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Mercury Rev

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Mercury Rev Deserter's Songs album cover
3.59 | 53 ratings | 8 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Holes (5:55)
2. Tonite It Shows (3:40)
3. Endlessly (4:25)
4. I Collect Coins (1:27)
5. Opus 40 (5:10)
6. Hudson Line (2:54)
7. Happy End (The Drunk Room) (2:06)
8. Goddess on a Hiway (3:45)
9. Funny Bird (5:51)
10. Pick up If You're There (3:05)
11. Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp (6:17)

Total Time: 44:26

Line-up / Musicians

- Jonathan Donahue / vocals, acoustic guitar, Chamberlin
- Sean Mackowiak "Grasshopper" / guitar, wodwinds, vocals (6)
- Adam Snyder / Wurlitzer, Mellotron, Hammond B-3 organ
- Suzanne Thorpe / flutes
- David Fridmann / bass, Mellotron, piano, backing vocals
- Jimy Chambers / drums, clavinet, harpsichord

- Amy Helm / vocals, whistling
- Marie Spinosa / vocals, whistling
- Mary Gavazzi Fridmann / vocals
- Garrett James Uhlenbrock / slide guitar
- Aaron Hurwitz / piano
- Rachel Handman / violin
- Garth Hudson / alto & tenor saxophones (6)
- Matt Jordan / flugelhorn
- Jim Burgess / trombone
- Scott Petito / acoustic & electric basses
- Jeff Mercel / drums
- Levon Helm / drums (5)
- Joel Eckhaus / bowed saw

Releases information

Artwork: Joe Concra

CD V2 ‎- 63881-27027-2 (1998, US)
CD V2 ‎- VVR770272 (2011, Europe) Remastered by Dave Fridmann

LP V2 ‎- 63881-27027-1 (1998, US)
LP Modern Classics Recordings ‎- MCR 900 (2011, US) Remastered by Dave Fridmann

Digital album

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Buy MERCURY REV Deserter's Songs Music

MERCURY REV Deserter's Songs ratings distribution

(53 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (34%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

MERCURY REV Deserter's Songs reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Widely acclaimed by critics and most fans as their best album, although I disagree. It is still a great album and the introduction of bow saws make for some weird sounding psychedelia. If anything Deserter's Songs set the mood for the epic All Is dream follow on. ' Holes' is a great starter to the album with the usual trippy, symphonically weird Donahue and Grashopper setting the moods.If anything I would say this is the most ' un prog like' album from Mercury Rev as they enter the realm of easy listening at times on catchy tunes like 'Goddess on the Highway' and ' Hudson Line'. Highlights for me would have to be the opener ' Holes', ' Opus40' and the disturbingly haunting ' Funny Bird'. Excellent overall and highly recommended.
Review by loserboy
3 stars Only after several listens do the ghosts of "Deserter's Songs" past start to appear: the hallucinatory Syd Barrett- like lyrics, Suzanne Thorpe's ever present flute, and the occasional weird noise that initially doesn't sound all that weird, like a musical saw or a harp or a theremin. It's a lush release of strange and interesting sounds blended together sometimes rather symphonically into 12 songs that will seep into your head and have you subconsciously singing right along. Instrumentally this album covers a nice wide range hitting multiple genres along the way. There's cuts of opera, jazz, synth'd out enjoyment, fairytale soundtracks, all established as works created by MERCURY REV themselves. The vocals are simple, saddening, dreamy and quite pleasant. Overall a very cool album with some excellent dream state music for your mind to mull over. A very creative album .
Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Deserter's Songs" is the 4th full-length studio album by US alternative rock act Mercury Rev. The album was released through V2 Records in September 1998. While the first two albums by the band "Yerself Is Steam (1991)" and "Boces (1993)" featured a lot of promise with their psychadelic alternative rock style, Mercury Revīs third album "See You On The Other Side (1995)" saw the band develop a more melodic and orchestrated sound and thatīs also the direction theyīve decided to follow on "Deserter's Songs". Thereīs a three year gap between "See You On The Other Side (1995)" and Deserter's Songs which (as far as Iīve been able to find out) was because of the relatively lurk warm reception that "See You On The Other Side (1995)" got when it was released. Lead singer/ guitarist Jonathan Donahue alledgedly developed a depression because of it and on top of that it probably took some time to recover from the commercial disappointment.

On "Deserter's Songs" the music is even more melodic and the orchestral parts are much more integrated into the songs than they were on "See You On The Other Side (1995)". You can say that the circle is closed in terms of completing Mercury Revīs new sound. Thereīs still a few psychadelic leftovers in the sound which is great for the diversity and even provides the music with a slight progressive touch. Donīt be fooled into believing that this is a paticularly progressive album though. This is basically a melodic alternative rock album with orchestral parts. And a very good one at that I might add. Itīs mellow and dreamy pop/rock, perfect as background music to a dream about flying over an imaginary magic land filled with pink elephants and unnaturally happy people, but thankfully there is a slight dark edge and loads of melancholy to be found here too. So itīs a well balanced album in terms of moods and atmospheres.

The musicianship is excellent. The smooth and pleasant vocals from Jonathan Donahue suit the music well. The rhythm section are tight playing (although they are seldom in focus) and itīs hard not to be impressed by all the vintage keyboard sounds, piano, bowed saw and flute that colour the music. The orchestral parts are well arranged too and give the music its unique identity. The well sounding production job contributes greatly to help make the material shine. Itīs warm, organic, and pleasant sounding.

One of the greatest assets of "Deserter's Songs" is that itīs an instantly accessible and enjoyable listen. Itīs sweet melancholic atmosphere, strong musicianship, and adventurous songwriting are hard not to be impressed by (I love how they incorporate the melody from the Christmas song "Silent Night" into "Endlessly"), and upon conclusion itīs a high quality alternative rock album. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Review by seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Deserter's Songs was highly acclaimed in the UK on its release in 1998 and was even named NME Album of the Year, although it seems to be little known on ProgArchives and has only received a handful of reviews here. I always feel as if I'm at the movies when I listen to kooky indie rockers Mercury Rev, which maybe isn't that odd as their early recordings were created as soundtracks for experimental student films. There are three instrumental tracks on Deserter's Songs that sound as if they could have been composed for the likes of David Lynch's Eraserhead, and ENDLESSLY sounds like backing music from Edward Scissorhands. This is a typically quirky song with weird celestial choral effects and a Silent Night flute motif. On the subject of instrumentation on the album, the list of personnel reads like a swinger's lil' black book and features numerous guest appearances including contributions from members of The Band. Every instrument known to man seems to get used on the album, including one or two improvised ones such as bowed saw.

Overall, Deserter's Songs is an album of the middling sort although there are a few outstanding tracks such as the soaring pop ballad GODDESS ON A HIWAY that features clever homonymous word play. The ghostly-sounding HOLES is a densely orchestrated song about little moles. Ahhhh! If I may borrow from the song's own lyrics it's a 'big blue open sea' of a song, and is as beautiful a piece of music as you'll hear anytime soon. TONITE IT SHOWS reminds me a little of Barclay James Harvest's Moongirl, which in its turn sounds a bit like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds I suppose. OPUS 40 shows a clear Pet Sounds influence and it contrasts sharply with the screaming guitar of the heavily psychedelic THE FUNNY BIRD. Lead singer Jonathan Donahue's vocals are treated with phasing or some such on the latter song and his natural singing voice is a bit of an acquired taste. Mercury Rev is a band that's well worth checking-out, but bear in mind that the mp3/stream here on ProgArchives isn't all that representative of the music on this and later albums.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The wall of dissonance and chaos came down somewhat on the previous album "See You On the Other Side" but still remained to some extent. The recording procedure for Mercury Rev up to this point had been to record the bare bones of the song and then add layer upon layer of mostly guitar driven dissonance so the sound was chaotic, yet by the 2nd album, they had learned how to make the chaos work for the music and created some very original and wonderful music. On "Deserter's Songs" however, things change in that instead of so much guitar induced sound, the layers are created by orchestral sound and keyboards. This give a much lusher sound to the music and is so much easier to digest. The guitar is still there and an electronic saw keeps things psychedelic in some places on the album. This is a beautifully done album and it was a big step towards the next album which is a masterpiece. In the meantime, this is a great album that shows the progress made towards that masterpiece.

However, this lovely lush layered sound came about after a lot of hard times. This album was supposed to be their swan song. Since the previous album had sold so poorly, the plan was to disband after this album was recorded. However, unseen help from The Chemical Brothers who helped push this album, time spent recording in the Catskills and help on the tracks "Opus 40" and "Hudson Line" from both Levon Helm and Garth Hudson (both from The Band) helped them get their heads together and got them to focus on making this album become the best they could put together at the time. Thank goodness for this outside help, because without it "All is Dream" would never have been created.

So, the loud chaotic sound from before was completely changed making for a more lush, beautifully orchestrated wall of sound, sometimes still dissonant, sometimes harmonic, it all works together to make a nice soothing and at times a little harsh sound. That contrast works so well throughout the album, but would work even better on "All is Dream" This album is definitely worth listening to and it is easy to see how the technique would get even better to produce the masterpiece that would come next. Still this is a lovely recording full of great prog moments and original sound. This album is definitely an excellent addition to any prog collection. Original, beautiful, at times vulnerable, harsh overtones but not enough to put you off, this is an album that should be explored and it has more progressive elements than what you might expect. Great stuff and a foreshadowing of even better yet to come.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This was the start of the Mercury Rev I like best. It's dreamy, unworldly and strangely beautiful. I always found that Donahue's high pitched vocals also play a big part in setting their extraordinary mood. I'd agree with others that this is probably the most accessible of thier albums and also ... (read more)

Report this review (#343231) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Sunday, December 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Their second album without manic frontman David Baker sees this indie rock collective maturing into quieter, more contemplative realms. Like The Flaming Lips (who swapped members David Fridman and Jonathon Donahue), the band has mostly abondoned ear splitting noisedelica in favor of Brian Wilson ... (read more)

Report this review (#120320) | Posted by BobShort | Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars There are very few albums that can be called "a soundtrack of a lifetime". "Deserter's Songs" by Mercury Rev, wins this title easily about my own. An album who fits my life story like a glove, and manages to excite me every time. I must say that it is one of my best purchases of CD's that i did i ... (read more)

Report this review (#82221) | Posted by Open-Mind | Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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