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Lemonheads - It's a Shame about Ray

  by Tommy Gunnarsson

published: 21 / 6 / 2022

Lemonheads - It's a Shame about Ray
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


Tommy Gunnarsson finds essential listening a 30th anniversary reissue of iconic US indie rocksters The Lemonheads’ fourth album 'It's a Shame about Ray', which includes a bonus disc of B sides and demos.

So, it’s been thirty years already? Oh my. I remember seeing the music video for The Lemonheads' cover of ‘Mrs Robinson’ on MTV’s ‘120 Minutes’, and it was my first contact with the band, as far as I remember. Suddenly, Evan Dando went from being a virtually unknown alternative rockster in the US to being an indie heartthrob, albeit with serious problems with various substances, and they owed it all to a song that they didn’t even write themselves, which seems a bit unfair, as Dando is one hell of a songwriter! Interestingly, The Lemonheads went through an almost identical evolution sound wise that their Scottish friends in Teenage Fanclub did at more or less the same time – they started out with heavy distortion and feedback, and for each album they released the sound got softer and softer, until they were basically an acoustic band. ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’ was Lemonheads’ fourth album, and here we are somewhere in the middle of this metamorphosis, as we are treated to both shades of their distorted past (like opener ‘Rockin’ Stroll’ and ‘Ceiling Fan in My Spoon’) and the new, mellower Lemonheads (like ‘My Drug Buddy’ and ‘Hannah and Gabi’). For this 30th anniversary edition, the album has been expanded with an additional disc, containing some B-sides, radio sessions and Evan’s demo recordings of most of the songs on the album, where his acoustic leanings are even more prominent. The original album has been discussed at length during the last thirty years, so I won’t bore you with that, except noting that it’s still a great album. I think it’s far more interesting to focus on that bonus disc, which opens with that aforementioned Simon & Garfunkel cover, which wasn’t actually on the original album, but was released as a stand-alone single in 1992 (and later added on subsequent pressings of the CD when it became a minor hit). According to Dando, he really dislikes the cover version (and so does Paul Simon himself, apparently), and claims that they only did it to promote an anniversary release of ‘The Graduate’ movie on home video. True or not, he still has a lot to thank that recording for. The next song, ‘Shakey Ground’, was originally released as a B-side to the ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’ single in October 1992, and it’s a nice and short (just under two minutes) acoustic song, just featuring Dando and his guitar, Moving on, we are treated to a great acoustic version of ‘My Drug Buddy’, recorded for the KCRW radio station in 1992, where Dando is joined by Juliana Hatfield (who also played and sang on the album), at the time known for her band Blake Babies, but she was about to release her first solo album that same year, and the great first album with her band The Juliana Hatfield Three in 1993. And speaking of cover versions, Dando has always had a knack for recording somewhat unexpected covers, beginning with a punk version of Suzanne Vega’s classic ‘Luka’, which was released as a single in 1989. He would then, during the 90s, record rather splendid acoustic cover versions of big pop hits to include as single B-sides, like Whitney Houston’s ‘How Will I Know’, Oasis’ ‘Live Forever’, REO Speedwagon’s ‘Keep On Loving You’ and ABBA’s ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, with the latter ibeing included on this bonus disc. And let’s not forget the ‘Varshons’ cover albums, released in 2009 and 2018! Maybe a compilation of all the cover recordings will be a future release? Finally, there are demo versions of nine of the songs on the album (the only ones missing are ‘The Turnpike Down’, ‘Alison’s Starting to Happen’ and ‘Frank Mills’), featuring just Dando and his acoustic guitar. Some of the songs sound quite a lot like the album studio version, like ‘My Drug bBuddy’, but it’s really great to hear his sparse versions of the more rock-based songs. If you need an introduction to this brilliant band, I would suggest the 2012 compilation ‘Laughing All the Way to the cCeaners’, which compiles tracks from the first album to the first volume of the aforementioned ‘Varshons’. But if you’re already a fan, this is a release for you, even if you already have the original album, as the demo versions really add a great deal, if you ask me.

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Lemonheads - It's a Shame about Ray

Lemonheads - It's a Shame about Ray

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