Reviews

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Sarah Rodman
01/24/2005 | Boston Herald | Album Review
When lady muse comes calling, sometimes a true artiste must separate himself or herself from mere musicians.

     Instead of releasing a single or even a double album, these artists decide to release two albums simultaneously.

     Double albums tend to be a better value - one copy of OutKast's ``Speakerboxx/The Love Below'' is cheaper than buying both of Nelly's ``Sweat'' and ``Suit'' albums. But some talents simply overflow and the songs need - nay, demand - to stand on their own.

     A single disc that cherry-picks the best songs would appear to be a smarter move, but since when are rock stars smart?

     Latest to give us both barrels is alt-folk darling Bright Eyes, also know as Conor Oberst, whose much-awaited new release has become a pair of discs, which drop tomorrow. Sheryl Crow will soon follow.

     For comparison purposes, here is a sampling of those bursting to double the pleasure of their fans (or their egos) through the years:

     Guns N' Roses (1991) - ``Use Your Illusion I'' and ``Use Your Illusion II'' (Geffen)

      What's the Difference? ``I'' was slightly harder rocking and featured hits ``Don't Cry'' and ``November Rain.''

     
Telltale Signs of Self-Indulgence: Orchestras, songs with several ``movements,'' runs 2 hours-plus.

     
Why two: Band was afraid it would break up before a third would be made. Band members were right.

     
If You Had to Buy One: ``I''

     
Better as a single album? Yes

     Bruce Springsteen (1992) - ``Human Touch'' and ``Lucky Town'' (Columbia)

     
What's the Difference? ``Lucky Town'' is a taut, under-40-minute affair that winningly combines roots, rock and blues. ``Human Touch'' is mostly filler.

     
Telltale Signs of Self Indulgence: The commission to tape of ``57 Channels (And Nothin' On).''

     
Why two: Recorded at different times, with different bands.

     
If You Had to Buy One: ``Lucky Town''

     
Better as a single album? Yes

     Ryan Adams (2003) - ``Rock N Roll'' and ``Love is Hell Pt. 1'' (Lost Highway)

     
What's the Difference? Former offers homage to everything from the Stones to Nirvana to the Strokes. Latter is a melancholy, late-night affair conceived as a longer work.

     
Telltale Signs of Self-Indulgence: Not much bloat on either.

     
Why two: Record company rejected downbeat ``Hell'' as uncommercial. To appease them he delivered ``Rock N Roll'' and agreed to break up ``Hell'' into two EPs. ``Pt. 2'' came out a month later.

     
If You Had to Buy One: ``Rock N Roll''

     
Better as a single album? Not exactly. ``Rock N Roll'' stands on its own just fine, but the label wisely combined the ``Hell'' EPs into one record, which is also great.

     Nelly (2004) - ``Sweat'' and ``Suit'' (Universal)

     
What's the Difference? ``Sweat'' is the more uptempo club affair. ``Suit'' features more experimentation and country crossover hit ``Over and Over'' featuring Tim McGraw.

     
Telltale Signs of Self-Indulgence: Sampling a bombastic John Tesh (!) instrumental for his grand entrance on ``Sweat.''

     
Why Two: So Nelly could make more money.

     
If You Had to Buy One: We're partial to the party jams of ``Sweat.''

     
Better as a single album? Yes.

     Bright Eyes (2005) - ``I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning'' and ``Digital Ash in a Digital Urn''

     
What's the Difference? ``Wide Awake'' is a lower-fi country and roots affair - with harmonies by Emmylou Harris - that rabid fans will devour. ``Digital Ash'' offers hazy folktronica.

     
Telltale Signs of Self-Indulgence: It's a Bright Eyes record. Microcosmic navel gazing is his MO.

     
Why Two: See the Difference, above.

     
If You Had to Buy One: ``I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.''

     
Better as a single album? A qualified yes. It would be a shotgun wedding but it would eliminate the less stellar tunes.


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