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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second-compilation of Screaming Trees..., 17 May 2005
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ocean of Confusion: Songs 1989 - 1996 (Audio CD)
Formed in the mid-1980s, Screaming Trees produced several-albums for the great SST-label- the fruits of which are collected on the two-disc 'Anthology.' Their sound was not only steeped in the U.S. underground of that time (Scratch Acid, Black Flag, Meat Puppets), but also nodded to the harsher end of rock (Black Sabbath, Motorhead, AC/DC) & to psychedelic-rock (Cream, Jimi Hendrix)They built a potent live-sound, even if their early-records weren't that exciting - following 1990's 'A Change is Gonna Come' e.p. on Sub Pop, they signed to Epic and attempted to bring their sound to a major record label. 'Ocean of Confusion' charts that experience, which ended with 1996's 'Dust' (though the Trees would perform one last time in Seattle in 2000).
This compilation, which is quite timely considering singer Mark Lanegan's critical & commercial popularity on the back of work with Masters of Reality, Queens of the Stone Age, Martina Topley Bird, Desert Sessions and his own solo-career/Mark Lanegan Band, showcases highlights from the latter part of the Trees' career. The songs stem from the albums 'Uncle Anesthesia' (1991, co-produced by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell), 'Sweet Oblivion' (1992, produced by Don Fleming & mixed by Andy'Nevermind'Wallace) & the aforementioned 'Dust'- a troubled album that had been several years in the making (& was eventually produced by George Drakoulias of Jayhawks/Black Crowes-fame & mixed by Wallace). There are also a few non-album tracks- opener 'Who Lies in Darkness' coming from the 'Something About Today' e.p., 'For Celebrations Past' was a bonus-track on 'Sweet Oblivion', 'E.S.K.' on the b-side of 'Nearly Lost You' & the two previously unreleased tracks, 'Watchpocket Blues' & 'Paperback Bible.'
'Uncle Anesthesia' isn't that well represented, though to be fair, the mix/production didn't capture the Trees epic live-sound - it probably should have sounded more like Kyuss' 'Blues for the Red Sun.' The catchy 'Alice Said' is included, as is the slight ballad 'Ocean of Confusion' (which leads to 'Closer' on the source-album) & the adventerous 'Disappearing'- which predicts the eclectic-instrumentation of 'Dust' & nods to Ennio Morricone. Pity tracks like 'Caught Between', 'Lay Your Head Down' & 'Uncle Anesthesia' are passed over...
The following year, Fleming & Wallace managed to tackle the Trees sound- and the songwriting improved, rumours abound that Mark Lanegan wrote more from 1991 onwards (following his great solo album 'The Winding Sheet') The other change was in drummer- Mark Pickeral replaced by Barrett Martin (REM, QOTSA)- who with the Conner-brothers helped fire up a potent-storm behind Lanegan. The bulk of this compilation comes from 'Sweet Oblivion', their most popular record and one that featured kind of hit-singles, the anthemic 'Dollar Bill' & the Cream-style pop of 'Nearly Lost You' (which featured on the bestselling 'Singles'-soundtrack). Other highlights include the blues/feedback freakout 'Julie Paradise', the gorgeous ballad 'More or Less' & the psych-Byrdsesque 'Butterfly' (which predicts 'Make My Mind' on 'Dust') The highlight of 'Sweet Oblivion' is included here- opener 'Shadow of the Season', which captures that huge sound which builds and builds as Lanegan hollers "for sweet oblivion feels alright" as the Trees-trademark harmonics come in (something QOTSA borrowed I think!)
Despite being around close to a decade, the Trees were associated with the grunge-scene - possibly to their detrement, as I think they're superior to peers such as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam & Soundgarden. The inter-band relations were notably frail- one Conner-brother leaving the Trees to join Dinosaur Jr. for a bit and Lanegan returning to his parallel solo-career to produce 'Whiskey for the Holy Ghost' (1993) and sing with Mad Season & The Walkabouts. An album was apparently recorded & rejected & the Seattle was awash with deaths and overdoses - the scene's demise charted by favourite inside-source Everett True in his book 'Live Through This.'
A follow-up was recorded and released to great critical acclaim in 1996, 'Dust' given the "best rock album since 'Nevermind'"-tag that 'Rated R' would get a few years later. Grunge was out- smart hip-hop inflections (Beck, Beastie Boys) & Britpop were more in vogue. Sadly the Trees' were too associated with that dead-scene and 'Dust' would fail commercially and pretty much end their career (along with rumours of much documented chemical problems). This is a great pity, as 'Dust' was one of the highlights of the 1990s - the band & songwriting on fine-form with an epic production and eclectic use of instrumentation (imagine 'Physical Graffiti'-era Led Zeppelin playing Cream-tracks in as concise a manner as the first-side of 'Funhouse'...) Tablas, harmoniums, coral sitars, gospel choirs, guest players etc. all featured heavily...
From 'Dust' we get five-tracks, 'Make My Mind' - which is another Byrds-Hendrix modelled track featuring Chris Goss (Masters of Reality, Kyuss) on harmony-vocals. The should have been single/anthem 'Dying Days' - an elegy for the casualties of the time featuring Pearl Jam's Mike McCready & the aforementioned gospel choir and intoning ancient blues lyrics - is probably worth the price of entry alone. Single 'Sworn & Broken' is another track that should have been a huge hit, and sounds like Alice in Chains playing a track from 'Automatic for the People' & offers a mellotron-solo from Benmont Tench that recalls The Zombies! 'Witness', a standard Trees-rocker and the least track on 'Dust' is included, something I find odd- single 'All I Know' should be on here, and arguably 'Halo of Ashes', 'Dime Western' or 'Gospel Plow'!!! Proceedings end on 'Traveler', which is close to Lanegan's solo-recordings and not far from the late works of Johnny Cash- who probably should have covered this song...
'Ocean of Confusion' is an excellent primer in Screaming Trees' career - most of the highlights are here, though I'd purchase 'Dust' and the first two Lanegan-solo-albums to appreciate it the most!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funnest trip hop I ever did hear, 25 Oct 2008
D. Pratt "Daniel Pratt" (South Tyneside, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Forest for the Trees (Audio CD)
I remember being played this on a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) when it first came out and have only just recently acquired my own copy. It's an album I've loved playing tracks of to friends just to make them go 'wow' at the absurd complexity and seemingly modern editing going on for a project mostly complete in 1993 and an album I'm always surprised by when I'm uplifted by it's musical heart that still shines through.

It has quite a mini history attached to it too which probably drew me in. The producer, recorder, engineer, arranger and mixer Carl Stephenson, who is essentially Forest For The Trees,(not surprisingly, after hearing what he came up with) had a nervous breakdown at some point in making Forest For The Trees and subsequently took several years recovering before finally releasing the album in 1997. During the process, he managed to find and included a busking Beck on the album (along with other very talented artists). He then later produced Beck's debut album 'Mellow Gold', in which you can still hear a lot of experimental tinkering, fun cutting, unexpected sampling and whatnot.

This is an album that makes me search for more Carl Stephenson music in the hope that some day he tries it again. It's also influenced me heavily in my own recording and makes for quite a production quality goal to aim for.
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Ocean of Confusion: Songs 1989 - 1996
Ocean of Confusion: Songs 1989 - 1996 by Screaming Trees (Audio CD - 2005)
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