Toad the Wet Sprocket: Dulcinea

May 24, 1994 – Toad the Wet Sprocket: Dulcinea is released.
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
Dulcinea is an album by Toad the Wet Sprocket released on this date in May 1994. It is their fourth studio album with Columbia Records and the follow-up to their popular album fear, which was released in 1991. Two songs from Dulcinea reached Top 40 designation on the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts: “Fall Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong”. Dulcinea was RIAA Certified Gold on September 1, 1994 and Platinum on July 31, 1995.
The albums’ name is a reference to the love interest in Miguel de Cervantes’ classic Spanish novel, Don Quixote. At least two songs on the album allude to themes found in the novel. “Crowing” is a song about a person who does not know how to hold onto a lover. “Windmills” is a metaphorical song about how people spend much of their lives chasing absurd or impossible pursuits; (the allusion being to a specific scene in Don Quixote where the title character uselessly attacks a windmill).
Dulcinea also delves into some spiritual themes. “Fly from Heaven” is sung from the perspective of James, who is portrayed as Jesus’ literal brother and is upset by Paul’s manipulation of Jesus’ word. “Begin” and “Reincarnation Song” each explore questions about death and the afterlife.
From a musical perspective, Dulcinea is a return by Toad to the basics of a four-person band. The band leaves behind the overdubbed and orchestral aspects of Fear for a cleaner acoustic sound (possibly with the exception of “Fall Down”).
Q (11/94, p.124) – 4 Stars – Excellent – “…The quietly considered craftsmanship that has earned them favourable comparisons with R.E.M. and Crowded House remains in evidence here…”
by Kelly McCartney, allmusic
From the platform of success built by Fear, Toad the Wet Sprocket dove head first into their fourth release, Dulcinea. Without changing the formula too much, they conjured up 12 more hooks, stretching them ever so slightly to make the alternative tunes a bit edgier and the mellow ones a little folkier, and scoring a couple of modest hits along the way with “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Fall Down.” One of the thematic threads of Toad’s music has always been a certain spirituality, a sense of awe and wonder in regard to life and death. Dulcinea exploits and explores that theme with reverence and humility, going so far as to close the album with “Reincarnation Song,” a delicate examination of a soul’s transition shrouded musically by a veil of electric guitar feedback. Counteracting that heaviness with an offbeat, country-tinged ditty about the pros of Nanci Griffith versus Loretta Lynn is pure Toad, never being pinned into a stylistic corner. One of the best songs on this album, and perhaps their entire catalog, is “Windmills,” a moody look at the fragility and futility of existence that will cause not only the exquisite melody to linger with you, but contemplations of your own purpose in life. Framed by the flawless production of Gavin MacKillop, every song on this record creates a world of its own that is impossible not to be drawn into.
“Fly from Heaven” (Glen Phillips) – 4:38
“Woodburning” (Todd Nichols, Phillips) – 3:59
“Something’s Always Wrong” (Nichols, Phillips) – 4:59
“Stupid” (Phillips) – 2:42
“Crowing” (Phillips) – 3:20
“Listen” (Nichols, Phillips) – 4:09
“Windmills” (Phillips) – 3:50
“Nanci” (Phillips) – 3:00
“Fall Down” (Nichols, Phillips) – 3:24
“Inside” (Nichols, Phillips) – 4:19
“Begin” (Nichols, Phillips) – 4:05
“Reincarnation Song” (Phillips) – 7:14
“Hope” (Bonus track on international release)

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