ELLIOTT SMITH TRIBUTE ALBUM FEATURING THE DECEMBERISTS, THE THERMALS TO BE RELEASED FEBRUARY 7th
To: Elliott From: Portland, a tribute to the late Elliott Smith, will be released February 7, 2006 on Portland-based independent label Expunged Records. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Elliott Smith Foundation's charity, Free Arts for Abused Children.
By Christian Lantry
The compilation features notable Portland bands The Decemberists ("Clementine"), Helio Sequence ("Satellite"), The Thermals ("Ballad of Big Nothing"), Swords ("I Didn't Understand"), Dolorean ("The Biggest Lie"), and Sean Croghan ("Hard Times"). "Hard Times," the song chosen by Croghan, a close friend and former roommate of Smith's, is previously unreleased.
"After Elliott died I spent a lot of time listening to these tapes he had given me of his various recordings he made at home," Croghan says in the liner notes for To: Elliott From: Portland. "'High Times' hit me like a brick in the face. I recalled him playing the song live, years earlier, but I had never heard the recorded version. The song itself is a story, ultimately prophetic in regard to Elliott's relationship with drugs, of some soul here in Portland (oh yes it reeks of this city) trying to cop for the first time.
"Elliott was my roommate, my friend and partner in crime. I recall feeling totally lost when he left Portland for New York. Elliott was not good with phones and once he left I knew I shouldn't expect to hear from him until he came back. I had lost my confidant, my inspiration and, most painful to me, my friend. Someday though, I hoped he would return. Unfortunately this wasn't to be. Now, not only I but the world will miss his immense talent, his shy smile and all the promise that will never be realized."
Of his version, Croghan states: "I wanted to try to create the tension I felt in the lyrics, the sense of a fate that is unavoidable and catastrophic. Even as the protagonist is telling us 'I feel fine' it is obvious he has given in and the ride to hell has started, albeit on a fluffy pink cloud. Hopefully we recreated the anxiety, the feeling of Burnside with its pushers, homeless, and drunks, the sound of Portland in the '80s and '90s before developers tried to turn Portland into Disneyland."
Also appearing on To: Elliott From: Portland is Eric Matthews' version of "Needle in the Hay"; Matthews performed on a version of "Needle in the Hay" that was never released.
"The original version of ['Needle in the Hay'] was built up with drums, trumpets, a harmonica, and various percussion instruments," says Matthews in the liner notes. "In the end Elliott decided to tear back down the arrangement and go for the more starkly acoustic version that we know today. In a tribute to the original version, I added new instrumental sections that produce a mournful and heavy quality that depicts the sad nature of what must have been Elliott's life and inner mind. The music is pretty but underneath there is a grave solemnity. It is the best tribute to Elliott that I can pay."
It should also be noted that The Thermals' version of "Ballad of Big Nothing" was recorded and mixed by Smith's ex. girlfriend Joanna Bolme, at Jackpot Studios, a studio that Smith helped founder Larry Crane get up and running.
The bands and songs appearing on To: Elliott From: Portland (in no particular order) are:
1) The Decemberists - Clementine
2) Helio Sequence - Satellite
3) The Thermals - Ballad of Big Nothing
4) Crosstide - Angeles
5) Amelia - Between the Bars
6) Dolorean - The Biggest Lie
7) Sexton Blake - Rose Parade
8) Swords - I Didn't Understand
9) Sean Croghan - High Times (previously unreleased track)
10) Lifesavas - Happiness
11) Jeff Trott Wouldn't Mama Be Proud
12) Society of People of Ambiance and Elegance - Speed Trials
13) To Live and Die in LA - Kings Crossing
14) We Are Telephone - Division Days
15) Eric Matthews - Needle in the Hay