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Mother Love Bone: Stardog Champion

Side Note: The Self Titled eponymous LP by Temple of the Dog was written and recorded in tribute to Mother Love Bones lead vocalist Andrew Wood.
If anyone was born to be a rock star it was Andrew Wood, the lead vocalist and primary songwriter of the late 80s/early 90s Seattle act Mother Love Bone. Wood [...]


Side Note: The Self Titled eponymous LP by Temple of the Dog was written and recorded in tribute to Mother Love Bones lead vocalist Andrew Wood.

If anyone was born to be a rock star it was Andrew Wood, the lead vocalist and primary songwriter of the late 80s/early 90s Seattle act Mother Love Bone. Wood was obsessed with enigmatic vocalists such as Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, the list goes on. Sadly his dreams of rock-stardom were cut short when Wood OD’ed shortly before the release of Mother Love Bones debut LP Apple.

Widely regarded as the forerunners of Grunge, Mother Love Bone owed more to 70s Glam Rock and 80s stadium rock, then it did to Black Sabbath and The Stooges, two acts that proved to be highly influential towards the sound of grunge. Mother Love Bone was born out of the ashes of two Seattle acts Green River and Malfunkshun; Mother Love Bone quickly made a name for themselves locally, which promptly garnered the band attention from the major labels. Mother Love Bone would go onto sign with Mercury records releasing their debut album Apple on July, 19th 1990.

Opening with “This Is Shangri-La” Apple kicks into high gear with a twin guitar attack from guitarists Bruce Fairweather and Stone Gossard. The rhythm section consisting of Jeff Ament on bass and Greg Gilmore on drums, provide “This Is Shangri-La” with the memorable groove that defined the sound and feel of the band.

Musically Mother Love Bone bears a lot of similarity to Pearl Jam which is not surprising since Ament and Gossard would go on to form Pearl Jam after the death of Wood. As vocalists, Eddie Vedder and Andrew Wood could not be more different: Wood sings in a high tenor reminiscent of T-Rexs Marc Bolan, whereas Vedder sings with a baritone vocal inflection similar to The Who’s Roger Daltrey.

Track 2 “Stardog Champion” has all the hallmarks of an early 10-era Pearl Jam track with heavy stadium-sized drums, a thumping bassline and melodic guitars, however Woods vocal-take is pure 70s Glam Rock at its finest. Lyrically Wood takes a page out of the 70s Glam songbook as well, with his subject being about “a wartime hero, the kind that money buys.” “Stardog Champion” ends with a backing of repeated ‘Na Na Na’s’ sang by a childrens choir, that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early David Bowie album.

Track 3 “Holy Roller” is another stadium rock-ish barnstormer that sounds a lot like Jane’s Addiction fronted by, well, Andrew Wood.  “Holy Roller” shows the guitar talent of both Bruce Fairweather and Stone Gossard. A lot of the rhythm guitar characteristics we would become familiar with from Gossard are present on “Holy Roller.”

Track 4 “Bone China” plays like a mid-70s Led Zeppelin track, heavy on atmosphere, high dramatics and layered guitar.

Andrew Wood had obviously spent some time studying Freddie Mercury’s vocals as well as songwriting prowess when it came to writing ballads. Track 13 “Man of Golden Words” a track consisting of only Woods vocals and lone piano, backed gently strummed acoustic guitars. The line “I want to show you the joy within my heart, it seems I’ve been living in the temple of the dog” would provide the band name used in tribute to Wood. “Man of Golden Words” proves to be an affecting tribute to addiction, and the despair and loneliness that comes with it.

Track 6 “Stargazer” is a largely acoustic based ballad sounding similar in style to the California rock band Tesla. While not entirely a ballad, yet not quite a rock ‘n’ roll track, “Stargazer” would not have sounded out of place on Led Zeppelins Physical Graffiti.

 

Apple’s centerpiece is the epic closing track “Crown of Thorns” quite possibly the most well known track from Mother Love Bone as it appeared on the period-piece film Singles. Often released along with “Chloe Dancer”, “Crown of Thorns” appears as its lone version on Apple. This version is 6 minutes 18 seconds trimmed down from the 8 minute and 40 second version that combined both “Chloe Dancer” and “Crown of Thorns.” Like many of Wood’s lyrics, the lyrics to “Crown of Thorns” are quite opaque; Wood lets his emotional vocal performance, eerie backing music and epic production tell the story. Wood sings about heartbreak and the ruins of drug addiction, as well as the consequences that addiction had on his personal relationships. The line: “Life is what you make it…and if you make it death well then rest your soul” tells the whole story, and sadly the story of Andrew Wood.

It’s hard to believe that 2011 marks the 20 year anniversary when the Seattle scene exploded with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden leading the pack. It can be said that real music died with Kurt Cobain in ’94, however I disagree; there have been plenty of great artists that have emerged since Cobain’s untimely death. If time really is the test of a great artists legacy then Mother Love Bones place within rock history set in stone.


So if you enjoy acts such as Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, 70s era Aerosmith, David Bowie and Queen, then Mother Love Bone is a wise choice.

“Life is what you make it…and if you make it death well then rest your soul”  ~ Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns


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