Every band that has been around for a while and released great records runs into this debate; what is their greatest album? The greatest album is… is a column dedicated to tackling that age old question. What is the greatest album recorded by Dave Matthews Band? Join with us now as the question is answered and arguments are made that the greatest Dave Matthews Band album is Under The Table And Dreaming.
It’s easy to state that any of the “Big 3” albums, the first three albums in the Dave Matthews Band catalog, deserves the illustrious title of greatest. Yet, when stacked against each other and played back to back several times through, one album nudges out the others. That album is Under The Table And Dreaming. The biggest reason for this has to be the overall depth of the lyrics and themes of the songs. While Crash has a sadder tone, and Before These Crowded Streets covers dark and lustful themes, Under The Table And Dreaming conveys messages of hope. Perhaps it was the innocence of a very young Dave Matthews, but most of these songs are free of any cynicism, anger, or doubt.
There are several brilliant and beautiful songs on Under The Table And Dreaming including “What Would You Say,” “Best Of What’s Around” “Dancing Nancies” and the band’s staple song “Ants Marching.” However, better than even all of them is the rarely spotlighted gem “Lover Lay Down.” It is a smooth jazz, romantic song that features some of the best vocal work of Matthews’’ career and some intense soprano saxophone by the late great LeRoi Moore. “Lover Lay Down” is a dreamer’s song---a great tune to contemplate one’s love life over.
Another masterpiece, and perhaps my favorite Dave Matthews Band song of all time, is “Jimi Thing.” And while it may currently be less loved due to concert overplay, the studio version is astonishing. “Jimi Thing” is a terrific tune about not letting the chaotic pressure of life overtake you. There’s always time to sit back, relax, and find our “Jimi Thing.” That one thing that takes us away to a special place where we can sit back and ponder all that is good in the world. A deeper dive into the lyrics shows thinly veiled references to marijuana, but our “Jimi Thing” can be almost anything: a muse, a memory, a favorite food, anything that takes us away and calms us for a while.
Released in the band’s infancy, Under The Table And Dreaming put Dave Matthews Band on the radar of music fans all across America. Producer Steve Lillywhite was able to take the best of what he found in this young group and get the most out of them. Every member of the band had an opportunity to shine and showcase their talents. This is an album where not one member dominates the others; it is a true group recording. And when every member of the band plays to their strengths it lifts each song higher than they would have otherwise been. The whole work of art is captured through the individualistic style of each musician playing together as one. At moments, it is breathtaking.
Filled with countless amazing songs, Under The Table And Dreaming is one of the most magnificent debut albums ever released. The positive undertones resonate throughout the entire record and leave the listener with feelings of joy and gratitude upon completion. It is a record that can be enjoyed over and over again, with each additional listen providing another nuance of bliss, another reason to love the album. Almost all of the songs have stood the test of time in the 22 years since its release and still have relevancy today. Performed by great musicians who were young, hungry, and hitting their stride, Under The Table And Dreaming is a masterpiece that only the young version of this band could create.
The greatest album is…Under The Table And Dreaming.
Released: September 27, 1994
Produced by: Steven Lillywhite
RIAA Sales: 6x Platinum
Peak Position on the US Charts: 11
John Popper played the harmonica on “What Would You Say”
Tim Reynolds played acoustic and electric guitar throughout the album
After “Pay For What You Get” there are 22 blank tracks before “#34” appears as the 34th track on the disc
Only one of two Dave Matthews Band albums that did not chart at number one in the US
What Would You Say
Best Of What’s Around
What Would You Say
Rhyme & Reason
Lover Lay Down
Pay For What You Get
Carter Beauford – drums, percussion, vocals
Stefan Lessard – bass guitar
Dave Matthews – vocals, acoustic guitar
LeRoi Moore – saxophones, flute, vocals
Boyd Tinsley – acoustic violin, vocals