Review Summary: Everett True (Melody Maker Journalist) when asked who he believed would make it ftom the Seattle scene listed 3 bands: Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone. This CD is a must have for Grunge fans as it combines the only 2 MLB releases
After Green River (who many consider to be the founding fathers of Grunge) split two bands rised from its ashes - one was Mudhoney (Mark Arm and Steve Turner) the other Mother Love Bone (Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard & Bruce Fairweather). Mother Love Bone was also the band that brought together the members of Pearl Jam for the first time. After the tragic loss of front man Andrew Wood, members of Mother Love Bone joined together by Chris Cornell (Wood’s flatmate), and friends Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder to form Temple of the Dog. Mother Love Bone therefore played an integral part of the Grunge scene and this CD commemorates that brief period from 1988-1990 when Green River's legacy was carried into the mainstream. Stardog Champion, combines Mother Love Bones only EP “Shine” with their only released Album “Apple”. For these two reasons alone Stardog Champion is an essential purchase for any fan of the Grunge scene, not to mention the quality of the music contained inside this small plastic box.
Headed by their charismatic front man Andrew Wood, Mother Love Bone were at the forefront of the music scene in Seattle. Wood was a natural born showman, who took a great deal of influence from Freddie Mercury. He even references the Queen singer in the song Capricorn Sister
you play the hits, and I’m on that roll, Capricorn sister, Freddie Mercury
. His stage presence was purely from the school of Freddie Mercury, however his vocal style was similar to that of fellow Seattle Resident Layne Staley with clear influence of classic rock lead men such as Robert Plant and Ian Gillan. Wood and the rest of the band never really took themselves too seriously, they just wanted to have fun and their songs were testament to this. Despite some soulful ballads, the majority of their music was upbeat with elements of glam rock as well as some blistering grunge. This interesting mix was added to with fun lyrics that had a sense of humour for example
“Shes my sunshine, she’s my moonshine, she’s ma hot, ma hot ma Gandhi”
taken from the song Thru Fade Away.
Mother Love Bone were also capable of writing some beautifully sentimental and emotional lyrics also, ballads like Crown of Thorns, Man of Golden Words and Stargazer are examples of that. Andrew Wood was unlike any other grunge front man he was an extravagent showman not just happy go through the motions of performing live, he wanted to spread some love, and give the audience a good time and he did this incredibly well. He was a popular man on the scene and following his death not only did he have a band assembled in his honour – Temple of the Dog, other musicians wrote songs in his memory – Jerry Cantrell wrote Would? and Chris Cornell wrote Jesus Christ Pose two massive hit records to come from that time period. The biggest legacy Andrew Wood left was Pearl Jam whose heights he was destined to achieve, but were tragically cut short.
The sound of Mother Love Bone is quite surprising, as there is a large emphasis on glam-rock, considering that three of the bands members were influential in creating the “grunge” sound the antithesis of glam rock! Grunge fans do not be deterred by this fact – there is a vast amount of swirling distorted solo’s, and dirty hard rocking riffs that are up there with any Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam track. However, Mother Love Bone is not an out and out underground, skuzzy hardcore Seattle punk band, they are much, much more than that. Like their predecessors Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone made good “Pop” songs laced with a grunge sound much more fitting to large arena tours than the small venues they were used to in Seattle.
On to a brief description of the songs themselves – the good thing about Stardog Champion is that they have neatly divided the disc into two sections, the first 13 tracks are the full listing from Apple.
The Apple album was released in 1990 a few weeks after Andrew Wood fatally overdosed on herion. The section kicks off with the barn-storming This is Shangri-La, and fittingly ends with the ballad Crown of Thorns. This is somewhat fittingly mystical for an album that can be regarded as the Holy Grail of grunge. It is a great fusion of musicianship and showmanship. It is pure, not motivated by money or greed for fame, but of five guys enjoying themselves and having fun creating music. It is the meeting point of two colossuses Green River and Pearl Jam, underground and mainstream – I could go on with many reasons and concepts of why this album is special, but infact the cynical realist in me will inform you it is far from perfect.
Apple is good, its fun, and its upbeat, but it hasn’t aged terribly well. There are plenty of cringeworthy moments – for instance the Children chanting “Not, not now” in the background of Stardog Champion. The voice over on Holy Roller is almost as bad as Axl Roses telephone message in the middle of Knocking on Heavens door. Some of the guitar licks, and lyrics sound incredibly 80s, but in saying this there is a great deal of good here. Jeff Ament, and Stone Gossard produce some great rythms, while some of Fairweather’s solos are mesmerizing. Holy Roller, Captain Hi-Top and Come Bite the Apple are a few of these tracks where Fairweather is most impressive. The ballads from Apple, are Stargazer, Gentle Groove, Crown of Thorns and Man of Golden Words (the song in which the name Temple of the dog originated) . Wood’s versatility really shines through on these tracks and shows that Mother Love Bone were more than a one trick pony. I’d particularly like to highlight the tender guitar solo in Crown of Thorns, it is perhaps the highlight of the entire CD
The Shine EP was released in 1989 and on this disc are the tracks 14 Thru Fade Away to track 17 Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns. The Bonus CD also included the EP version of Capricorn Sister. This compliation album is perhaps your best chance at getting your hands on the Shine EP, having scoured the internet I have found a couple of second hand copies, but if you want to find this EP in the shops forget it. Obviously, I don’t know what the stores are like in the States, but if you are a UK resident like me you will not find it anywhere. Some of the heavier tracks on this CD can be found in the Shine section, though I wouldn’t exactly class them as heavy in comparison with other grunge bands. Ament’s bass line from Thru Fade Away really sets the tone for whats to come as Gossard and Fairweather produce some great hard rock riffs and Wood’s vocals take on a harsher tone. The lyrical content still stays light hearted , but the grunge roots really show through on Shine. Half Assed Monkey Boy and Mind Shaker Meltdown, continue to blend humorous lyrics with dirty hard rock riffage. The album ends with the ballad Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns, which sounds pretty similar to a Guns n Roses typical ballad, Wood’s sounds reminiscent of Axl Rose and the piano intro similar to that of November Rain. As you can tell from the title the song blends the lyrics from Chloe Dancer into that of Crown of Thorns, which is good as Crown of Thorns is an excellent song and its really good to hear it twice on the one album.
This isn’t a classic if I am being objective. If my heart ruled my head I would give it a 5/5, however I must rate it on the same scale as I have all others so I will give it a 3.5. I would advise anyone who doesn’t know of Mother Love Bone, but likes grunge – particularly Pearl Jam. If you are a fan of the Seattle scene or a collector of grunge (there are some out there I know) this is a crucial part of the jigsaw puzzle. This is not some small side project band, yes they all had success outside of Mother Love Bone, and had used this band to have fun, but make no bones about it, they were on the road to mega stardom. Another good reason to purchase this particular CD is that it contains all Mother Love Bone's released tracks - all, but one! Zanzibar from Shine is for some reason left out, could/should have been put on the bonus disc, but it isnt! If you can find the Shine EP good luck... however for us lazier collectors get this CD you really will not be let down!
Recommended tracks: Captain Hi-Top, Come Bite the Apple, Thru Fade Away and Crown of Thorns