In 1988, Camper Van Beethoven released their first album on Virgin Records. It was titled Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. Now, it is being re-released by Omnivore Records on February 11. It includes all 14 original songs and 10 bonus tracks (or 11, according to tracklists with an edited grouping of parts one and two of “Eye of Fatima”), some of which are previously unreleased. It is a delight to revisit this innovative music.
The album begins with “Eye of Fatima (Pt. 1)” and “Eye of Fatima (Pt. II)” and right away, you know you’re listening to something different than the norm. It mixes pop rock with a slight Mediterranean influence and lyrics about acid, government experiments and wild road trips. “Part II” is an instrumental and has an even stronger world music vibe.
The band then tackles a traditional bluegrass dirge, “O Death,” featuring a suitably somber mood and some excellent violin accompaniment. “Turquoise Jewelry” highlights the band’s sneering and sarcastic humor with its message about stripping away pretense It is a powerful song with some great drumming.
My favorite song on the album is probably “Waka,” which is a bright, rocking number with phenomenal instrumental work. Another terrific track is “Change Your Mind,” a sweet, poppy love song. “Never Go Back” is another one with sensitive and touching lyrics.
Listeners today may not realize that the song “Tania” is about Patty Hearst, or even remember who Hearst is. “Tania” is the name she used when she was kidnapped. If you know that, the song is humorous and unique in its perspective.
The final song on the original album, “Life Is Grand,” is another favorite. It is a cheerful tune aimed at all the people who were accusing the band of selling out for signing with Virgin and for not sticking to the darker material some of their fans preferred. It is a declaration that the band will do what they want to do and that doing so is indeed what makes life grand.
As for the bonus tracks, they include covers and live material, and the tracks from the Life Is Grand vinyl single. One of my favorites there is the delightful and unexpected cover of “Wade in the Water,” obviously based on the Herb Alpert version. Other favorites are the live version of the previously unreleased “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon,” recorded in 1988 in Connecticut, and the live cover of Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” enhanced with a bit of Ringo Starr’s “Photograph.”
With 25 tracks in all, this re-release will be a real treat for all of the fans of Camper Van Beethoven and a great gift to share with music lovers who aren’t familiar with the band.