Genre: New Wave, Alternative Rock
Number Of Tracks: 9
The fifth album by highly underrated, actually in this case criminally underrated band, Santa Cruz's own The Call. It's like a non-pretentious U2, or a R.E.M. with balls.
Into The Woods
Mad-Mike_J83, on may 28, 2015 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Time to review yet another highly underrated, actually in this case criminally underrated band, Santa Cruz's own The Call. They formed in 1980 with Michael Been, Jim Goodwin, Tom Ferrier, Scott Musick, and a bassist named Greg Freeman. By 1984, during recording of "Scene Beyond Dreams," Greg Freeman left the group leaving the band in the state they are best known for - Michael Been on lead vocals and bass guitar, Jim Goodwin on synths, Tom Ferrier on lead guitar, and Scott Musick on drums.
I'm starting here with "Into the Woods" because it was my introduction to this band as a kid and they were an influence on my sound.
By this album, The Call already had 2 albums that were picked up a little bit by the mainstream - "Modern Romans" ("The Walls Came Down") and "Reconciled" ("Everywhere I Go"), and 2 other albums, 1980's self-titled release, and my 2nd favorite, 1984's "Scene Beyond Dreams," their "metaphysical" album.
Let's get on with it. The Call very much have their own sound, heavily influenced by The Band (Bob Dylan's backing band that went solo), but sort of like if The Band became a new wave/alt-rock act. The Call sits on that happy line between new wave and alternative that I call home, with textural guitars, swirling synths, deep, emotional, dark lyrics, and some pretty neat things going on the drums.
Rarely do I give out a 10 on anything, but in this case I make an exception, "Into The Woods" has a very "woodsy" atmosphere, from staring through the trees at the dawn of "I Don't Wanna" to the twangy forest trail that is "Walk Walk." I'll talk more about the songwriting under lyrics though.
As for gear, the most ubiquitous piece of gear in The Call is singer/songwriter/and-at-this-point bassist Michael Been's FRETLESS Ampeg Scroll Bass which he is most associated with. That IS The Call's bass sound (though he uses other stuff in the studio + plays guitar, usually a Telecaster with a Gretsch Filtertron in the neck or a custom Stratocaster). Not sure what he's using for an amp, though I have seen live footage of him using Ampegs and Peaveys.
Tom Ferrier is next, about 97% of the time, I see Tom playing a black Les Paul Custom, which was later outfitted with some white humbuckers, probably Seymour Duncans. His sound is usually very clean and clear which suggests a Fender Amp, probably a Twin Reverb, but on this album, I think he may have used some Marshall given the lead tones he was getting on things like "Day or Night" and the title track (which is like one big guitar solo with amazing poetry over the top). He also uses chorus a lot on his sound, something he started doing about the time of Modern Romans, that and delay, maybe some reverb, but not much else.
Jim Goodwin, not sure what he uses, but it's definitely analog, I doubt it's something like a Roland Jupiter 8 or a Oberheim XB series, probably something more like a Korg Polysix or maybe a Roland Juno 60, but his synth sounds sure fit the mood of the album.
Overall, The Call, especially "SBD" and this album, I consider amongst the top influences to my sound because I love the sound of this album so much, hence the 10. It's got a bit of the "'80s patina" to it, but not so much to sound dated, just enough to say "hey I'm from 1987" but timeless enough it could stand on it's own in 2015 with only a production tweak or two, and that says a lot. Intense without being in-your-face about it, socio-political-introspective got-something-to-say without pretentiousness. I believe Bono could take a note or two in humility from these guys (whom he was friends with). It's like a non-pretentious U2, or a R.E.M. with balls (and I like those bands too). // 10
Lyrics: Michael Been is a much celebrated songwriter in smaller circles, and highly underrated. I'll get into this bigger on my future review of "Scene Beyond Dreams" - but for Into the Woods, he takes on more of an introspective sort of thing, sort of like the internal dialog of the person on the album. Seems there are themes of war/Vietnam on this album.
01. "I Don't Wanna" - I don't want to beg for you to love me, cause' I know you will, I just know it - I think that line sums up what this song is about. Musically, it's just 3 notes of Jim Goodwin with lots of textural police-like guitar from Ferrier and some thunderous drumming from Musick. Possibly the simplest song on the album.
02. "In the River" - A bluesy tale of a town who blames a natural disaster as an act of god to wipe away the sins of the town's inhabitants. It deals with themes of the fear of god, religious warfare (the sister whose boyfriend is sent to war), and the town being wiped out with a flood when their dam breaks. Totally fitting with possibly one of the most interesting synthesizer tones. I think Been is also playing guitar on this as well as bass, as it sounds like there is some call/response leadwork between the guitars, and I can hear a telecaster in there, so I think Been's "Gretschcaster" is in the sonic dogfight with that Strat Ferrier had in the "Everywhere I Go" video for the previous album.
03. "Could Have Been Me" - Observes several dire situations, I'm guessing it's a guy counting his blessings that he's not homeless, in a war in a jungle (Vietnam), or in prison, but the message is way deeper than that. It could be an observation of the vetran, the vetran in his war years, and the draft dodger, or it could be representative of how we who are not homeless, in prison, or involved in the war turn a blind eye to such things, and the song brings attention to that - an observation of the feelings of those in those situations and the human condition to turn a blind eye to that which we are not involved in. The drumming on this track is very "jungle-like," lots of Tom action, and the bass drives the track, rather than the guitar, probably the most we hear out of Ferrier are the chord stabs and one classily mangled hard-rock guitar solo midway through complete with shrieking double stop bends and wild whammy bar wiggles that one would expect on a "shredder" album.
04. "Into the Woods" - Another deep (is there really a Call cut that isn't) song. I think this is what Been was referring to as "Introspective" - the "Night of the Soul," it sounds to be about a man having a personal crisis of some kind, could be as the result of war or something else, and he's begging for someone/something to help him through this dark time of his life ("I just want to you take me, out of these woods, out of the storm"). Tom Ferrier just solos over the top of the whole song, sounding like a cross between Elliot Easton (The Cars, legato slides, high gain) and The Edge (U2, delay-play and chorusing), paired up with Goodwin's synth pads gives the song a dark, and smooth feel.
05. "Day or Night" - Can be a love song, or a song about one's faith in a chosen deity. It could also be a song singing from the perspective of a religious deity saying you can find me day or night, night or day. It has a much brighter feel. The guitar and Bass share the same riff.
06. "Memory" - A man remembering the woman he loved. This is the soft-rock piece on the album, fit for a slow dance, or the romantic ballad to a soundtrack. "In My Memory, I remember, you still."
07. "Too Many Tears" - A soldier in a war goes on a trip of introspection just as he's dying after being shot in the war i.e. "Thrown on my backside, and I don't know my name" and "can you see your life merging with these poor souls on the ground?" "Too Many Tears" is witnessing his friends, colleagues, and fellow soldiers die in the war and witnessing the death and destruction war brings.
08. "Expecting" - To me, this almost sounds like a lighter version of The Cult once the full band kicks in, complete with a Gretsch driven lead riff that reappears a ton in the song. It seems to deal with one who is unsure he will find love with this person in question "How can I wake you from your sleep and lift the veil from your eyes." It has almost a "chorale" type feel to it, sort of like some guy is trying to wake sleeping beauty but is struggling with the uncertainty of how she'll be after she awakes.
09. "Walk Walk" - I always took this as a song about people placing too much faith in religion and being let down. I.e. "I'm just standing at the station, waiting for the train to roll" or "I'm stranded on this island, waiting for my love to show." Could mean one has to take action for your situation to change. An interesting thing here is Been's bass takes background and sounds like he's jamming on the Gretschcaster again along with Ferrier on his Les Paul. There's no synth on the song, and it's very much a 1-3-5 blues type deal that is also a good guitar jam.
Been as a singer is friggin amazing. The guy never hits a bum note the whole time, and in a time when everyone else was shrieking he was not scared to sound like a guy, not a machamismo growling moron, but just a true average joe with something to say. It's a bit like listening to your cool uncle who turns out he can out sing anyone. There's also a raw emotion to Been that is lacking in most singers today and lacking in many even back then. This is maybe one of the few bands with a vocalist whom I consider "gut wrenching" in a good sense. // 9
Overall Impression: I'm giving this one a solid 9, it's my (close) second favorite Call album. My sister introduced me to The Call when I was 4 years old way back in '87 when this album first came out and it has stuck with me since then. The songs that initially drew me in were "In the River," "Could Have Been Me," "Into the Woods," and "Too Many Tears" but now I almost think of the entire album as a cinematic piece when listened to end to end, starting off with some romantics and ending with the soldier surviving the war and traveling off to his next adventure in "Walk Walk."
I think the biggest thing for me, with The Call, as in all bands though, is the overall sound. Though with The Call there's that additional "Just a bunch of guys who like music playing music" thing which I think has been lost to the sands of time and something the industry needs to get back to - drop all this plastic candy princess crap and start focusing on being MUSICIANS rather than entertainers. No fancy costumes or crazy stage lighting, just good music with something to say. I'm surprised these guys did not get at least some notoriety when grunge was big, they really fit the ethos perfectly.
"Into the Woods" was a huge influence on my sound as a guitarist and a musician in general, and in a very non-intrusive way, it just sort of happened. I was always grabbing for that dark, deep, introspective sound this album had as a tiny element and I revisited this album in '06 and found out how to get the sound that way in my head in part by pulling the elements from The Call that I wanted.
If it were stolen or lost, I would definitely buy again. I already want to find a vinyl copy for the family vinyl collection (along with "Scenes Beyond Dreams"). // 9