MGF Reviews Blind Melon – For My Friends

Blind Melon – For My Friends
Adrenaline Records (4/22/08)

I’m pretty sure that when Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon died in 1995, most everyone wrote the band off; even the release of Nico in 1996 seemed more of a final nod to the Hoon family and a gift to longtime fans. And sure enough, the band members shortly thereafter went on to other things and Blind Melon sort of faded away.

But sometimes sleeping bands just can’t be left to lie…

Without hearing a note off For My Friends, I wanted to say what a mistake this album was. I was ready to pen a diatribe criticizing the band at an attempted money-grab. Everyone already saw the Behind the Music. Why dig up the corpse that everyone assumed was resting peacefully?

Hell, “Tones of Home” turned me and thousands of other people into fans back in 1992; and we were all equally turned off when “No Rain”, a song completely out of character for the band, turned them into a household name. (I was lured back by the intensity of “Galaxy” and “Toes Across the Floor” years later, but Hoon would be dead far too soon from a drug overdose for it to really matter, and the rest is well-documented history.)

But I digress…

I wanted to say no one could fill Hoon’s shoes in this band, with this dynamic. I wanted to hate everything for which this album stands. But from the opening notes of the first song on For My Friends, the title-track, I was won over.

The band hasn’t missed a beat, still offering up ’70s influenced, riff-heavy rock with a modern edge. There’s a hint of blues, a southern twang, and down-home grooves that permeate the entire album. And Travis Warren does a great job of sliding into Hoon’s spot, emulating him just a bit (almost channeling him for the first half of the album), but giving the band a nice twist and making the vocalist slot his own.

The aforementioned title track is short, simple and really sweet. There’s a great melodic riff anchoring the entire track, and it’s as if the ghost of Hoon took up the microphone for one last jam with the band. “With the Right Set of Eyes” is a little more fleshed out—a bluesy track that twists around groove and mood while Warren completely commands the proceedings. The same goes for “Wishing Well”, while things slow down a little on “Sometimes”, which harkens back to a more ’70s feel.

It’s those times when the band chooses to completely let loose—moments on “Make a Difference”, “Down on the Pharmacy” and “Harmful Belly” immediately spring to mind—that really make For My Friends shine. There was never any denying that there was a little bit of magic whenever the four original members got together, and while Hoon is definitely missed, Warren does a fair job filling the void.

Album closer “Cheetum Street”, with its slight hint of Lynyrd Skynyrd, is the perfect closer, and one where Warren finally emerges, completely, from Hoon’s shadow.

Chalk this one up as one of the year’s bigger surprises. Almost 13 years since Soup, and 2008 sees a new Blind Melon release? And to top it all off… it’s good? Who would have thought?