Sound — 9
The Desert Sessions began at the Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree when a bunch of musicians decided to take some mushrooms and make some music. 10 years and vinyls later and the sessions have seen some class acts joining in the mayhem. Besides main man Josh Homme, the ranch has seen Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan, Chris Goss, Jeordie White and PJ Harvey, to name but a few. On the fourth CD release, the talent and madness was mixed to glorious effect. The first listen of Volumes 7 & 8 is a jarring experience. The straight, 'normal' songs don't last long enough to sink in and the experimental tracks seem to hinder rather than help the album as a whole. But after only a few more listens, the reason why the CD felt so disparate in the first place is what makes it so, well, great. Future Queens of the Stone Age song "Hangin' Tree" remains a dark, groove filled number in any form and certainly ups the tempo after the slower "Don't Drink Poison". The improved production in comparison to previous sessions is noticeable on multi-layered tracks like "Cold Sore Superstars" and the crazy "Winners". Certainly no two tracks are likely to get confused with each other.
Lyrics — 9
At least five vocalists take the lead over the course of 13 tracks, with each appearance distinctive and successful. This may not seem apparent on tracks such as "Interpretive Reading", which sees Josh Homme read a bizzare story in an even wierder British accent, yet somehow it fits. On the straighter laced tracks, the talent shines through, well at least I think so. It's hard to tell when "Nenada" is sung entirely in Russian by Eleven member Natasha Shneider, her strange vocals giving the song a remarkable, almost alien vibe. The standout lyrical and vocal performance comes on "Making A Cross", where fellow Eleven member Alain Johannes (Who sadly never sung for Queens of the Stone Age in his tenure in the band) howls and groans on the albums best track. The way he croaks out "I heard you say it could be mine" would make even Tom Waits proud.
Overall Impression — 9
The final volume before the Desert Sessions became relatively popular (A few live performances and the presence of Polly Jean Harvey on 9 & 10 attracted a whole new flock), the album is one that sticks with you. Even the slight failures ("Covousier") succeed in the fact you remember them, for better or worse. In comparison to the other sessions, 7 & 8 is one of the best, feeling more like an album and less like a bunch of random tracks; and when placed besides most music out there, it's in a league of its own. According to Homme, all the Desert Sessions may be released together sometime soon. Don't let that in any way put you off buying it if you see a copy in a local record store, it's truly an experience you won't forget.