Sunday, June 06, 2010

Collectibles #30: Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King Super Deluxe Box Set (2009)

Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King is the seventh studio album by Dave Matthews Band, and their first since saxophonist LeRoi Moore died unexpectedly on 19th August 2008 following complications after an all-terrain vehicle accident.

LeRoi was one of the founding members of the band, and his passing was a real blow to all DMB fans like myself, because in DMB, every one of the members is integral to the essence and sound of the band, and he cannot simply be replaced. R.I.P. LeRoi.

But life still must go on, and DMB bravely carried on by roping in Jeff Coffin (not the most auspicious of names), from the group Bela Flack and the Flecktones. Jeff had already stood in for the tour dates that LeRoi missed, and went on to finish up the recordings that LeRoi didn't manage to complete. As such, Whiskey contains both LeRoi and Coffin's work.

The "GrooGrux" in the album title is a nickname of LeRoi's, and the album cover shows a sketch of LeRoi beaming, with a crown on to top of his head. As a further tribute to LeRoi, the album opens with the track Grux, which showcases his smooth and jazzy tenor sax improvisations amid Carter's rolling toms and Boyd's violin strings.

The track then segues into the funky Shake Me Like A Monkey, which features prominent horns courtesy of new unofficial member Rashawn Ross on trumpets. It's a big band number and a great showcase of Carter's drumming.

Other standout tracks on the album include the upbeat first single Funny The Way It Is, the tender ballad You And Me, the subtle Lying In The Hands Of God, and my personal favourite, the jam tune Why I Am.

The US version of the album (both the standard and deluxe CD/DVD) contains 13 tracks, while the European version (CD version only) contains two additional bonus tracks - Write A Song and Cornbread.

The Super Deluxe Box Set contains the US version CD/DVD album, but it comes with an additional CD titled Little Red Bird, an EP with four songs that were recorded during the sessions but not included on the final cut - #27, Beach Ball, Little Red Bird and Write A Song. Thus, Cornbread is only available on the European version of the album.

Cornbread and #27 were previously performed live on tour before the album sessions began, and they can be found on DMB's 2007 Live At Piedmont Park album.

This Super Deluxe Box Set comes in a beautiful big box, with the CDs and DVD housed in individual cardboard sleeves with their individual slots. There is a CD-sized booklet titled "Roi", containing 23 pages of pictures of LeRoi. Nice. There is also a 40-page photo book titled "Grux Pix" and a set of 14 drawings by Dave Matthews with song lyrics.

Whiskey was released on 2nd June 2009 and it became their fifth consecutive Billboard 200 chart topper. It was later nominated for two Grammy Awards - Best Rock Album and surprisingly, Album Of the Year. While DMB went home empty handed, I thought they deserved the nod thoroughly. Whiskey is my favourite studio album since 1998's Before These Crowded Streets.

DMB have announced recently that they will be taking a break from touring in 2011 and return in 2012. While I would love to catch them again in concert soon, I think they do deserve the break. They've been touring non-stop for the past 20 years, hitting the road every year without fail. I look forward to watching them live in 2012 again.

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