Dave Matthews Band’s Everyday turned 20 on 02/27/21.
Personally, I think about the album’s release every February. I recall various other release dates from time to time, and it just so happens that Everyday made a particular temporal impact on me for whatever reason. I distinctly remember driving to a local Meijer at ~11:00 p.m. on Monday 02/26/01 and then loitering around waiting for the employees to stock the newly released CDs at midnight. There were several others doing the same, but I believe I bought the first copy from that particular location. A real historic achievement.
Memories and personal minutiae aside, there was also a lot of commercial hype surrounding the fourth studio album’s release. Atop the usual fare of interviews and guest appearances, there were also larger items such as an episode-length feature on The Charlie Rose Show. Aside from DMB being a commercial juggernaut generally, Everyday garnered particular interest because it notoriously ended up supplanting an entirely separate album that was mostly recorded in 2000 and on its way to completion. Tapes of that “lost” album eventually made their way online and became known as The Lillywhite Sessions (named for producer Steve Lillywhite, who produced that as well as the band’s first three studio albums). Adding to this fiasco, many songs from The Lillywhite Sessions were regularly played during the 2000 tour (and since then)—leading many fans to consider the 2000 summer tour a kind of album support tour for an album that was never released.
The fourth studio album was finally released in February 2001: Everyday, featuring (mostly) completely new songs written after The Lillywhite Sessions. (New songs for the abandoned album would largely fill out 2002’s Busted Stuff.) Everyday‘s writing process was a marked contrast from what came before. Less of a collaborative group effort, Dave Matthews wrote much of Everyday with producer Glen Ballard, with the band later fleshing them out in the studio. (If you don’t know Ballard’s name, you certainly know his work, as his prints are all over commercial music from the last several decades.) This writing process, together with the album’s overall sound as well as hardcore fan base’s familiarity with songs from The Lillywhite Sessions (the scrapped “album” would be leaked online shortly after Everyday‘s release), has, in my opinion, totally eclipsed the actual material. The 2001 summer tour featured songs from both Everyday and The Lillywhite Sessions along with the usual fare. (Yes, The Lovely Ladies were included, but they had also been performing with the band since 1998.)
Though controversial among fans upon its release—and arguably still so—it’s long been my contention that it’s far less anomalous substantively than it may have sounded at first. I’ve discussed this a bit more in depth elsewhere here and here. But to quickly summarize: Yes, Everyday features shorter songs with tighter arrangements, a prominent electric guitar (but not a lead guitar, per se), and a mix featuring that prominent pop sheen. However, many of the songs are still built upon that trademark DMB architecture: a prominent and/or repetitive guitar riff alongside melodies, countermelodies, and solos played by saxophone and violin. (This structure really started to deteriorate with the release of 2009’s Big Whiskey And The Groo-Grux King, where DMB is more of a traditional electrified rock band with a horn section. Oddly enough, 2012’s Away From The World, produced by the mythically returned Steve Lillywhite, continues further into the rock-band-and-horn-line territory instead of returning the band to its original sound, which a number of fans foolishly hoped for.)
All that context aside, it’s worth addressing Everyday on its own terms. About 1/3 of the album remains in regular rotation at live shows: “Everyday,” “The Space Between,” “When The World Ends,” “So Right.” (Pandemic notwithstanding, as there are no tours by anyone in the U.S. at present.) Others such as “What You Are,” If I Had It All,” “Fool To Think,” and “Sleep To Dream Her” pop up now and again, occasionally in spurts. “Angel” was played a lot for the first few years, but not since 2003. “Dreams Of Our Fathers” was given a few live chances in 2001, and “Mother Father” has yet to see the light of day. “Everyday,” which continues to be a live staple, was in 2001 a “new” song built upon the same guitar part as another of the band’s longtime live staples, “#36.” Since Everyday‘s release, each performance of the title track now includes an interpolations of its predecessor at the beginning (by the fans) and end (by the band), a symbolic nod to the joining of pre- and post-Everyday legacies, whether intentional or not.
A noteworthy aspect of Everyday is how few additional personnel are included: producer Glenn Ballard on keys, Carlos Santana and percussionist Karl Perazzo guest on “Mother Father,” and Vusi Mahlasela sings on the title track. Compare that to Before These Crowded Streets, which featured enough guest musicians to crowd a small street: Kronos Quartet, Alanis Morissette, Béla Fleck, John D’earth, Tim Reynolds, Butch Taylor, Greg Howard, and The Lovely Ladies (Tawatha Agee, Cindy Mizelle, Brenda White-King). It makes for an interesting juxtaposition when fans say they want an album that sounds “more like the band” (BTCS, which was rife with guests) when referencing an album that supposedly doesn’t sound like the “real” band (Everyday).
Yes, I admit that a distinction can be made between an album’s spirit or ethos and its technical content, and there are certainly arguments to be made as to how Everyday fits within DMB’s oeuvre. That said, the album isn’t quite the nadir it’s portrayed to be.
Admittedly, Everyday wasn’t what I initially expected, but not negatively so. I listened to the album continuously for months, and a couple of the songs, “Fool To Think” and “So Right,” immediately became all-time favorites. The latter has especially evolved over the years, with an extended outro jam included in live performances. It’s not played nearly enough, in my opinion. (Perhaps I’m in the minority.) But when it is, it’s glorious. Regarding the studio recordings of both of those songs, especially “So Right,” Roi places some excellent phrases in such a short space.
As mentioned, there aren’t nearly as many solos or extended instrumental sections on Everyday. There are a few instrumental solos (saxophone on “So Right,” “Angel,” and “Fool To Think”; Santana on guitar on “Mother Father”; some violin effects in the outro of “Everyday”) but not many. Something I often wonder is what would’ve happened had everything remained the same except for more solos throughout. Would the fan base’s negative reaction have been nearly as aggressive? For example, if Boyd Tinsley’s vocal part were removed from “I Did It” and replaced with a saxophone or violin solo that lasted 2-3 times as long, how would that have been received? Given the overall structure of the song, it’d possibly be considered more like some electrified cousin of “What Would You Say?” than an aberration.
Anyway, those are some thoughts on the twentieth anniversary. It may not be Crash, but I thought I’d make note of it, particularly since I’ve missed some other anniversaries of note in recent years (notably Adore, Before These Crowded Streets, and Machina (another February release I vividly recall)), As I’ve done throughout the week, I’ll give a listen or two this weekend, and hopefully by 2022 I can hear one or more of the songs in person again.