To me Andrew Woods was the most charismatic, talented and promising epic rock ballad writer and vocalist not only coming out of Seattle but coming out of rock music in general. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous and crazy. Unless you were a part of the 1990s grunge rock music movement you might have not even heard his name before. Andrew Woods became known pretty well in Seattle in 1998, when former members of a band called Green River, namely Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Bruce Fairweather formed a new band together with Greg Gilmore, and Andrew Woods who had closed his own prior creation, Malfunkshun. The band was called Mother Love Bone and became fairly well known in the area due mostly to Andrew Woods' glamorous on stage persona. His clothes were flamboyant and psychedelic and his act was interactive and breathtaking. After releasing an ep Shine in 1989 they have recorded this album Apple in 1990 but unfortunately a few days before the scheduled release of this music Andrew Woods overdosed on heroine, his longer term addiction. The music of this album has its own special mood but it could be characterized as a mixture of hard and grunge and glam rock with 4 beautiful epic rock ballads mixed within. All these ballads were written by Andrew Woods. Together with a couple of other great songs of faster and mixed tempo, Bone China and Stardog Champion written by Stone Gossard, these softer rock songs: Stargazer, Man Of Golden Words, Gentle Groove and Crown Of Thorns are my reason for writing this review, because these songs are what I love about this album. Andrew Woods wrote all lyrics for Mother Love Bone and besides being intensely powerful in their own special fragmented way they project certain poetic hazy dreamy quality accentuated by his spectacular way of singing. However, the 100 pound gorilla in the room is, to me, the absolute beauty of Andrew's voice. Imagine mixing 25% of each, Robert Plant's, Ian Astbury's, Marc Bolan's and David Coverdale's voice. We would be close but still not there. Adding the value of his voice to his style of singing and his perfect lyrics to showcase it all gives us some of the most beautiful rock ballads ever composed and performed. And they truly sound like songs copming out of the albums of Deep Pruple, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow or Black Sabbath, much more than Pearl Jam or Nirvana. I am sure that many people who like the harder sound love this album from a to z and might have a problem with my following sentence. However, if you happen not to care for hard sound that much but you love great rock ballads, how often do you get 4 to 5 (Bone China could be considered one as well) amazing epic ballad songs out on the debut album of a rock band? The answer to this question explains my beginning sentence of this review. This album Apple was released together with the Shine ep again in 1992 and you should probably purchase that copy, but this original release with this album cover is very dear to me personally.
Stardog Champion starts like it was coming out if the middle of some good Black Sabbath song, but its progression exchanges its hardness for the ambience of its chorus section where Andrew's vocals are being reinforced by a spectacular kids choir whose voices give this amazing song its one of the kind memorable ending.
Bone China has this Kashmir or When The Levee Breaks like Led Zeppelin quality to it and the fragments of lyrics Andrew so beautifully delivers here sketch a story details of which are unclear and unique for every one of us.
Stargazer is an amazing completely one of a kind love song with spectacular lyrics. To me this is one of those most special songs addressing a woman in a straight forward, honest, simple and beautiful way she can relate to because she usually cares so much for beauty. The progression of this song is slight but wonderful nevertheless. About 3.20 into it the most powerful section of this song comes on, just like the final moments of Stardog Champion took that song over the top. Stargazer, although quite different, reminds me of Deep Purple's Soldier Of Fortune, my most favorite rock ballad.
Man Of Golden Words is my the most favorite song of this album. This is a song expressing love towards music. I bet it is the most beautiful song of its kind ever written. The lyrics are phenomenal here: 'Let's fall in love with music, the driving force in our living, the only international language, divine glory, the expression, the knees bow the tongue confesses; the lord of lords, the kings of kings; words and music - my only tools, communication'. Has a greater tribute ever been paid and a better testimony delivered to our love for music? Andrew Woods has expressed my feelings here as well.
Gentle Groove is another great rock ballad written and sung in such a powerful way by this prolific artist. It is produced in an interesting way of the piano melody recorded loader than it is often the case and retaining the central stage throughout. I wonder what exactly Andrew was addressing here because I have this feeling that when he says: 'nobodies gonna change the way I feel for my love' this time he does not mean - a woman.
Crown Of Thorns is another spectacular song and I can completely understand that many can consider it the best song here. This song is a perfect companion to times when things do not work out really well. Oh Andy, I guess you know by now that your words: 'if you make it death well rest your soul away' should have been phrased quite differently... I am afraid there is no easy way out of here. Sometimes we wish things would be so simple but that simply defies the rules of this universe in which nothing is simple and everything has that cause and effect we just can't run away from. Nor should we want to because we direct and control our own lives in a much greater way than we often consider it possible. I have a feeling that if you were exposed to a different, more esoteric set of rules reigning over our lives, and kept in mind that you yourself were going to be evaluating your own life and setting conditions for the individual evolution of your soul - you would have less of a problem getting rid of your addiction. But you most likely know it all by now...and the life goes on... I do like the full version of Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns but quite honestly I feel like these are 2 unrelated songs joined together (very nicely and are a pleasure to listen to in such way), but that the real power is contained in this main song.
Chris Cornell of Soundgarden who used to be Andrew's roommate conceived a tribute project by involving Andrew's former band members and others, including Eddie Vedder who was to become Stone Gossard's and Jeff Ament's music partner for years to come. The tribute project and the band got the name Temple Of The Dog (taken from the lyric of Man Of Golden Words). It is a spectacular self titled album from 1991, with a hauntingly beautiful song Hunger Strike. However, to me that song has much more in common with the next incarnation of Stone, Jeff, Eddie and additional band members. Pearl Jam was born shortly after Andrew Woods' departure from the visible world.