Goo Goo Dolls – Rarities. An album review by EJ Scanlan for TotalNtertainment
Goo Goo Dolls. A band going strong for over 30 years now. Since forming in 1986, they’ve released 12 studio albums, with a 13th coming later this year, a questionable Christmas album released last year and created one of the biggest rock ballads in Iris. But what does their latest release, “Rarities” have in store?
A compilation album, “Rarities” is a 20 track LP that features songs recorded from the years of 1995-2007 that includes b-sides, live performances, radio performances and acoustic renditions of past material. Personally, seeing artists create albums like these, I’m always like “what’s the point”? I never understand why they would release a compilation album of older unreleased material with live and acoustic performances instead of creating a full-length studio album. This is also the first time I have reviewed an album like this, so this is a question I will try to answer throughout this review. I’ll be looking at the actual quality of the recordings here too to determine whether this is a necessary release or a complete waste of time that you can skip over.
The album kicks off with “Hit Or Miss”, a German B-side to their single “Only One”, released in 1995, which starts the record in a good, but particularly average way. B-sides can sometimes be on par or sometimes better than the actual A-side, but here, we just get a song that’s been heard a hundred times before by a hundred different bands. The second track, however, “Nothing Can Change You”, is a gorgeous power-pop classic that shows the best of what Goo Goo Dolls can really do.
Next up is the remix of “Long Way Down” by Grammy® award-winning mixer/producer/engineer Chris Lord Alge, who tweaked the original version for the soundtrack to the movie Twister. “Long Way Down” is a great song either way, but Lord Alge’s take on the song is simple but incredibly effective. They then give us a gorgeous acoustic rendition of “Name” from their 1995 album, “A Boy Named Goo”, which showcases the best of the original song but in way more of an intimate setting, as well as a live cover of “Don’t Change” by INXS, which does the exact opposite to “Name”, turning a really great song into something very average.
“Girl Right Next To Me” is a live acoustic version of the song of the same name from the band’s fourth studio album, “Superstar Car Wash” released in 1993, which appeared on a Japanese-only EP released in 1996 called “Bang Bang Bang”. This song is a nice version of the classic song where fans can see more of an intimate version of the song they may not have heard before. The second live acoustic song to be featured on “Rarities” from “Bang Bang Bang” is “Another Second Time Around”, a song that was never the best from the band’s fourth full-length record. This version, however, is terrible. John Rzeznik’s vocals here don’t sound like he warmed up at all and the overall product that we get is a messy, unpolished song, proving that songs like this deserve to be a “rarity”.
Track 8 is an acoustic version of “Iris”, which myself and I’m sure the casual listener who comes across this record would be most excited to hear. “Iris” encapsulated an entire generation of fans back when it released in April 1998 and has kept doing so throughout the last 23 years. This beautiful acoustic rendition of the track stays true to its roots and feels more like a celebration of the song than anything else. It’s simple but incredibly effective. “Slide”, another track released from 1998’s “Dizzy Up The Girl”, feels like it’s in a similar vein to “Iris” in regards to staying true to its roots through a gorgeous acoustic rendition of the song. Track 10 goes onto a remix of “Naked”, in which the remix feels more like a remaster than anything else, so doesn’t add anything to the rest of the compilation.
“Black Balloon” was recorded live, which again, didn’t add anything to the song, in fact, it sounded more like its BTEC equivalent. Then we had “Naked” (again…), but this time, it was live… (try and hear the enthusiasm in my voice as you read this!). At least this version had something special and unique to it. The sound quality genuinely makes you believe you’re there if you close your eyes and absorb yourself into it, and I loved that. Then we had “Black Balloon” again (I sighed as soon as I heard this again… on the same record), this time being recorded for Sessions@AOL. Despite it being considerably better than our first listen two songs earlier, it was still incredibly average compared to its original version. Then we had a song that wasn’t repeating itself in “Broadway”, also live for Sessions@AOL which gave us a new version of the song, working incredibly well overall.
The next track up is an acoustic rendition of “We’ll Be Here (When You’re Gone)” probably my favourite Goo Goo Dolls song outside of “Iris”, which shows a whole new side to the 2006 single. Written about a city that woke up to find out it had disappeared off the face of the earth, this acoustic version denotes a darker feel to the song with that message growing stronger listen by listen, continuing to make it, in my opinion, the best song they have ever released. That is then preceded with “Better Days”, in which this acoustic version, that was performed on Facebook Live last year by John Rzeznik got so popular that the band ended up putting this version on the record, and I can absolutely see why they decided to play it safe with this track option. There’s then a live recording of “Let Love In”, which also works very well in regards to this compilation.
The final three songs add nothing special, “Listen” adds nothing particular to the 20 track collective, “Feel The Silence” performed live isn’t anything remarkable, its highlight being the crowd screaming (oh, how I want live music back!) and then “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, being a very bizarre choice of song in general, especially to end the album, just gives off a weird abrupt end to the compilation.
Overall, I think if you’re a big Goo Goo Dolls fan, then “Rarities” has everything you’re after. When it’s at is peak, this compilation album makes you fall in love with Goo Goo Dolls all over again, but at it’s lowest, it’s a bland collection of songs with some terrible vocals and orchestration with an incredibly messy tracklist which was abysmally put together. At the start of the review, I tried to answer the question of why an artist would release a compilation album of older unreleased material with live and acoustic performances instead of creating a full-length studio album. After hearing “Rarities”, I’m just as confused as when I tried to answer that question at the start, as despite some of these songs being great and adding more to their material, the vast majority really do deserve to stay a “rarity”.
Highlight – “We’ll Be Here (When You’re Gone)” (Acoustic)
Lowlight – “Another Second Time Around” (live acoustic)
“Nothing Can Change You”
“Don’t Change” (live)
“Black Balloon” (live)
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”