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3.6 out of 5 stars
Roman Candle
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£6.85+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 13 December 2003
Elliott Smith, who has tragically died, was one of the finest songwriters of our generation. This album is his first lo-fi solo acoustic CD - the other two are Either/Or and his self-titled one. After that, he branched out into slicker, more polished territory, with XO and Figure 8.
For me, the first three solo albums are Elliott at his best because they ache with the most emotion due to the lack of polish and studio gloss. The intimacy of a simple acoustic recording on a Portastudio should not be underestimated - especially not when the songs are this beautiful, with dark, sometimes depressing lyrics.
Roman Candle is a stark, quiet, beautiful record and is probably Elliott's equivalent of Nick Drake's Pink Moon in that it is so minimalistic in production, mostly just acoustic guitar and vocals. His voice sounds gorgeous, Elliott could sing like a bruised angel, but his punk background lent real power to his sweet melodies, as can be found in the barbed lyrics: "I want to hurt him, I want to give him pain". Elliott gets placed in the folk category a lot of the time, but really it's acoustic indie folk punk with a heavy nod to 1960s guitar pop, particularly the Beatles.
Elliott was a true master of the acoustic guitar and a genius songwriter. What a shame he has left us, but his music will go on forever.
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on 10 December 2010
Elliott Smith's debut album is a remarkable piece of work. It is lo-fi (indeed was pretty much recorded single-handed in a small room) and is incredibly intimate. Lyrically, as with all Smith's work, it is brilliant. Lines such as "I'm lying here, blowing smoke from my cigarette, little whisper smoke signs, that you'll never get" can paint a picture and export you to a different (and darker) place.

From the simmering anger that underlies the opening track, Roman Candle, it is an emotional ride, but one that is totally accessible due to the beautiful (and deceptively complex) melodies that accompany the emotive lyrics. What is mainly an acoustic album reaches it's crescendo in the song Last Call, with Smith singing "You cast your shadow everywhere like the man in the moon, you start to drink, you just want to continue, it'll all be yesteryear soon".

Smith was never going to be mainstream, as he sings in No Name #1 "Leave alone, leave alone because you know you don't belong". Maybe the only place Elliott Smith ever truly belonged was in the hearts of his many fans.

There is no ego here, no rich guy singing about how tough it is being poor, just someone who lived the life that he wrote about.
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on 8 February 2002
Elliott Smith has become something of a phenomenon in recent times. Whether history will show him to be as legendary as a Paul Simon or a Nick Drake will have to be seen. Something we already know is that since this debut album, a new sensitive singer-songwriter appears every other day with a swooping voice and some damn fine guitarwork.
This may well be a coincidence but its hard to discount the fact that Elliott Smith is the master of the genre. That genre being heartbroken, gutwrenching ballads which seem incredibly soothing though brimming over with spite and regret.
This, his first solo album, is neither as smooth nor accomplished as any of the subsequent albums, particularly Figure 8 which is as slick as an oil accident. Instead the tunes are subdued, mostly four-track produced fare, which though lacking in production value exude sentiment and genuine emotion.
'Condor Avenue' and 'Roman Candle' are the two standout tracks, although the series of 'No Name' songs give an insight into how this record stated Smith's intent. Though he has achieved more commercial successes and has become more graceful with each album, this remains the foundation on which he has built.
This is an engaging record, one which isn't the easiest to listen to but is ultimately rewarding. If you buy one Elliott Smith album, I would recommend Either/Or. If you like that though this is a pretty rum album itself.
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on 5 December 2005
Let's not over egg the talents of the late great artist Elliott Smith. Unfortunately his truly unique sound has been ceased upon by those who enjoy the legend of genius that was so cruelly taken. He isn't Cobain or Buckley he is simply Smith.
If you own this album you won't need me to tell you its one of those albums that not enough people get, if you do get into Smith you'll enjoy his incomplete masterpiece 'From a Basement on the Hill'.
For those that don't own this, many bands have tried Smith's jingle jangle acoustic guitar such as Turin Brakes on the opening track of their debut, but few have sounded as doubtful of the ground they stood on as Smith does on opening/title track 'Roman Candle'.
Moving crisply through the reportoire of Smith, Roman Candle is full of regret and the kind of social snobbery we all experience from time to time "Everyone has gone/ Home to oblivion" he crackles on No Name #3 (used on the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack). Highlights are hard to pick because this is a complete body of work not a collection of sound bites.
If you want Cobain or Curtis to come crashing into your living room with an acoustic guitar don't buy this album. If want a unique acoustic sound, then the man to start with is Elliott Smith and the album to start with Roman Candle.
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on 8 October 2000
Roman Candle was written and recorded whilst Elliott was still a member of the grunge/rock band Heatmiser but dont let that fool you this is a total change of direction.
This is a beautifully fragile solo accoustic album, right from the opening of the title track through to the final track Kiwi Maddog 20/20 the listener is on a journey. The most recognisable track to the general public will be No Name #3, which was featured on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. It is however not the best, that honour in my opinion falls to the magnificent Condor Avenue, closely followed by No Name #4.
Roman Candle is a rough edged accoustic album of a great great songwriter, buy it if only to make him a little happier! He deserves it!
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on 7 April 2009
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 smith get XO or figure 8 first. The track 'roman candle', 'condor avenue', 'no name # 3', and 'drive over town' are ace, the rest of the tracks are very good but these that I've named are stand out tracks especially 'condor ave' (amazing track).
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on 15 July 2010
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 overdubs. The odd backing vocal here and there. No percussion. So it should be awful. Further more only 5 of the 9 songs have titles, the others being No Name #1, #2, #3 and #4.

It sounds very intimate, with every breath of his vocals and every movement of his fingers clearly audible, perhaps due to the 4-track production. The title track sets the tone for the album, with it's insistent guitars and slightly menacing refrain ("I want to hurt him, I want to give him pain"). Condor Avenue is in a similar vein, and sounds like the raw materials for his later, more well-known material.

No Name #1 and No Name #2 have a more relaxed feel, #2 throwing in some harmonica. What separates this from the usual run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter fare is some unexpected chord changes which crop up all over the album, notably in No Name #3

It's a little samey when listened to right through, though final track Kiwi Maddog 20/20, an instrumental, is a welcome departure, with surf-style guitar. The rest of it can be bracketed with Nick Drake's Pink Moon, Leonard Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate etc.

I understand this album has been recently remastered and re-released, which I presume means cleaned up to make it `sound better'. Shame. Part of the charm is the little glitches here and there on the album. And I am fond of hearing fingers sliding over guitar strings.
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on 14 April 2015
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.
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