Before they signed to the national A&M label, the Harvard University born Trip Shakespeare issued two well received and critically acclaimed independent albums. The first, Applehead Man (1986), (see my review), found the band’s music in an embryonic stage. Are You Shakespearienced (1989), is a mature effort, where the music has been honed by hundreds of live performances. Omnivore Recordings has now re-issued both albums, complete with bonus tracks.
The band had expanded to a foursome with guitarist/keyboardist Dan Wilson joining original member’s guitar/vocalist Matt Wilson, bassist John Munson, and drummer Elaine Harris. His presence created a fuller sound and expanded the vocal harmonies. The nearly three year period between albums allowed the band to create many of what would become their signature songs. It all adds up to their masterpiece. When they signed to a label with national distribution, some of their creative edge was silenced as they tried to fit in to the mainstream a bit too much.
Their live shows tended to have an improvisational nature where they linked songs together in a chain. While some of that approach is lost in the studio, the songs still present a cohesive whole as they meander and flow into each other. “Swing,” “Two Wheeler Four Wheeler,” “Spirit,” and “Reception” present Trip Shakespeare at their quirky rocking best.
The nine track original album is enhanced by nine more previously unreleased bonus songs. The live favorite “Look At The Lady” emerges as a sonic studio track alongside such lost songs as “Earth,” “By Revolving,” “Car,” “Black Road,” “Stories End,” and “10,000 Watt Searching Light,” which were all originally recorded about the same time.
Are You Shakesperienced finds a powerful, creative, and wonderfully eclectic rock band at their best. It is a trip worth taking.