Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Extraordinary Story about Album That Turned out, Well, 'Extraordinary'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Extraordinary Story about Album That Turned out, Well, 'Extraordinary'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Vrabel

On Tuesday, Fiona Apple and her label, Epic, released Extraordinary Machine into stores, a mere two or so years after you could get it for free.

Machine's extraordinary story is a convoluted one, all about lost songs and the Internet and major labels and driven fans, which ranks right up there with the legends surrounding Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Dave Matthews Band's Busted Stuff and Danger Mouse's Grey Album.

Wilco's record was deemed unreleasable by Reprise, set free on the Web and played a huge role in turning the Chicago alt-rockers into minor gods, at least by indie rock standards. After DMB laid down a CD's worth of downcast tracks with producer Steve Lillywhite, shelved them and promptly retired to California to record the shiny and extremely boring Everyday, fans bootlegged the "Lillywhite sessions" so much that Dave issued them as Busted Stuff. Danger Mouse's Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up was 10 kinds of illegal but successfully proved how mind-blowing music could be created and released with an involvement on the part of the record industry that fell somewhere between "jack" and "diddly squat."

Apple's tale is closest to Wilco's. Machine was wrapped in May 2003 with producer Jon Brion, but torpedoed by Sony, says Brion, because of the traditional Lack of Hit Singles -- and, indeed, very little of Apple's erudite, orchestral pop had anything approaching the fantastic quality of . . . gee, let's see who's No. 1 on iTunes right now . . . (clicking furiously) . . . Nickelback. (Yes, I do get tired of using those guys as punching dummies, but in my defense, they should be less bowel-clutchingly awful.) For her part, Apple now says that she wasn't happy with the results. In either case, before too long, 11 unfinished songs from the Brion sessions made their way online, where they multiplied like wet gremlins.

Only partially sated, Fiona's fans, a motivated bunch of campers whose fragile muse had, in the previous nine years, released just two records and endured a couple of nutty public breakdowns, started banging pots and pans. The Web site freefiona. …

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