Long Stem Rant

Giant Sand

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Long Stem Rant Review

by Patrick Foster

Long Stem Rant marks the beginning of the second phase of Howe Gelb and his Giant Sand. Gelb and his drummer John Convertino had toured the U.S. and Europe as Giant Sand in early 1989, and the pair headed to a friend's barn in Rimrock, AZ, with producer/engineer Eric Westfall to set down new tracks. The result, Long Stem Rant, sounded only marginally like its predecessors. Many tracks ("Smash Jazz," "Unfinished Love," "Bloodstone," and "Patsy Does Dylan," a recording of Gelb's daughter) were sketches fleshed out later with vocals, but the complete songs Gelb brought were as good as anything he had ever written: "Paved Road to Berlin" is a Euro-tour faith saga with memorable couplets ("talk about walls/they got one down China way/last the Grateful Dead almost appeared there/this year the dead they lie where they lay"), "Loving Cup" is classic campfire love song, "Sucker in a Cage" and "Searchlight" are the kind of starry-eyed desert folk-rock Howe has made his trademark. Though the short spurts of song on the record detracts from its momentum in a way that keeps Long Stem Rant from being on par with The Love Songs, it's not far behind, and despite the fact that it set the tone for Gelb to include at least rambling, improvised bits on subsequent albums (not all of which had the great songs to offset them), this record is certainly among Giant Sand's best. As with The Love Songs, Homestead's CD issue adds several inconsequential tracks to the end of the album proper.

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