Ruby Vroom

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Ruby Vroom
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 27, 1994
RecordedApril–June 1994
GenreFunk rock[1]
LabelSlash/Warner Bros. Records
ProducerTchad Blake
Soul Coughing chronology
Ruby Vroom
Irresistible Bliss

Ruby Vroom is the debut studio album by American rock band Soul Coughing, released in 1994. The album's sound is a mixture of sample-based tunes (loops of Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" on "Bus to Beelzebub", Toots and the Maytals, Howlin' Wolf, The Andrews Sisters, and The Roches on "Down to This", and a loop of sampler player Mark Degli Antoni's orchestral horns on "Screenwriter's Blues", among others). It also features guitar-based tunes like "Janine", "Moon Sammy", and "Supra Genius" and jazzy, upright-bass-fueled songs that often slyly quoted other material—the theme from Courageous Cat on "Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago", Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" on "Casiotone Nation", and Bobby McFerrin's cover of Joan Armatrading's "Opportunity" on "Uh, Zoom Zip".

The album sold approximately 70,000 copies, as of April 1996, according to Billboard.[2]


Ruby was named after a mispronunciation of the name of Ruby Froom, daughter of record producer Mitchell Froom—a frequent collaborator of Ruby Vroom producer Tchad Blake—and singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega.[3]


The album was recorded at Sunset Sound Factory in Hollywood, Blake and Froom's usual haunt—a storage room near the studio's lounge was filled with vintage keyboards and road cases filled with toys—whistles, baby rattles, children's toy xylophones. Many of these ended up in the songs, such as a train whistle played by Doughty on "Uh, Zoom Zip". This was in keeping with Tchad Blake's spirit of maverick experimentation, which included sticking a binaural head-shaped microphone in front of Yuval Gabay's drumkit, sticking a mic in a car muffler, called "the Bone" and sticking that in the drum booth as well, and having Doughty improvise wild, yelling ad-libs on "Casiotone Nation", singing into a cheap amplification system called an Ahuja that Blake bought in India. The speaker was essentially a huge bullhorn atop a stick.

The album's lone guest is Rachel Benbow Murdy, band founder Mike Doughty's ex-girlfriend, who supplies a vocal on "Janine". Doughty had Murdy go out to a payphone in Sheridan Square in New York and sing a rendition of "Lemon Tree" with an improvised melody into their answering machine.[4] Recorded a year before the Ruby sessions, Doughty and bass player Sebastian Steinberg recorded the tune at the avant-garde jazz club The Knitting Factory during the daytime, when the club was closed, with club soundperson James McLean. McLean put a mic on the answering machine, which Doughty had brought to the session.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Consumer GuideA[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[7]
Entertainment WeeklyA[1]
The Guardian[8]
The Philadelphia Inquirer[9]
Rolling Stone[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[11]

Ruby Vroom was positively received by critics. Entertainment Weekly described the album as "elegantly spare, dramatic, and danceable",[1] and Rolling Stone's Michael Azerrad applauded Soul Coughing for combining its disparate genre influences into "a compelling and profoundly original sound".[10] The sampling work of keyboardist Mark de Gli Antoni was singled out for particular praise: Michael Azerrad stated that Antoni "revolutionize[d] what sampling can do as a rhythmic, harmonic, textural and melodic tool",[10] while Sean Westergaard of AllMusic opined that he "set the bar for sampler players in the pop world".[5] Vocalist Mike Doughty was also praised for his work, with critics noting that he was able to effectively balance wry cynicism against earnest descriptiveness.[5][10] Robert Christgau argued that, on Ruby Vroom, Soul Coughing demonstrated stronger musicianship than other acts who shared the band's "hipster cynicism".[6]

In a retrospective review from AllMusic, Ruby Vroom was labeled "one of the great debut albums of the '90s".[5]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago" – 3:48
  2. "Sugar Free Jazz" – 3:55
  3. "Casiotone Nation" – 3:50
  4. "Blueeyed Devil" – 4:12
  5. "Bus to Beelzebub" – 4:33
  6. "True Dreams of Wichita" – 5:00
  7. "Screenwriter's Blues" – 5:08
  8. "Moon Sammy" – 4:09
  9. "Supra Genius" – 3:59
  10. "City of Motors" – 4:38
  11. "Uh, Zoom Zip" – 3:56
  12. "Down to This" – 3:49
  13. "Mr. Bitterness" – 5:32
  14. "Janine" – 4:58



  1. ^ a b c Mirkin, Steven (September 16, 1994). "Ruby Vroom". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on November 19, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  2. ^ Olson, Catherine Applefeld (April 6, 1996). "Soul Coughing Set Promises 'Irrresistable Bliss'". Billboard. Vol. 18, no. 14.
  3. ^ Brown, Mark (1996-11-19). "Babies Become Newest Rock 'N' Roll Fad". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  4. ^ Young, Simon (October 27, 2015). "The Essential Playlist: Mike Doughty". Metal Hammer. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Westergaard, Sean. "Ruby Vroom – Soul Coughing". AllMusic. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2000). "Soul Coughing: Ruby Vroom". Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-24560-2. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (2009). "Soul Coughing". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-972636-3. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  8. ^ Romney, Jonathan (October 14, 1994). "Soul Coughing: Ruby Vroom (Slash/London 9 45752-2)". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Warren, Bruce (October 9, 1994). "Soul Coughing: Ruby Vroom (Slash/Warner Brothers)". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  10. ^ a b c d Azerrad, Michael (December 15, 1994). "Soul Coughing: Ruby Vroom". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  11. ^ Sarig, Roni (2004). "Soul Coughing". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 760. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.