Jerome Augustyniak - percussion, drums; Robert Buck - acoustic guitar; Bill Dillon - acoustic guitar, mandolin; Dennis Drew - organ, piano; Steve Gustafson - bass; Amanda Kramer - organ, piano; Natalie Merchant - piano, vocals; Mary Ramsey - viola, background vocals
This sterling recording of 10,000 Maniacs, made while the band was enjoying its greatest commercial success, has been locked away for nearly 17 years. Recorded at the onset of the band's final tour with singer Natalie Merchant, these tracks were cut two months prior to their taping of MTV's Unplugged, which was among the most successful of CD/DVD releases in that show's history.
Although the world was unaware of it at the time, Merchant had give her bandmates in 10,000 Maniacs a two-year notice at the onset of recording 1992's Our Time In Eden that she was leaving to pursue a solo career. By the time the Unplugged sessions were released as a CD in 1994, Merchant was already recording Tiger Lily, her debut solo album, which went on to sell over five million copies.
Recorded at the artist-friendly Berkeley Community Theater, this show features a lengthy blend of hits, album tracks, and tasty cover songs, all which easily demonstrate why the Maniacs were so good in their prime.
Formed in 1980 in Jamestown, NY when Merchant was only 17, the group would play around venues New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio as an indie rock act until they got a deal with Elektra Records in 1985. The Wishing Chair, the band's first LP, gave them national recognition, but when co-founder/guitarist John Lombardo left in 1986, most thought it would be the end of the group. But they carried on as a quartet, releasing In My Tribe in 1987, which charted for 77 weeks and went platinum.
Among the highlights of this show are memorable versions of such Maniac classics as "These Are The Days," "What's the Matter Here?," "Trouble Me," and "Hey Jack Kerouac," as well as some cool covers like the Dobie Gray hit "Drift Away" and a stunning version of Dusty Springfield's "Son Of A Preacher Man."
When Merchant went solo in 1994, the band asked Mary Ramsey (featured here as a backup musician) to take over for Merchant, along with her musical associate and band founder, John Lombardo, who ended up returning. With the exception of guitarist Robert Buck who died of liver failure in 2000, the band continues to perform today, but the radio hits have eluded the group since Merchant left.
Natalie Merchant went on to find huge success as a solo artist, and recently released a new acoustic music collection entitled Leave Your Sleep.