A Startling Departure for the Dave Matthews Band

There’s no Britney-esque oops before “I Did It,” the album’s rollicking opening song. Matthews offers no apologies, no disclaimers for the new focus and pop consciousness heralded by the first notes of the song--the first time he’s played electric guitar on a record. While he does wonder in the same song “Did I go too far?” the album itself (due in stores Tuesday) provides a resounding answer of “no.”

Bored with DMB status quo, Matthews threw away the album his band recorded last summer and enlisted producer Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, No Doubt), who became a full collaborator, co-writing all 12 new songs with Matthews, crafting meticulous arrangements and playing keyboards. With added oomph, sheen and engaging dynamics, it’s a startling, much-needed shift from the ambling shuffles of Matthews’ previous sets.

The result is added passion and life, drawing out both the romance and social fire in the lyrics. Matthews’ vocals too sound impassioned as never before, running from an Eddie Vedder growl to Peter Gabriel-like understated drama. Overall, the effect recalls Gabriel and Sting, with some Carlos Santana (who adds his unmistakable guitar to “Mother Father”).


Matthews borrows John Lennon’s line “All you need is love” in the closing, gospel-tinged title song. But for this group, focus and discipline prove mighty valuable as well.


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