In the annals of rock music, only a handful of albums can be considered perfect. What those albums happen to be is the source of much debate, but I have no qualms putting Oasis’ sophomore album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory near the top of that list. Released in the fall of 1995, it came in quick succession to the band’s impressive debut, Definitely Maybe, and left their debut in the dust. It quickly became apparent that lead singer Liam Gallagher’s braggadocio was accurate; sure, he was a cocky bastard, but he had every right to be. He and brother Noel produced the goods to back up those over-the-top press quotes.
Don’t believe it? Consider this. Of the album’s ten songs (not counting two brief instrumental segues), six were released as singles, and four of those numbers were massive hits. “Morning Glory,” “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” are radio playlist staples still in regular rotation nearly twenty years later. Those songs not released as singles, however, are still fine numbers, especially the gentle ballad “Cast No Shadow” and the jaunty “Hey Now.” Liam’s punk snarl fitting nicely beside Noel’s more tender, introspective fare. The combination of great songs plus the album’s excellent programming (a lost art, sadly) make Morning Glory the wonderful album that it is.
Still not convinced? Consider the second disc in the three-disc set, a 14-track collection of b-sides and rarities. These tracks are far from tossed-off numbers; instead, they’re fully produced songs that could have easily fit on Morning Glory. Hell, had these songs been released as Morning Glory, it’s not hard to imagine the album performing as well as Morning Glory. The same chemistry of tender and tart is to be found in the songwriting, and not a moment is duff, not even the silly “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday,” sung by Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, as a “Ringo moment.” The full-blown horn section on “Round Are Way” gives the song a Revolver-style flare, and one wonders why it was regulated to b-side section. Also, don’t miss the rock punch of “Acquiesce,” the sneering “Headshrinker,” or their revealing cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize.” Mellower moments, like the beautiful Noel-sung numbers “Talk Tonight” and “The Masterplan,” are both fine numbers in the “Wonderwall” vein, and are both two of Noel’s greatest creations. The remix of “Champagne Supernova” strips back the final version’s psychedelic haze, offering it as a raw, undiluted potion of pure emotion.
Disc three of this set contains demos and live versions of songs from the first two disc, and is a nice collection, especially if one wants to hear the creative process at work. It’s not particularly revelatory, mind; it simply offers up the band in the live environment, where they shone wonderfully, and in the stark nakedness of demo recording, proving that these songs, these magical, wonderful songs—were no mere flukes or the product of studio trickery.
The problem with becoming the biggest and best rock band in the world, however, is sustaining that momentum. They flew high, they flew fast, but they flew too close to the sun, and follow-up Be Here Now would prove an Icarus-like fall from grace, tempered by tabloid behavior and members leaving. It’s not necessarily Oasis’ fault; Morning Glory was going to be a hard album to follow up, no matter who you were. Still, this is a fabulous album of 1990s Britpop and a damn fine collection of songs.