On April 17, 1990, "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds" released their sixth studio album, "The Good Son".
The new decade of the 1990s brought with it a fundamental change in musical style, lyrical content, musical instruments, and even the production of "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds". The songs became less depressing, less protesting, less condensed, and more chaotic. Why did we use the word "less"? Because Nick Cave never completely abandoned sadness, protest, and depression.
This is an amazing album that strives for perfection, which carries the theme of "father and son" as revealed by its title - "The Good Son", which is taken from the story "Cain and Abel" from the Bible.
What led to this significant change? Stay with us and find out.
The story of this album begins with the depression, grayness, and coldness of West Berlin, where the band's previous album "Tender Prey" from 1988 was recorded. Nick Cave was then at a low point, in the worst place he had been until then. The depression, sadness, and despair permeated well from Cave's wounded soul into an album and this was well evident from the atmosphere that hovered over it. Cave was a heavy addict, very deep in heroin, But he managed to understand that he was heading directly into a deep black abyss and that if he would not do something, he would evaporate from this world. In his last strength, he managed to put himself into rehab. He said he did not leave his room for a whole year. He used this period to watch videos, but also to improve his piano playing.
That fateful year Nick Cave wrote two songs on the piano: the first, "The Train Song" which despite being unusually beautiful and its title reminiscent of many of the album's songs ("The Ship Song", "The Weeping Song", "The Hammer Song" and " The Witness Song "), was not included in the album and was released as a single and later as the B-side for the "The Ship Song". By the way, the similarity in the titles of these five songs stemmed from the fact that these were the working titles of these songs which remain as it is. The second, was "Sorrow's Child", which was also the first of the theme "father and son".
After the successful rehab process of Cave, the band went on 1989 to a tour in South America. Nick Cave said that the moment of landing in Brazil was a defining moment for him. He went out into the Brazilian sun and just felt that a tremendous psychological weight had been lifted from him. The atmosphere there was almost the opposite of the gray and melancholy atmosphere of Berlin. But the change in atmosphere and location dwarfed the huge change that love would bring for Nick Cave. Through two Brazilian journalists who wanted to interview him, he met the journalist Viviane Carneiro, he fell in love with her immediately, and the love brought solace to his wounded soul, at least for a while. The two planned to move to London but the fact that Vivian became pregnant changed plans and the two remained living in Sao Paulo, where their son was born. It was a happy time for Cave, who continued to specialize in playing the piano on which he wrote most of the songs on the album. The band members would later testify that this greatly influenced the structure of the songs, as this was the first time Cave had composed his songs on piano.
Drug-free, happy, and wrapped in an optimistic atmosphere, Nick Cave invited his friends in October 1989 to Sao Paulo to record the album. This different atmosphere also affected the other members of the band and greatly influenced the final product.
Another influence on sound and style was related to the expansion of the range of instruments played by the band members, such as the piano and the Hammond organ played by Nick Cave, and the vibraphone played by multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey who accompanied Nick Cave since "The Boys Next Door" days. Harvey is also responsible for the strings arrangements played by eight guest Brazilian musicians, who have no doubt added to the overall vibe of the album and contributed to the drama that has only intensified the difficult writing themes.
As already mentioned above, Cave has never abandoned the melancholy and depression that still stands out from the lyrics and melodies on this album. At the same time, they were enveloped here in a slightly more optimistic atmosphere and romance, and this combination made Nick Cave accessible to the masses, with the news reaching as far as Israel, which welcomed him with open arms, thanks in large part to the clip that accompanied "The Ship Song".
The clip shows Cave playing a grand piano and surrounded by the girls dressed in white, in exactly the same configuration and location where the album cover was also shot. An exciting and penetrating love song with hidden meanings, whose intensities only increased in the live version that can be found, among others, on the album "Live Seeds" released in 1993.
The album features some of the most beautiful songs in Cave's rich catalog.
The opening song "Foi Na Cruz" literally means "It happened on the cross". The song is based on a Brazilian Protestant folk song of the same name. The folk performance of the song appeared in the soundtrack of the movie "Pixote: a Lei do Mais Fraco" ("Pisciotta") which brings a chilling documentary description of the harsh reality in the Favela of Sao Paulo and the relationship between delinquent teenagers, corrupt police and criminal organizations. The main role of the film is played by the boy Fernando Ramos de Silva who was only 10 years old during the filming. Ramos, a Favela resident in Sao Paulo, was killed nine years later when he was just 19 years old, by Brazilian police. Cave, which was greatly affected by the tragic incident, dedicated the entire "Tender Prey" album to Ramos as well as the song with which he chose to open the album. It is interesting to note that the song features two Brazilian singers Clóvis Trindade and Rubinho as background voices.
The theme song "The Good Son" opens with a kind of a-capel gospel song sung by all the band members. It was influenced by an African-American folk song called "Another Man Done Gone" which was first recorded in 1957 by the African-American singer Odetta. An exciting and chilling song based on the story of "Cain and Abel" and apparently influenced by Cave's relationship with his father. In this specific case, the story of Cain and Abel comes from the point of view of the son who simply longs for the love of his father.
We continue with the same concept of the "father and son" relationship with "Sorrow's Child", a song that simply breaks us down into tears at every hearing. This is the first song written for the album and probably the one that brought the whole theme to the album. Cave's exciting piano playing, the lyrics, the deep voice, the melodic melody, and the accompaniment of strings, simply do not allow the listener to remain indifferent.
The fourth track "The Weeping Song" is probably the best known from the album and perhaps the one that best highlights the concept behind the album and the theme of "father-son relationship". It's an amazing duet between guitarist Blixa Bargeld who sings the role of "father" and Nick Cave who sings the role of "son", with an unforgettable video clip that features the two getting drunk on a rocking boat.
"The Hammer Song" is probably the closest in terms of style to the old Nick Cave. The "hammer" is probably the harsh reality that slapped Cave in the face, perhaps due to his difficult relations with his parents and perhaps because he disappointed them. Another possibility that could explain the "hammer" that fell on Cave could be related to the death of his father in a car accident when he was only 19 years old. Either way, this song draws the line of the "father and son" relationship that runs between the songs on the album, including the lyrics: "My father raged and raged And my mother wept."
The song "Lament" is as its name implies. Lyrics and melody that express a lament for a loved one who has passed away.
The track "The Witness Song" brings us closer again to the gospel that greatly influenced Nick Cave in those days. As is well known Nick Cave has dealt with quite a few spiritual and biblical issues during his career and the gospel influences in this song are not really surprising given Cave's attraction to those issues.
The album ends with "Lucy", the only song on the album written by Blixa Bargeld and keyboardist Roland Wolf who was part of "The Seeds" until the previous album and also plays the piano here. The song ends with Nick Cave's beautiful harmonica playing and here we recall u2's "The Joshua Tree" album which also included gospel influences, harmonica playing, and the work of Flood who also produced this album.
"The Good Son" is without a doubt a masterpiece and one of Cave's best albums. It is a work that strives for perfection. What may at first seem quiet, melodic, and soft hides the deadly and uncompromising power of one of the most special and interesting artists of our generation.