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Blind Melon - For My Friends
Blind Melon - For My Friends
CD Review by Jud Conway on 10/14/2008   

Blind Melon is a band fiercely determined to be more than a footnote in the annals of nineties popular music. They officially broke up in 1999, after an unsuccessful four-year effort to find a replacement for late front man Shannon Hoon. The dynamic lead singer who helped catapult Blind Melon to international renown with the 1993 single "No Rain," suffered a fatal drug overdose during the band’s 1995 tour behind sophomore release Soup. Almost a decade later, Blind Melon finally appear ready to pick up where they left off and reclaim their standing as one of the most promising working bands in rock ‘n’ roll.

Surviving members Christopher Thorn (guitars, lap steel, Wurlitzer piano) and Brad Smith (bass, percussion, background vocals) met Texas-based singer/songwriter Travis Warren (vocals, acoustic guitar) while producing his demo at their WISHBONES studio, in 2006. Thorn and Smith immediately realized that Warren possessed a voice perfectly suited to the Blind Melon sound. As it turned out, he was also a huge Blind Melon fan. Thorn and Smith recruited Warren and, shortly thereafter, talked remaining original Blind Melon members Rogers Stevens (guitars, piano) and Glen Graham (drums) into reforming the band. The quintet spent most of 2007 writing and recording For My Friends, the third "proper" Blind Melon studio release.

While Travis Warren’s vocals will no doubt draw comparison to Shannon Hoon’s familiar "tones of home," repeated listening reveals a subtle originality brewing beneath the surface of Warren’s obvious reverence for Hoon’s legacy. "Wishing Well," the album’s first single, perfectly links the old and new Blind Melon sounds, rocking with a melodic sensibility hinted at on the much underrated Soup.

Other stand-out tracks include "Last Laugh," a song Christopher Thorn wrote about the late Shannon Hoon, and the upbeat Rhodes piano-laden "Sometimes." "Down on the Pharmacy" has a great muddy opening riff that draws the listener into a Zeppelin-esque excursion. Several songs on the new release, including the eerily "Hoon-ish" opening/title track "With My Friends," end in laughter or studio chatter indicating that the new Blind Melon does not plan to take itself too seriously, an approach that served the original lineup quite well.

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