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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 26, 2006

My View: 'Cracked Rear View' by Hootie & The Blowfish

 •  Forever Hootie

By Jeremy Castillo
Special to The Advertiser

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The ratings

5 — Outstanding: Add it to your collection now. A must-have.

4 — Great: Buy it or rent it — definitely listen to it.

3 — Good: Worth listening to despite some flaws.

2 — Fair: Unless you’re a fan of the group or singer, don’t bother.

1 — Poor: Save your money (and your ears).

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Editor's note: Hootie & The Blowfish performs tonight at the Waikiki Shell and Sunday on the Big Island. Here's a look at the band's debut and monster-selling album.

CD: "Cracked Rear View" by Hootie & The Blowfish; Atlantic Records

Release: July 5, 1994

Style: Rock

My take: Way before his Burger King-commercial fame, singer/songwriter Darius Rucker was lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish. The band was formed in 1989 during its members' college days at the University of South Carolina. And with one immensely popular song, it became permanently part of 1990s rock history.

That tune, "Only Wanna Be With You," was from Hootie's debut album, "Cracked Rear View." The enormous air play the song received was the catalyst behind the multiplatinum firestorm that led to sales of 12 million copies that year alone.

Of course, there were three other radio singles: "Let Her Cry," a very emotional ballad about witnessing a loved one's self destruction; "Time," a recollection of sights, lessons and experiences one goes through over a lifetime; and "Hold My Hand," a love song with religious overtones.

However, there's more to this album than what was heard on the radio. Beyond those four songs are tracks that show Rucker and his bandmates at their core: a small-town bar band with solid roots and big sound. There is no better showcase than "Drowning," a call to arms to end racism and written from firsthand experience. Here, Rucker's gritty voice helps carry the power of his lyrics. One particularly powerful passage:

"When the people in the church/they tell me you're my brother

"You don't walk like me, you don't talk like me, saying 'Go back to Africa,' I just don't understand."

Other songs indicate Hootie's range. "Running From an Angel" is much more bluegrass-sounding than anything else, courtesy of the banjo and harmonica; "Look Away" is the tale of a little girl who misses her father; the title track is an a-cappella track that runs only 53 seconds, but that's all it needs to be, making it reminiscent of the Counting Crows song "Walkaways."

Hearing "Cracked Rear View" for the first time 12 years after its initial release is sort of disappointing. Not because it's a bad CD, but because it's good. For a debut, Hootie showed promise and talent far beyond the typical bar-scene band, plus a whole lot of potential. It's truly a shame it didn't have the steady success of less-talented groups of the same time period.

If there are still longtime Hootie fans or late newcomers who haven't picked up this CD yet, I recommend you do so.

It's worth it.

Jeremy Castillo is a student at Windward Community College and editor of the college's newspaper, Ka 'Ohana.