Are You Shakespearienced? (reissue)

Trip Shakespeare

Omnivore Recordings, 2014

http://www.tripshakespeare.com

REVIEW BY: David Bowling

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/20/2015

Before they signed to the national A&M label, the Harvard University-born Trip Shakespeare issued two well received and critically acclaimed independent albums. The first, 1986’s Applehead Man (see my review), found the band’s music in an embryonic stage. 1989’s nbtc__dv_250 Are You Shakespearienced is a more mature effort where the music has been honed by hundreds of live performances. Omnivore Recordings has now reissued both albums, complete with bonus tracks.

The band had expanded to a foursome on this release, with guitarist/keyboardist Dan Wilson joining original members guitar/vocalist Matt Wilson, bassist John Munson, and drummer Elaine Harris. His presence created a fuller sound and expanded the vocal harmonies. The nearly three-year period between albums allowed the band to create many of what would become their signature songs. It all adds up to their signature masterpiece. However, when they signed to a label with national distribution, some of their creative edge was silenced as they tried to fit in to the mainstream a bit too much.

The band’s live shows tended to have an improvisational nature where they linked songs together in a chain. While some of that approach is lost in the studio, the tracks here still present a cohesive whole as they meander and flow into each other. “Swing,” “Two Wheeler Four Wheeler,” “Spirit,” and “Reception” present Trip Shakespeare at their quirky, rocking best.

The nine-track original album is enhanced by nine more previously unreleased bonus songs. The live favorite “Look At The Lady” emerges as a sonic studio track alongside such lost songs as “Earth,” “By Revolving,” “Car,” “Black Road,” “Stories End,” and “10,000 Watt Searching Light,” which were all originally recorded about the same time.

Are You Shakesperienced? finds a powerful, creative, and wonderfully eclectic rock band at their best. It is a trip worth taking.

Rating: B+

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