Imagine that you’re in the desert. You’re meditating on the strangeness of the world, sitting cross-legged on top of a large boulder, baking in the bright, hot sun. You’re also wrecked on peyote. This is what you’ll be doing when you listen to The Desert Sessions.
Well, maybe not what you’ll actually be doing, but once the CD starts playing, you will understand why it would make good background music in that situation. There is no clear genre, but the music on this CD falls mostly into the category of what is known simultaneously as “desert rock” and “stoner rock” (go figure, or go to Wikipedia for more information).
The Desert Sessions, of which there have been 10 so far, are a collaborative effort. They are organized by Josh Homme, of Queens of the Stone Age fame. Basically he invites selected musicians to come out to a ranch house in the desert and write and record music on the spot (and occasionally on peyote). It’s a pretty cool idea, and it yields powerful results.
The CD in question contains volumes 9 and 10 of the sessions. My friend Tyler and I happened upon it in a Record and Tape Traders, where it had been placed on the wrong shelf. I asked him to describe it for this article, and his response was simply, “Eerie.” Next I asked him what he would say about The Sessions if he had to tell everyone about it. He said, “It will take you to another place. A creepy place. It brings a whole new emotion to music.”
That’s a good description, but words just can’t do justice to this CD. It’s one of those albums where you like every song. Every time you listen to it you regret that you don’t have time to hear it all. The Desert Sessions have some of the most brilliant vocals I’ve ever heard, complemented by technically and artistically gifted guitarists, bassists, drummers, and more.
The fourth song on the album, “There’s Never Been a Better Time,” has the most talent-laden and fitting vocal performance this side of “Great Gig in the Sky” (Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, oddly enough that’s also track four). This is probably the most impressive and mood-setting song on the CD.
Track eight, “In My Head…Or Something,” is one of the more energetic songs, and has a more radio-friendly feel. In fact, it was recorded on a later Queens of the Stone Age album. It provides a slight break from the eerie feel of the rest of the CD without breaking the desert motif. This is likely to be the favorite song of someone who doesn’t indulge in this genre too often.
But that’s just two songs out of fourteen, all of which are, frankly, awesome. I got this CD for $15. You probably can too. And you should. Your best bet will be to look it up on the internet. The other eight sessions are equally worthwhile, but are also much rarer and more expensive. If you’re desperate, you can just search for “Desert Sessions” on YouTube. Fair warning: you might develop an obsession with this CD, or this kind of music, or the desert. It’ll be worth it.