Mark Lanegan has enjoyed a long and very prolific career. After beginning his career with Ellensburg, Washington rock group Screaming Trees in 1985, Lanegan has worked with everyone from the Queens of the Stone Age to Mad Season, Kurt Cobain to J Mascis, Greg Dulli to Isobel Campbell, The Gutter Twins to Duke Garwood, and many more. The most impressive part of Lanegan’s career is that today he continues to release albums, tour the world, and keep his music fresh and interesting.
Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology 1989-2011 is an appropriate homage to the legendary singer’s prolific discography, with the first disc compiling tracks from 1990’s The Winding Sheet to 2004’s Bubblegum, and the second disc showcasing twelve previously unreleased tracks.
The first disc, which compiles music from Lanegan’s solo career in backwards-chronological order, covers songs within a fourteen year period. Although Lanegan’s music has gone through many transitions and musical styles, the anthology selects tracks that capture a similar mood and give Lanegan’s music and this compilation a classic feel. While cutting out some of Lanegan’s noisier and more experimental music, Has God Seen My Shadow? instead selects quieter, and more timeless-sounding tracks. This element gives the anthology a more seamless and sentimental feeling and resists an awkward, all over the place feeling that a greatest hits compilation might suffer from.
While examining Mark Lanegan’s long career, one would find a variety of styles and collaborators. Although this is not a negative aspect, Has God Seen My Shadow? makes the case for a more consistent level to Lanegan’s career which simply exemplifies Lanegan’s classic whiskey and smoke-stained baritone and themes of loneliness, addiction, and broken relationships. Lanegan’s music is a reflection of the man himself, an experienced man of rich complexities and contradictions, of love and heartbreak, of addiction and sobriety, of tragedy and success, of overwhelming joy and overwhelming sorrow. Through these themes we witness a reflection of life itself and many of the experiences that we all face everyday.
From 2004’s Bubblegum to 1990’s The Winding Sheet, any listener of this anthology will get a glimpse into a variety of emotions and experiences that reflect the human experience. Lanegan’s steady baritone guides us through the simple beauty of “Bombed” and Mirrored,” through the sensual seduction of “Come To Me,” and through the comfort of “Kimiko’s Dream House” and “Wheels.” Despite a lot of sorrow in Lanegan’s work, his voice gives the listener a level of comfort, while his songwriting is a relatable peek into his life rather than an overwhelming listen to a man’s self-pity. Rather than sounding like a sad stranger, Lanegan instead sounds like your friend.
The second disc, which contains previously unreleased tracks, is a valuable addition to Lanegan’s discography. Although these tracks aren’t essential to a collection of Lanegan tunes, they continue in the anthology’s quest of compiling tracks that sound classic and relatable. Any fan of Lanegan’s previous work will enjoy these unreleased tracks, both new and old. “Dream Lullabye” is a quiet, sorrowful tune while “Leaving New River Blues” is a driving, fittingly bluesy song that showcases Lanegan’s gravelly voice. “Sympathy” has a dreamy vibe while “To Valencia Courthouse” is a ‘typically Lanegan’ song, filled with sorrow and regret, which sounds like a Field Songs outtake.
“A Song While Waiting” has an experimental sound and creates an immersive soundscape, “Blues For D (vocal version)” takes the familiar instrumental from Field Songs and adds an extra level of bittersweet emotion, while “No Contestar” showcases the strength of Lanegan’s vocal talents. “Big White Cloud” is an outstanding cover of the Velvet Underground’s John Cale, while “Following The Rain” is an outstanding acoustic demo from the Whiskey For the Holy Ghost era. “Grey Goes Black” is in no way related to the Blues Funeral track, and instead delivers a longing feeling, while “Halcyon Daze” is true to its name, very calming and tranquil. The final track, “Blues Run The Game (live),” which was recorded in 2000, has a bit of humor, with guitarist Mike Johnson messing up his part and some onstage banter, but the song itself also completes the anthology with its poignant sound.
The physical release of the anthology, which comes in 2-CD and 3-LP formats, is an added extra to the already-outstanding compilation. Featuring rare photos of Mark Lanegan as well as his handwritten lyrics, the physically appealing set is a great addition to a collection of a Lanegan fan. The anthology itself can be enjoyed by those who aren’t familiar with Lanegan’s work, casual fans, as well as his dedicated fans that greatly appreciate his long career. The anthology cements the legendary singer’s existence in the ranks of a master singer rather than an alternative rock journeyman or consistent collaborator. While bringing together a compilation of classic and timeless tunes that reflect the complex human experience and delve deeply into the hardships of addiction, loneliness, and heartbreak, Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology 1989-2011 is a beautiful homage to one of rock’s finest singers.
Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology 1989-2011 is available on January 14, 2014 on Light in the Attic Records.