Soul Asylum

Welcome to the Minority: The A&M Years 1988-1991

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In 1992, Soul Asylum became one of the first success stories of the post-Nirvana grunge explosion when their album Grave Dancer's Union went double platinum on the strength of the singles "Runaway Train" and "Somebody to Shove." But unknown to their new fans, Soul Asylum had a long history, having released their first album in 1984, and they'd already been bounced from one major label, A&M, prior to hitting the big time. The not-so-jolly irony of it all was that Soul Asylum's old fans largely turned their back on the band once they broke wide, and their new fair-weather audience for the most part didn't embrace the band's back catalog, which featured some of their best music. Welcome to the Minority: The A&M Years 1988-1991 is a three-disc set that compiles the lion's share of Soul Asylum's recordings for A&M, capturing the band in a grace moment when they were on the rise but still had the love of the underground rock scene. The set includes the two albums Soul Asylum cut for A&M in full, 1988's Hang Time and 1990's And the Horse They Rode in On, as well as a disc of unreleased live material. Hang Time is arguably Soul Asylum's finest hour, an album that manages to split the difference between slop and precision and honors both with sweat and fury. It also boasts some of vocalist Dave Pirner's best songs and a killer contribution from guitarist Dan Murphy, "Cartoon." And the Horse They Rode in On in some ways sounds like a dry run for Grave Dancer's Union, an effort to add some new creative wrinkles to Soul Asylum's approach, but the poorly focused production prevents it from hitting its target despite some fine songs. Both albums have been enhanced with bonus tracks -- non-LP songs and a remixed version of "Something Out of Nothing" -- but the real treat for fans is disc three, which collects highlights from two October 1990 Soul Asylum gigs in Chicago, IL, and Ann Arbor, MI; it captures the beer-fueled guitar-basing blast of a good Soul Asylum club show with commendable accuracy, featuring full-on renditions of songs from their A&M albums along with some alternately goofy and brilliant covers, including "Tracks of My Tears" and "To Sir with Love." (But why couldn't Hip-O find room for the infamous promo-only track "James at 16 (Heavy Medley)," which captured the group's knack for booze-inspired covers at its most inspired?) Welcome to the Minority isn't the definitive Soul Asylum package by a long shot, and many serious fans will already have the two original albums in their collection, but despite that this is a superior look at a great moment in an under-appreciated band's career, and the live disc is essential listening for folks who dug Soul Asylum in the 1980s.

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