Sublime's 'Final' Posthumous Release Spotlights Late Singer

Last planned album in trilogy compiles rare acoustic recordings by frontman Brad Nowell.

The final album in a posthumous trilogy chronicling the comet-like career of Long Beach, Calif., ska/surf/punk trio Sublime -- this one featuring songs performed acoustically by the band's now-deceased leader -- will be released Nov. 17.

The 15-track Sublime Acoustic -- Bradley Nowell and Friends compiles rare and previously unreleased recordings by singer Bradley Nowell, who died at age 28 from a heroin overdose in May 1996.

Nowell's dad, Jim Nowell, said he thinks the CD clearly establishes that his son was the driving creative force behind the trio, which also included Eric Wilson on bass and Bud Gaugh on drums. "Being his father, I may be prejudiced," Nowell said. "But [Bradley] was the underlying talent of the band. This album is a good showcase of his talent when he was on his own."

His death came two months before the release of the band's breakout, multi-platinum album, Sublime. Since then, two posthumous Sublime albums have been released: the B-sides set Second-Hand Smoke and the live Stand by Your Van.

The upcoming album focuses on Nowell, featuring his acoustic versions of such original Sublime staples as "Wrong Way" (RealAudio excerpt of album version), "Saw Red" and "Don't Push." Also included are reggae spirituals, such as "Rivers of Babylon," a medley of songs by reggae legend Bob Marley and covers of songs by experimental '80s alternative rockers Camper Van Beethoven and '80s punk legends X.

Opie Ortiz, currently one of the vocalists for the Sublime offshoot band Long Beach Dub Allstars, also sang the praises of Nowell's talents and his solo performances.

Saying he was not the "f---ing genius" Nowell was, Ortiz added, "[Sublime] were a f---ing power trio. But I'm not trying to be Bradley Nowell. I don't compare myself to him at any point. We liked the same styles, but what he was trying to achieve was different; he was trying to achieve the masses."

The tracks on Sublime Acoustic are culled from impromptu jam sessions, live shows and home recordings laid down between 1991 and 1995. They include tracks recorded in the sewing room of Jim and stepmother Janie Nowell's house in 1993, a live show at Anaheim's Cattleman's Wharf in 1995 and songs recorded in the living room of band-friend Miles Doughty's mother in 1994.

The album also contains material tracked at country legend Willie Nelson's Pedernales studio in 1995, during sessions for the triple-platinum Sublime album.

The full track listing for the album is: "Wrong Way" (Cattleman's Wharf), "Saw Red" (Pedernales), "Foolish Fool" (Doughty's house), "Don't Push" (Jim Nowell's house), "Mary/Big Salty Tears" (Cattleman's Wharf), "Boss D.J." (Jim Nowell's house, with Wilson on pump organ and Gaugh on congas), "Garden Grove" (Cattleman's Wharf), "Rivers of Babylon" (Long Beach, with Wilson on xylophone), "Little District" (Pedernales), "KRS-One" (Cattleman's Wharf), "Marley Medley -- Guava Jelly/This Train" (Redondo Beach, Calif.), "What Happened/Eye of Fatima" (Doughty's House), "Freeway Time in L.A. County Jail" (Jim Nowell's house), "Pool Shark" (Jim Nowell's house) and "It's Who You Know" (Doughty's house).

Some fans said they could hardly complain about the stream of posthumous releases from one of their favorite bands.

"Some people would say that it's exploiting Brad's memory," wrote 15-year-old Ohioan Kevin Tseng in an e-mail. "But I wouldn't mind having some more live versions of the same songs. It's like asking a person why they collect bootleg tapes of the concerts of the same CD."

The webmaster of the unofficial Sublime/Brad Nowell site "Distorted Lifestyle" said, however, that he thought the release of another Sublime album so soon after Stand by Your Van might be a case of overkill.

The release brings to a close a hectic year of Sublime releases, which included Second-Hand Smoke, Stand by Your Van and a two-hour home video biography of the group entitled Stories, Lies, Tales & Exaggerations. Despite the critical acclaim the band has received after Nowell's death, each successive posthumous album has sold fewer copies according to the sales-tracking firm SoundScan, with Second-Hand Smoke selling 626,000 albums since its November 1997 release and Stand by Your Van moving 158,000 units since its release this past June.

Jim Nowell said this latest -- and possibly last -- album of Sublime material not only gives insight into what he described as his son's eclectic taste in music, but also provides some closure for him as well.

"There's a couple of reasons we put these out so fast," Jim Nowell said, responding to charges that the trio of CDs might strike some as cashing in. Nowell said he received a number of e-mails and letters from fans who requested the acoustic material, which they told him had appeared on bootlegs that some retailers were selling for as much as $150. Also, because Wilson and Gaugh had decided not to tour as Sublime, and because no new material would be forthcoming, the material would be as good as new for fans thirsting for more from Sublime.

The third reason was more personal, according to Nowell. "Having lost my only son and being very close to him, it's nice not to have to deal with it every day," he said. "I wanted to get it out and not necessarily get it over with, but get it behind me."