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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 11 April 2017
Amazing album, beautiful songs.
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1997's 'Either/Or' is a very strong contender for the title of the late American artist Elliott Smith's greatest album, and certainly in my own top 40 releases of all-time. If you're keen to introduce a friend to his brilliance, then this, Elliott's third studio album, is the one to play to them.

The sound of this man could not be simpler, a young troubadour, and a visionary songwriter in the same vein as Bob Dylan for writing meaningful songs. He knew his way around an acoustic guitar better than a lot of his contemporaries, and his softly-soften, but always sincere and assuring vocal delivery was a winning combination when backed with the raw, stripped-back simple production which he favoured. Although Elliott's music was always largely on the (wonderfully) depressing scale, 'Either/Or', though only occasionally, actually has it's more upbeat pop moments, but every track, upbeat or otherwise, is a little work of art.

If I was pushed to single out just four of them personal highlights on this album, then I guess I would have to opt for Sixties-tingled 'Alameda' with it's terrific rhythm, 'Angeles', a particularly catchy tune which I believe to be about the hypocrisy surrounding the music business, the stirring 'Between the Bars', made famous in the same year of this record when it was used in the closing credits of the hit film 'Good Will Hunting', and the heart-warming, frankly adorable 'Say Yes', which fades things out beautifully.

'Either/Or' ultimately provides a very enjoyable, and laid-back listening experience, but when you start to listen closely to the lyrics, you'll soon see how dark and disturbing the majority of these songs were. Although artistically brilliant and a treat to listen too, they do make you feel sad that the man was clearly such a troubled soul, stricken with cruel depression. In 2003, he died a mysterious death at the age of just 34.

Elliott Smith has now achieved a real cult following, and is largely regarded now as some kind of musical 'genius', and although that's a word which has been overused so much, especially in recent times that it has become almost cringe-worthy, don't cringe when you hear it said of him, because he really does merit such a title. Rest in Peace Elliott, and thank you for all the music that will continued to be enjoyed for many years to come.
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on 26 November 2001
This is a great album. Excellent song writing, and wonderfully lo-fi sounding. The production makes it sound like Elliot is next door, playing live and it's all coming through the wall a little bit muffled. Very human sounding and very melodic.
Mind you, if you dont have his other first two albums I would buy the box set instead, that contains this and them for similar money. (they're good as well)
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on 12 July 2003
This is the first album I heard by Elliott Smith, and it left me so hungry to hear more of his work that I just had to buy all his albums.

Either/Or is perhaps his best work, it is an absolute dream for fans of lo-fi, stripped down, intimate, acoustic guitar mastery. The album lacks the polish of his later works XO and Figure 8 but in my opinion it has ten times the magic.

After all, what is a bit of tape hiss between friends? Yes, this album has that but to be honest, if Elliott re-recorded it in an all singing, all dancing 24-track studio, he couldn't better what he has made here.

It has a gentle, folky, campfire intimacy that makes you feel as though you know Elliott, you are chilling with him as he captivates you with his incredible guitar picking and his extraordinary voice.

Comparisons with Nick Drake are inevitable but perhaps a little misleading. The only real similarity is that, like Nick, Elliott is a poet who knows just how beautiful the simplicity of vocals and acoustic guitar can be. But I think Elliott sounds more like a Beatle. If he had been in the group his voice would have perfectly complemented John and Paul.

This is an album where every track has something beautiful about it - Between the Bars is a gorgeous ballad, while Speed Trials contains an infectious, haunting melody you will never get out of your head. Rose Parade is another amazing acoustic song with some humorous, wry lyrics - only Elliott could get away with mentioning the Duracell Bunny without looking silly.

Behind the bitterness and hurt of many of the lyrics on the album lurks an angry punk, not a wistful folkie, which in my opinion makes it all the more special. It amazes me that he does not have the public recognition that Radiohead enjoy - he clearly deserves it. A modern day genius. Sometimes five stars just don't seem enough.
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on 9 March 2000
I wouldn't personally rate this as highly as his ... (admittedly more commercial) ... album XO, but it's still a magnificent demonstration of the immense talent of this man. 'Ballad of Big Nothing' is one of the best songs he's ever written, understated, heartfelt and moving, and the rest of the album comes extremely close to matching it. If I have one complaint it's that the album does tend to get a bit samey if you're listening to all 35 minutes at once - but that doesn't mean the songs aren't brilliant. You might recognise a lot of this album from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack but buy it on its own merits - it's superb.
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on 7 March 2007
The impossibly exquisite tenderness with which Elliot sings songs such as " Say Yes, " " Angeles," and " Rose Parade, " have endeared him to millions of people. His songs have a melodic simplicity, purity and honesty that recall the folk-pop classics of the 60's and 70's such as George Harrisons " All Things Must Pass," Led Zeppelins " Thats The Way," and Paul Simons " April Come She Will. " If you liked those tracks then Elliot is the man for you. RIP.
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on 2 August 2006
i remember buying this album xmas 98 just after XO came out domino re-released his first three albums so I didn't know where to start but I had heard 'between the bars' on the UNCUT albums of year compilation, so I went for 'either/or'. The influence is still resonating to this day nobody I feel was writing pure acoustic pop up to that point and lo-fi production gained elliott his rabid cult following. On first listen 'Say Yes' is such brillant song using 60's style songwriting (simon & garfunkel/kinks/beatles) but with a contempory edge and is still in my opinon his finest song, closely followed by '2:45' the intimacy on this track is just so absorbing the conviction in elliott's voice is what stands him out from alot other more mainstream singer-songwriters you just know he means every single word. Probably the best place to start if your a virgin elliott smith listener.
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on 11 November 1999
Subtle songs of love and life from one of the best songwriters of the decade. This, his third album is slightly less low key/low-fi than his first two albums but dosen't suffer the commercial pretention of it's succesor "XO". Smith writes short simple acoustic numbers that he backs with minimalist bass and drums which he plays himself. There are elemnts of Nick Drake in his folky blend. Smith like Drake is an extremely acomplished guitarist and this really shows on tracks such as "angelis" and its complex one guitar intro. This is his best album (much of which turns up on the "Good Will Hunting"soundtrack); Short, endlessly beutiful, soulful, subtle and understated, you will want to cherish this CD and play it till it melts. Everyone with a soul should own this CD.
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on 7 October 2000
Elliot Smith manages to write songs of unconcealed spite, disguised by the most beautiful melodies. Either/Or does it again. There's real beauty in songs like 'Alameda' (which is all about someone who's so pretentious and self-possessed they can't see it when they're onto a good thing), or 'Ballad of Big Nothing' ('do what you want to whenever you want to though it doesn't mean a thing').
And that's Elliott all over: all understated sidewalk angst, blues wrapped up in candy. This album's up to the standard fans have come to expect of him. That is, it's very very good. The songs survive the mix which is a bit too fuzzy at times for my liking; but it's worth buying for '2:45am' alone, the most brooding in this lot of dark and lonely rejection songs.
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on 17 December 2010
Elliott Smith's 3rd album is considered by many to be his best. It is the last of his lo-fi albums and is just brimming with fantastic songs. In fact there are probably 5 songs on the album that would make the grade, if I were to make a favourite all time songs compilation.

It's not as angry as his previous album, but there's a tension beneath the surface, that's for sure. From the haunting Speed Trials, through to the beautiful Say Yes, the album takes the listener on an emotional journey. From the loneliness of Alameda, "now you see your first mistake, was thinking that you could relate", to the addiction of Between the Bars. From the individual, looking in from the outside on Rose Parade, to the whispering temptation of Angeles, "I could make you satisfied in everything you do, all your secret wishes could right now be coming true".

For anyone who likes the singer/songwriter genre, then Elliott Smith is head and shoulders above all the copycat acts that have come along since. No-one has come close, either in melody, or lyric. The only problem with buying this album, is that it will make you realise how bad some of your other albums are.
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