Mark Lanegan
Whiskey For the Holy Ghost


4.5
superb

Review

by Daniel Dias USER (12 Reviews)
January 23rd, 2016 | 66 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An overlooked masterpiece, an album that demands to be heard.

By now, Mark Lanegan has more than established himself as an iconic figure in music. Having fronted one of Seattle's pioneering and most underrated 'grunge' outlets, the psychedelic and punk hybrid of Screaming Trees, he later on had a chance to collaborate alongside names such as Queens Of The Stone Age, Isobel Campbell from Belle And Sebastian, Afghan Whigs vocalist Greg Dulli, or the incredible Mad Season. All the while having built an impressive solo discography. His instantly recognizable baritone voice, soaked in alcohol and cigarrettes, as well as his sorrowful, incredible songwriting skills, are his bread and butter, which he has been putting to great use for almost 30 years now... So the question remains. How, after so long, can he still be so often overlooked" It just seems he's never received nearly as much recognition as he so clearly deserves. His seminal 1994 album Whiskey For The Holy Ghost more than proves that.

Lanegan's second solo release sees him continuing to depart from his usual sound as Screaming Trees' frontman, as he had begun doing 4 years before. Here, there's a much more delicate, intricate acoustic instrumentation. The addition of organs, violins, saxophones, and pianos contributes to a much more somber and intimate musical experience, allowing his addictively sinister vocal register and bleak songwriting to truly shine, as he continues to develop upon his solo debut's dark blues sound to truly fantastic results. What we have here, then, is one of Lanegan's greatest musical achievements, a stripped down, massive statement from a much more mature and improved artist that apparently just slipped under everyone's radar. Despite his notorious substance abuse problems, which delayed and prolongued recording sessions for almost a year, all of Whiskey For The Holy Ghost sounds incredibly cohesive, a feat hard to achieve.

Perhaps, the most enduring quality about the album is that nearly every song is excellent individually, but listened to as a unit they create an even more amazing experience. "The River Rise" may well feature one of Lanegan's most emotional vocal deliveries, his sorrowful but gentle touch on the chorus, complimented beautifully by the delicate acoustic guitars in the background, can almost bring a tear to the listener's eye. In fact, it's impressive to notice how well every instrument here can blend in alongside his voice so well, almost effortlessly. The saxophones on the eerily hopeful "Sunrise" are delicious, as is the splendid violin outro on the seemingly more upbeat "Carnival", one of the many standouts. But the haunting acoustic and (less prominently) electric guitars are able to fit in just as well, adding an incredible balance. The dirty blues riff that gives way to "Borracho", which sees Lanegan chronicling his alcohol abuse and emotional struggle, wouldn't sound out of place at all in Screaming Trees' excellent Buzz Factory, the mournful acoustic soloing on "House A Home" adds to his tales of the misfortunes of love incredibly, as does the gentle fingerpicking on "Shooting Gallery", the tender strumming on the slightly more playful "El Sol", or the sinister riffs of "Dead On You" and "Pendulum". Every instrument sounds almost perfectly placed, and yet they manage not to overpower Lanegan, who delivers some of his most memorable performances here.

The album centerpieces "Riding The Nightingale" and "Beggar's Blues" just seem to encompass all that makes the album such a rewarding listening experience. The female backing vocals that join Lanegan so beautifully in the final moments of the former, or the guitars that duel him in the latter simply fall in place at the right time, providing the perfect setting for him at all times. It really is hard to point out any flaws in Whiskey For The Holy Ghost. Maybe the slow "Kingdoms Of Rain", despite featuring a strong outro, and the short interlude "Judas Touch" are not as essential as the greater tracks here clearly are. That's really all one could think of. This album demands to be heard, words just don't seem to do it enough justice. One could sing along to just about every classic line Lanegan hands out here, or any instrumental hook. Here, we find Mark Lanegan at a creative best, that would prove to capitalise hugely on Screaming Trees' 1996 opus Dust, and would lead to a continuation of an impressive career.



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user ratings (135)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
danielcardoso
January 23rd 2016


11769 Comments


Shocked this hadn't been reviewed yet, more of a 4.7 for me.

turnip90210
January 23rd 2016


417 Comments


Good stuff. You should check out Mike Johnson, who played a key part in helping shape this guy's output in the 90s. His solo stuff makes Lanegan look super happy and content with life :P

DoofusWainwright
January 23rd 2016


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Top work Dan, I'd put this up on my '101 albums without a sput review' list, was surprised at the neglect



Good review, pos'd, 'Field Songs' is my favourite of his solo albums and I might review that at some juncture :D

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


Thanks turnip, guess I should check him then. And thanks to you as well Doof, I'd say go for it. I should review "Scraps At Midnight" myself in the near future.

DoofusWainwright
January 24th 2016


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Scraps at Midnight was my first Lanegan album, has possibly my favourite of all his tunes on it

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


The debut was my first coincidentally, what is your favorite tune bud?

DoofusWainwright
January 24th 2016


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Last One in the World



Feel like a soppy b*llocks admitting that

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


Ahah. Some of my favorites of his, from what I've heard so far at least, are on here. The River Rise, Carnival and Riding The Nightingale. I plan on hearing his entire discography though, have you done it bud?

DoofusWainwright
January 24th 2016


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haven't listened to the first album, 'Blues Funeral' and only skim listened to the recent covers collection. I know all the rest pretty well, this is definitely one of his best

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


The first album is excellent, you'd love to give that one a spin for sure. I hear Blues Funeral is pretty great as well, but I'm going to continue to hear his stuff chronologically.

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


Trust me dude, this is essential stuff.

EvoHavok
January 24th 2016


7656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Need to check this.

Digging: Sigh - Heir to Despair

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


Do it man and spread the word, from now on it will be my goal here to put this up to at least 200 ratings, it's really good.

EvoHavok
January 24th 2016


7656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Heh. Also, nice review!

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


Thanks bud!

Underflow
January 24th 2016


4372 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Overlooked gem, for sure.

danielcardoso
January 24th 2016


11769 Comments


You are my man, bud. Help me spread the word.

zakalwe
January 24th 2016


25916 Comments


I'm a fan dan I'll check out ya man Lan once I've stopped spinning Can.

danielcardoso
January 25th 2016


11769 Comments


You'll love this bud.

mgeorge7
January 25th 2016


78 Comments


I've been listening to Screaming Trees a ton in the past week (I think you recommended them to me a while back, daniel) or so and really love Buzz Factory, Sweet Oblivion, and Dust. Excited to check this out!

Pos'd



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