Cracked Rear View review by Hootie & the Blowfish

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  • Released: Jul 5, 1994
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.5 (2 votes)
Hootie & the Blowfish: Cracked Rear View

Sound — 8
Hootie & The Blowfish, often regarded as one of the worst brandnames of all time or a one-album wonder, are an American pop group responsible for two number 1 albums and 3 number 1 singles. They claimed the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1996 and saw a steady decline in success following their 2nd and 3rd albums "Fairweather Johnson" (1996) {#1} and "Musical Chairs" (1998) {#4}. However it was the band's debut major label release "Cracked Rear View" in 1994 that shot the band into huge success. The band's clever mix of pop and soft rock provided the formula for 3 successful singles off the album "Let Her Cry," "I Only Wanna Be With You" & "Time." The band saw its greatest success in Canada where "Let Her Cry" reached #2 and "I Only Wanna Be With You" & "Time" both reached #1.

Prior to the release of "Cracked Rear View" the band independently released an EP entitled "Kootchypop" in 1993. This EP contained 6 songs, 2 of which would go number 1 when re-released in 1994, however it was the song "Let Her Cry" that gained the band recognition on the radio. The song would go on to win the Grammy for "Best Pop Performance by a Group of Duo with Vocals." The success of "Let Her Cry," as well as that of the albums other singles shot the band into the spotlight. "Cracked Rear View" reached a Diamond (16x Platinum) status in the US, making the album the 16th best selling album of all time in the US. It also reached Diamond status in Canada.

The band's sound is definitely centered around Rucker's vocals. Darius Rucker, who performs acoustic guitar & lead vocals in the band, has an exceptionally captivating vocal ability. Being inducted into the Grand Ol Opry on October 2nd 2012 during his present country music career, it is evident that his storytelling and songwriting ability matches that of his spectacular vocal presence. In The Blowfish Rucker's element is highlighted in the structure of many songs. In tracks like "I Only Wanna Be With You" it is evident that Rucker's vocals + guitar are the centre of the song. Whilst Rucker's importance is key to the song structure of many songs, fellow band mates Mark Bryan (guitar), Dean Felber (bass guitar/vocals) & Jim "Soni" Sonefeld (drums & percussion) also play a vital role in shaping the song. With Bryan's settle touch of electric guitar and the feel of the rhythm section the band is able to create a solid and strong soft rock sound.

Lyrics — 8
Lyrically the album speaks a lot of relationships. With tracks like "Only Wanna Be With You" and "Hold My Hand" being upbeat songs of relationships going well. "Let Her Cry" goes more into the misunderstanding of relationships, telling of the struggles to understand the woman in the story. "Time" has more of a '90s rock vibe. Its specific guitar tone and lyrically content is that similar of many other hits of the time, however can be seen as more of a generic '90s rock song rather than a number one hit. "Running From an Angel" takes on a different feel to the tracks before it, with a percussive sense strengthened with both the use of a drum kit and a conga drum. This rhythmic selection is effective in setting a specific mood for the song. "Drowning" seems to be a solid mid-ground between the brilliant soft rock appeal of the albums 1st half and that of "Time." With a catchy electric guitar line and the vocal presence of the band's better songs "Drowning" presents a solid, rock aspect to The Blowfish and is a definitive point in the album where the style changes to more of the style of other rock bands of the time. The album opener "Hannah Jane" is a cleverly constructed, catchy tune that is a brilliant way to begin and introduce the world to Hootie & The Blowfish.

"Look Away" returns to the lyrical idea mentioned in "Let Her Cry" of coping with sadness. And how women may do so. Whilst it is a good track, it feels a bit dis-jointed as if something is missing during the verses. "Not Even the Trees" calls for the audience to pay attention to the lyrics. Instrumentation is held back to allow for Rucker's story to be expressed without musical interruption. "Goodbye," the last track on the album (aside from the hidden traditional piece "Sometimes I Feel") opens with a completely different feel to the rest of the album with a steady, soft piano opening the track. This song specifically calls for attention to vocals and Rucker shines in this piece. It has a specific emotional edge to it that all the other tracks don't quite match with the whole band involved. The stripped back nature of the song makes the album closer a gem worth listening to. Rucker hooks you to every single word. The hidden track "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" is a traditional piece and consists of only Darius singing, proving once again that his vocals have a special something to them. The tone of his vocals are amazing on this album.

Overall Impression — 8
Admittedly, prior to listening through the album for this review I had never heard any of Hootie & The Blowfish apart from "Let Her Cry," "Hold Your Hand" & "Only Wanna Be With You." However I have come to like this album. It is soft rock with a '90s edge and has a brilliant sound. It is an album worthy of the sales it generated and the awards it won. A solid effort that entertains throughout, and a very defining debut release for Hootie & The Blowfish.

Standout tracks: "Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry," "Only Wanna Be With You," "Goodbye," "Drowning."

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