September 25, 2007
Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Hard Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, College Rock

Album Review

In 1992, Soul Asylum became one of the first success stories of the post-Nirvana grunge explosion when their album Grave Dancer's Union went double platinum on the strength of the singles "Runaway Train" and "Somebody to Shove." But unknown to their new fans, Soul Asylum had a long history, having released their first album in 1984, and they'd already been bounced from one major label, A&M, prior to hitting the big time. The not-so-jolly irony of it all was that Soul Asylum's old fans largely turned their back on the band once they broke wide, and their new fair-weather audience for the most part didn't embrace the band's back catalog, which featured some of their best music. Welcome to the Minority: The A&M Years 1988-1991 is a three-disc set that compiles the lion's share of Soul Asylum's recordings for A&M, capturing the band in a grace moment when they were on the rise but still had the love of the underground rock scene. The set includes the two albums Soul Asylum cut for A&M in full, 1988's Hang Time and 1990's And the Horse They Rode in On, as well as a disc of unreleased live material. Hang Time is arguably Soul Asylum's finest hour, an album that manages to split the difference between slop and precision and honors both with sweat and fury. It also boasts some of vocalist Dave Pirner's best songs and a killer contribution from guitarist Dan Murphy, "Cartoon." And the Horse They Rode in On in some ways sounds like a dry run for Grave Dancer's Union, an effort to add some new creative wrinkles to Soul Asylum's approach, but the poorly focused production prevents it from hitting its target despite some fine songs. Both albums have been enhanced with bonus tracks -- non-LP songs and a remixed version of "Something Out of Nothing" -- but the real treat for fans is disc three, which collects highlights from two October 1990 Soul Asylum gigs in Chicago, IL, and Ann Arbor, MI; it captures the beer-fueled guitar-basing blast of a good Soul Asylum club show with commendable accuracy, featuring full-on renditions of songs from their A&M albums along with some alternately goofy and brilliant covers, including "Tracks of My Tears" and "To Sir with Love." (But why couldn't Hip-O find room for the infamous promo-only track "James at 16 (Heavy Medley)," which captured the group's knack for booze-inspired covers at its most inspired?) Welcome to the Minority isn't the definitive Soul Asylum package by a long shot, and many serious fans will already have the two original albums in their collection, but despite that this is a superior look at a great moment in an under-appreciated band's career, and the live disc is essential listening for folks who dug Soul Asylum in the 1980s.
Mark Deming, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Down on Up to Me
  2. Little Too Clean
  3. Sometime to Return
  4. Cartoon
  5. Beggars and Choosers
  6. Endless Farewell
  7. Standing in the Doorway
  8. Marionette
  9. ODE
  10. Jack of All Trades
  11. Twiddly Dee
  12. Heavy Rotation
  13. Put the Bone In
  14. Just Plain Evil [*]
  15. It's Not My Fault [Live][*]
  16. Spinnin'
  17. Bitter Pill
  18. Veil of Tears
  19. Nice Guys (Don't Get Paid)
  20. Something out of Nothing
  21. Gullible's Travels
  22. Brand New Shine
  23. Easy Street
  24. Grounded
  25. Be on Your Way
  26. We 3
  27. All the King's Friends
  28. Something out of Nothing [Remix][*]
  29. The Tracks of My Tears [Live]
  30. Something out of Nothing [Live]
  31. Freaks [Live]
  32. I Put a Spell on You [Live]
  33. Cartoon [Live]
  34. Be on Your Way [Live]
  35. Closer to the Stars [Live]
  36. Marionette [Live]
  37. All the King's Friends [Live]
  38. Made to Be Broken [Live]
  39. Little Too Clean [Live]
  40. Movin' On [Live]
  41. Nice Guys (Don't Get Paid) [Live]
  42. To Sir with Love [Live]
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