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A member of the band Heatmiser, Elliot Smith recorded home demos on any equipment he could get his hands on. His first "solo" album is a cheap, four-track home recording that hints at the melodic possibilities Smith would explore in greater detail on subsequent releases. The title track is remarkable but with four songs referred to in sequential order as "No Name #1", "No Name #2", etc. , the inspiration isn't always fully firing. Blessed with a quiet, angelic voice and a lyrical mind that easily transforms the squalid details of everyday life into something worth hearing about twice, Smith stood on the verge of getting it on. With his next, self-titled release, he did. --Rob O'Connor
In a 1998 interview with Magnet Magazine, Elliott Smith posited the idea that “music is worth doing just because”. Admittedly taken out of context, these words nevertheless encapsulate almost everything the late singer stood for: the solace he found in creating and recording his songs, and the joy he derived from playing them.
Given the breadth and quality of his discography, it is easy to forget that Smith’s career as a solo artist was never a premeditated one. Rather, the nine songs that comprise debut album Roman Candle were presented to a small independent label as little more than a glorified demo, and even then only due to the goading of his girlfriend at the time. Recorded on a four-track machine in his basement and likely gestated for the most part while on the road with Heatmiser, they were never expressly intended for anyone’s ears other than Smith’s own – a factor certainly borne out in their deeply personal themes.
This reissue is the result of his friend and archivist Larry Crane performing an unobtrusive remastering of those original cuts with Roger Seibel of SAE Mastering, and you can’t help but feel that any ire aimed their way by some of the hardcore Smith contingent has been sorely misguided. The creak of fingers sliding down the fretboard, the sound of bum notes and hissing reels: all these things indelibly remain. To over-contemplate its reissue on purely technical terms would be a mistake, as well as a disservice.
Smith tangibly seethes as he delivers the title-track’s central lyric, painting a picture of domestic abuse that crops up throughout the remainder. It is a vivid, brave song with which to open an album (not least a career) and like many here, it’s rendered all the more poignant by his tragic, untimely demise. But alongside this bleakness lies compassion, and its central salvo of unnamed tracks illustrates his gift for marrying the clearest, most beautiful melodies to darker subtexts.
If music is worth doing “just because”, it is worth listening to because of musicians like Elliott Smith. Which isn’t to say that Roman Candle is his best or most defining work – although uniformly strong, he would go on to write better-realised songs and fuller, more satisfying albums. But this remains a searingly honest and decisive collection. As a genesis of exceptional talent it is flawless, and heartbreakingly so. --James Skinner
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I love this album. However, track 'no name #2' skips. Im not to sure why, it may have something to do with transferring songs to itunes.Published 5 months ago by Jesse
Elliott Smith released his debut in 1994, a short album running to just half an hour in duration. It's largely his breathy vocals and acoustic guitar, with some electric guitar... Read morePublished on 15 July 2010 by klaher
Elliott's first album, released in 1994. If you already own the rest of his back catalogue this is a definite purchase but if you are considering this as a 'first timer' to elliott... Read morePublished on 7 April 2009 by El Duder