more freedom on this album and displays his under-appreciated talent on “Crush.

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” Violinist Boyd Linsley, drummer Carter Beauford and saxophonist Leroi Moore are also at their jamming best.

This album also features many guest appearances. Bela Fleck lends his banjo to three songs and gives a distinctly Middle Eastern flair to “The Last Stop,” and even Alanis Morissette checks in on “Spoon” and “Don’t Drink the Water” (the first single). However, the most significant impact comes from the arrangement of the Kronos Quartet, a cutting-edge string group. Their violins and cellos haunt “Halloween,” a reworked version of the same song which appeared on DMB’s five-song EP “Recently.” “Halloween” serves as a microcosm of the entire album. Matthews’ guttural roars of angst and complex string arrangements would have been unheard of on a previous record. He has taken some chances on “Before These Crowded Streets;” they are certain to please the die-hard Dave fan and to attract even more fans for their upcoming tour. Rather than recycle old styles and thoughts, the Dave Matthews Band has produced a focused, yet vibrant, collection of songs.

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