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Red Hot Chili Peppers – Return of the Dream Canteen

November 14, 2022
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Return of the Dream Canteen (2002)

Earlier this year the Red Hot Chili Peppers released a 17 song album: Unlimited Love. It was a comeback of sorts: well received by fans and critics, but most importantly, John Frusciante is back. Unlimited Love is one of my favorite albums of 2022. As I got into Unlimited Love, I realized that all the RHCP albums I liked (e.g., Mother’s Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication and Stadium Arcadium), all had one thing in common: John Frusciante. This was not unique to me, the Frusciante RHCP albums are the hit RHCP albums.

RHCPs are back in less than a year with Return of the Dream Canteen – another 17 songs. I recall during the press cycle for Unlimited Love that the band and producer Rick Rubin, teased that they had another album in the can from the Unlimited Love sessions. Return of the Dream Canteen is that extra album, it is more of the same and that is OK with me. These are not outtakes or songs that weren’t good enough to make the Unlimited Love cut. The RHCP were overflowing with creativity, the band has suggested 50 songs were completed out of the Unlimited Love/Return of the Dream Canteen session, and this is just one giant 4-LP album issued in two parts.

I don’t detect a significant difference between the two albums. I feel like the songs and production are interchangeable. That being said, with this much material you need to make it manageable for fans to digest. They have done a good job of creating two well sequenced double albums (in the LP era both Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, given their 75 minute length, would have been double albums). There is a shit-ton of material and despite the volume, it is all top quality and I don’t feel there is any is filler. I appreciate the bloat.

Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Return of the Dream Canteen
Indie Exclusive Limited Edition Alternate Cover Gold 2LP

Some highlights of Return of the Dream Canteen

  • “Tippa My Tongue” is classic RHCP’s funk rock
  • “Eddie” is a tribute to Eddie Van Halen – it does not particularly define Van Halen’s brilliance, but it is a fun little song
  • “My Cigarette” is a different sound than typical RHCP – almost trip hop

The question with this much material, should have Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen been edited down to a 45 minute masterpiece? My answer is no. At this point in the RHCP’s career a taut masterpiece is not needed, but an excessive quadruple LP is.

It may be recency bias, but I think I like Return of the Dream Canteen more than Unlimited Love. It feels more diverse and adventurous.

Per the RHCP’s website:

Return of the Dream Canteen feels like a nod to the creative prosperity of a psychedelic desert. Something about the four of us wandering into a time and place that had less definition than normal lead to more music. We just kept sipping away. The canteen was generous. Just when a blubberously funky baseline seemed like it might lie dormant without a dance partner, its song fellows would show up to party. John’s tenacious focus on treating every song as though it was equal to the next helped us to realize more songs than some might know what to do with. In a world where a single track release is typical, we decided to release back to back double records. We feel good about it. Pass the canteen.”

Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen are the first RHCP albums that I have truly been obsessed with. Although, I have been a long time fan, I would have been a casual fan. With these two albums I have become a serious fan. The fact that they are nearly four decades into their career and still at their creative peak is amazing.

From → Music Reviews

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