This is a new series. It is devoted to the original idea that I had once upon a time when doing internet radio, to chronicle the Top 31 Albums of All-time in my eyes. It had some albums that, looking back, really shouldn’t be on there. Keep in mind, these are albums I already have, either on my ipod or in my physical collection. So, each day this month, I will bring you one of the Top 31, in reverse order, with a review and album artwork. Today’s album is the 2007 effort from Tim Sult, Neil Fallon and the rest of Clutch, From Beale Street to Oblivion. Second in a series of 31.
This album is less edgy and less intensely worded than the previous effort, Robot Hive/Exodus. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good album. Many people panned the album, one reviewer stating that the album was “Certainly not a bad record for most bands but one that falls below the high expectations held for Clutch.” While admittedly the record lacks vocal writing punch, it is interesting. I always felt Robot Hive lacked some intensity and more of the sound of some of Clutch’s influences, but this album picked those aspects up and dusted them off.
The album kicks off with You Can’t Stop Progress, and dovetails nicely into Power Player, a song about touring internationally and how they didn’t fit in with people in First Class on the plane as well as at the hotel they stayed in one night. From there, The Devil and Me locks in the thematic elements of the album and they stay through the remainder. This is a song about God and the Devil having an argument and views it from both sides. White’s Ferry is a great song about crossing the Potomac on the aforementioned ferry boat. It starts slow and then gets into the riff-o-rama and heavy organ playing through the chorus. It features Brian Hinkley from Never Got Caught doing dual lead guitars alongside Tim Sult. The end of this track is one of my favorite moments from any album on this list, the instruments all strike and end note and let it ring, and then you hear the reverse switch in and the track starts playing in reverse. It sounds amazing that the song sounds just as wicked forwards as it does in reverse. Electric Worry was a song that the band got into the habit of playing it into One Eyed Dollar, They tried to write a new song that would do the same, but nothing fit, so they just kept the idea. Which lead them to re-record One Eyed Dollar, which Neil wanted to do to since he wasn’t happy with the lyrics on the original version. Both of these tracks have a heavy Chicago Blues influence to it. Five Horse Johnson’s Eric Oblander is the amazing blues harpist you hear on Worry. Child of the City is a song with heavy use of the Hammond, Tim’s wicked fat guitar sound, and the banging drums of Jean-Paul Gaster. The Rapture of Riddley Walker is a song said to be written based on Russel Hoban’s Riddley Walker. This song also uses more of the heavy Chicago blues influence with still more Hammond organ. When Vegans Attack is a campy song, and Tim’s guitar effects take a big front seat ride here, as well as chugging riffs and even a heavily distorted slide. Opossum Minister is about a woman in a nearby town where Neil grew up who was eccentric in her yard decorations. Black Umbrella is a track heavily influence more by Delta blues than the Chicago style that the band is more comfortable with. Shiny Black Caddylackness is a song that brings politics into play for the first time ever for this band. It discusses Dick Cheney under a bed with a shrunken voodoo head, the terrorist training ethos, the overbearing government of the Bush II administration, and the war at hand.
Overall, yes, I’ll agree this album isn’t as vocally brilliant as Robot Hive. But it is a band, working outside of its normal Stoner Rock box, doing something a bit off the norm for them, and having a good time, being cohesive, and sounding damn good while doing it. This album has some of the best mixing and mastering I’ve heard on any album from a band as on the fringe as they were when making this album. The album was meant to bridge them from an underground group to the mainstream. It was meant to be broadly appealing, and they did a great job at that while not losing the cohesive attitude the band has had for some time. This album made it onto the list for those reasons. It’s also just fun to listen to!