ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 25, 1991
By Steve Newton
Some bands just aren’t happy unless they’re recording in the fanciest, most expensive studios around. Then there are bands like Chicago’s Eleventh Dream Day, which laid down the tracks for its latest album in a Kentucky tobacco barn. The band members had to deal with an invasion of wasps—and the constant harmonizing of crickets—but once the bugs were worked out, producer Paul McKenna (known for his work with the Cramps and Thin White Rope) and the band profited from the sessions’ laid-back, rural feel.
“I don’t know if it made a whole lotta difference to the sound,” says singer/guitarist Rick Rizzo, “but we were comfortable with our surroundings, so if anything the record sounds relaxed. Studios can be sort of sterile, and this was just a really fun place. I think it kinda shows.”
The album in question, Lived to Tell, is the follow-up to 1989’s Beet, which the New York Times named as one of that year’s 10 best recordings. The album went to number two on the U.S. college charts and remained on the listings for an impressive five months. But Rizzo isn’t quite sure what it was about Beet that so enamoured the college types to it.
“I don’t really know what makes the college crowd tick,” he says. “We definitely don’t write songs for college kids or college radio specifically. I just think they’re good songs, and people like songs.”
Eleventh Dream Day takes its name from the keen ability of Rizzo’s wife—vocalist/drummer Janet Beveridge Bean—to recall her dreams.
“She really enjoys sleeping,” says Rizzo, “and she has real complicated dreams that she can remember vividly. Actually the song ‘Daedalus’ on Lived to Tell is straight from a dream she had.”
If the lyrics to the first verse of “Daedalus” are any indication, Bean’s dreams are worth sleeping in for: “Falling out of a dark night’s dream/We’re stars and angels under sheets of moonbeams/We ran for shelter into a bingo hall/Daedalus called numbers, ours was the next to be called.”
While it may have dreamy origins, “Daedalus” is just one of a number of tracks on Lived to Tell that thrives on the chaotic fretwork of Rizzo and co-guitarist Baird Figi. The guitar-heavy album was recorded with “basically no overdubs”, so when the band performs live—as it will at the Town Pump this Saturday (April 27)—it is able to recreate the album’s barnstorming sound quite faithfully.
“Very faithfully,” asserts Rizzo. “But I think it sounds even better live, just because you get the sonicness of the guitars.”