Sunday, August 28, 2005

10,000 Maniacs: In My Tribe

Many moons ago my first girlfriend in college turned me on to Natalie Merchant's group 10,000 Maniacs while we were kicking it in her loft and I dug them instantly. I'm all shot of that girl but the music still remains. Recently a friend played me some of their early stuff which I'd forgotten about. I must admit, however, the In My Tribe LP has a special place in my heart...

-- 10,000 Maniacs Timeline --

1982 After officially forming in the previous year, 10,000 Maniacs make their recording debut with a five track EP which is pressed on the label they launch themselves. Still officially unsigned, they distribute their effort at local concerts.

1983 Following the addition of drummer Jerry Augustyniak to it's lineup, the fledgling group began to distribute "Secrets Of The I Ching", their first full length LP, in the same manner as the previous year's debut.

1984 Based on the strength of their popularity in England, Merchant and crew are signed to Elektra Records back in the states.1985 Late in the year, 10,000 Maniacs make their "official" label debut with the album "The Wishing Chair" which is produced by Joe Boyd.

1986 John Lombardo leaves the group to seek a solo career.

1987 Producer Peter Asher helms the sessions that yield 10,000 Maniacs' breakthough LP "In My Tribe" which garners both critical and commercial acclaim for the fledgling act. The new outing becomes the group's first charting LP when it enters the US listings in the fall of the year.

1988 The "In My Tribe" parents two modest pop hits, "Like The Weather" and "What's The Matter Here?" which hit #68 and #80, respectively. The singles push the LP to #37-US at the zenith of it's year and a half long stay on the listings.

1989 The Maniacs return to the airwaves with a new set titled "Blind Man's Zoo"- which also features the production talents of Asher. "Zoo" yields the hit "Trouble Me" which is supported by a popular MTV video that pushes the cut to #44-pop. The new set eventually cracks the US top twenty where it peaks at #13.

1992 At the end of a year long hiatus, Merchant returns to the fold and they hit the studios in sessions that yield the new album "Our Time In Eden" in the fall of the year. Although the album contains only one commercial hit "These Are The Days"(#66-pop) the album itself enters the US charts by years end, where it climbs to #28 at the top of a year long run.

1993 Early in the year, the group performs at the MTV Inaugural Ball for President Bill Clinton in Washington, DC. Later in the year, they featured on MTV again, appearing in an installment of the "MTV Unplugged" series. Elektra eventually submits the live recording "MTV Unplugged" shortly after which Merchant amicably leaves the group to persue a solo career. In addition to parenting the group's biggest hit single "Because The Night" (#11-pop), the "Unplugged" set reaches #13-US- converseley, it is also the group's ultimate release on the label.

1995 Guitarist John Lombardo returns to the group and vocalist Mary Ramsey joins the fold as well.

1997 Signed to Geffen Records in the previous year, 10,000 Maniacs make their label debut with the LP "Love Among The Ruins" which heralds Lombardo's return and also features new lead vocalist Mary Ramsey. The album yields the group's first "post- Merchant" hit, "More Than This" which reaches #25-pop on the US singles charts.

1999 The new set "Earth Pressed Flat" is released on the indie label Bar None.

-- Mo' Maniacs Facts --

Initially 10,000 Maniacs' lineup denoted the group's "revolving door" of artists culled from the talent pool on the campus of Jamestown Community College and the city itself. The group solidified with an ensemble comprised of Dennis Drew (keys), John Lombardo (guitar), Steven Gustafson (bass), Robert Buck (guitar) and singer Natalie Merchant.

-Shortly after they began playing out locally, the Maniacs to play out locally refining their alternative-folksy sound as they went. They cut their first tunes as part of an audio engineering project at the facilities of the State University of New York that resulted in two separate collections of tracks- the EP "Human Conflict Number Five" and the LP "Secrets Of The I Ching." Both of these outings were released on the Christian Burial label, which the group had launched themselves.

-Divided By Five: 10,000 Maniacs derived their name from the title of a B-Movie entitled 2,000 Maniacs.

-In the early 80's the Maniacs had two independent releases under their belts which they "distributed" at their live performances. After they'd signed on with a manager from Britain the group got bookings in the UK to support their growing fan base across the Atlantic. The group's emergence on the British music scene coincided with the budding popularity of UK alt acts like the Smiths and Joy Division, they initially derived their sound from the latter. DJ John Peel (of the famous "Peel Sessions") also began to play their music on his popular UK radio show that expanded their following in Europe exponentially. The group's successes abroad sparked label interest and they were ultimately signed by Elektra Records.

-Joe Boyd, who produced the Maniacs' Elektra debut, also produced for Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd and even Toots and the Maytals- after working with the Maniacs, he even produced for R.E.M., who would also help push the sound of college rock to the fore as the 80's drew to a close.

-In 1986, following the release of "The Wishing Chair", guitarist John Lombardo left 10,000 Maniacs to forge a solo career. He eventually formed John & Mary with vocalist/ violinist Mary Ramsey. In the mid 90's, after Natalie Merchant had departed from the Maniacs, Lombardo returned to the group along with Ramsey (who took over Merchant's role as lead vocalist).

-When producer Peter Asher was brought on board to helm "In My Tribe", he brought on a slew of artists to support the new effort which included arranger David Campbell (who'd done string arrangements for Aerosmith) jazz bassist Bob Magnusson as well as pianist Don Grolnick. In addition to this groundbreaking release, Grolnick has recorded with singers like Ashford & Simpson, Roberta Flack, Harry Chapin and Chaka Khan- he'd also done sessions for jazz cats like Ron Carter, David Sanborn, Billy Cobham, Art Farmer, George Benson and Gato Barbieri.

-In 1990 Elektra submitted the "Hope Chest" compilation which containing remixed cuts from the early recordings on the SUNY, Fredonia before they went to England and were officially signed to a label.

-By the late 80's singer Natalie Merchant began to branch out in other directions creatively. Around the release of "Our Time In Eden" she announced her intentions to forge a solo career by giving the other members a two year notice which they kept a secret from their fans. In '93 the group's appearance on MTV Unplugged would became her ultimate recording with the act. That same year Merchant's solo debut "Tigerlily hit the charts and in '94 the "Unplugged" effort made platinum sales. Although her solo career was doing quite well, Merchant did return to the Maniacs' fold (in the studio) and supported them on their 1999 effort "Earth Pressed Flat."

-Factoids: R.E.M.'s frontmant, Michael Stipe, sang background vocals on In My Tribe. Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker from James Brown's JB's played on Our Time in Eden. In the early 90's drummer Jerry Augustyniak was accidentally hit by a car, which temporarily prohibited him from performing with the group. Max Weinberg- from the E-Street Band "filled in" for him while he recovered.

Albums by Year - Title - Label

1982 - Human Conflict Number Five - Christian Burial Records

1983 - Secrets Of The I Ching - Christian Burial Records
1985 - The Wishing Chair Elektra
1987 - In My Tribe - Elektra
1989 - Blind Man's Zoo - Elektra
1992 - Our Times In Eden - Elektra
1993 - MTV Unplugged - Elektra
1997 - Love Among The Ruins - Geffen
1999 - Earth Pressed Flat - Bar/ None

Compilations by Year - Title - Label

1990 Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983 Elektra


Blogger mj said...

from that hope chest collection, one can here a tune called planned obsolescence, a truly sublime song about how perfect life can be.

5:06 PM, August 30, 2005  

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