Originally released in 2000, Chore of Enchantment, Giant Sand’s 11th studio album,
comes with quite a back story. A confluence of events behind the scenes led to
delays, re-recordings, multiple producers and a protracted record/release
schedule. (For the full story, check out our recent feature.) After all the
tragedy and triumph, however, all that’s left is the music, which is presented
here with a new remaster and bonus tracks.
Chore has gained a
reputation as the band’s greatest record, and while that’s debatable, there’s
no denying it’s a remarkable achievement and was at the time a step forward. Jazzy,
languid, even mellow, with arrangements revolving around acoustic guitar and
piano, Chore doesn’t have the
immediate punch of other Sand landmarks like Center of the Universe and The
Love Songs – its pleasures take time to sink in. But sink in they will –
given the chance they deserve, the beautiful “Punishing Sun,” “Bottom Line Man”
and “Temptation of Egg” beguile in a way Howe Gelb had never quite managed
before. Elsewhere, the exceptionally accessible “Shiver” stands as one of those
shining pop moments Gelb pulls out of nowhere, while “Satellite” lustily
returns to the Neil Young-esque squall that usually peppers Sand LPs.
The original record ended with “Shrine,” a lovely,
unaccompanied Dobro solo by Gelb’s late friend Rainer Ptacek. This edition adds
another disk’s worth of bonus tracks taken from the album’s various recording
sessions, many of which were self-released by Gelb as The Rock Opera Years. Some of these cuts equal or better the
officially released versions – “Astonished (In Tucson)” boasts a soulfulness
that gives it an edge, while “Punishing Sun (In Tucson)” puts that already
great song through a very different arrangement and comes up with a new winner.
With its leisurely folk rock groove, loose singing, jazz piano stabs and rusty
nail guitar solo, “Hard On Things” sounds almost like a Giant Sand primer –
maybe its very quintessence led to it being left off what was shaping up to be
the next step in Sand’s evolution. At any rate, the inclusion of these cuts
only enhances the strength of Chore of
Enchantment, affirming this remarkable record’s status as one of Giant
Sand’s greatest achievements.
“Astonished (In Tucson),” “Punishing Sun” (both versions), “Hard On Things,” “Satellite”