Saturday, June 18, 2016

It’s Complicated

Although Grimes brought me pretty much up to the present, for the most part I’m dwelling in the past.

There is my foray into the 1970s - the Kinks, Roxy Music , Fairport Convention, etc.

Then there have been my retreats into ambient music where the amount of sensory input is limited, which, believe me, has its uses.

And then there’s the classical music I’ve been delving into, which I’ll get into another time.

And now, it’s 1940s blues. Why? No philosophical reason. It’s just because Barnes and Noble told me so, for $4.99.  Totally worth it, too.



Muddy Waters: The Plantation Recordings (1941)

This one fits most of the above criteria of what I need now.  Out of this current time. Limited sonic input.

On the first count, it brings us back to the 1940s. Yet that makes it way newer than the classical music I’ve also been listening to. And yet, much more “primitive”. (I like primitive, btw.)

Doesn’t that make it inferior to classical music? Yeah, bullsh*t. If anything, it’s a response to it. After all, the people creating and listening to classical music had the money and the education that enabled them to create and consume said music. And they got the money, etc by giving the blues to everybody else.

Whatever. Peace and love, etc. Back to Muddy.

On that latter count (limited sonic input, in case I lost you), it couldn’t be more different from Grimes, say.

At the time of this recording, Muddy was about the same age as Grimes was for Art Angels. But he sounds way older. By about a thousand years.

This record is mostly just him and a guitar, which is more than enough, usually. I will admit I slightly prefer his later electric sound. (Not many electric guitars on the plantation, you know.)

Muddy isn’t quite as exciting as Howlin’ Wolf  vocally, and Elmore James plays a meaner guitar. But he's probably the best overall.

And he’s full of seeming contradictions, at least to a clueless dolt like me. He sings about being poor but looks like a million bucks on the cover. (Where can I get a suit like that?) Then he’s singing about god on one song and then sin on the next. And love, too, and it’s sometimes bitter aftermath.  In other words, in a dozen or so "primitive" songs, you get life in all it’s complexity.

Okay, there are several interview tracks sprinkled throughout, but they’re not as annoying as you’d think.

So, not exactly rousing, but very, very down to earth. Literally.

Because of the low volume on this one, I count it as morning music. But it has to be a pretty bad morning.

But that’s okay, if that happens, you just begin to sing:

Woke up this morning…

And you take it from there.

A-

“You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Older Men and Younger Women, or, Sometimes the Present is Actually Bearable

Despite my recent disappointments, some current music does occasionally work for me.



Grimes: Art Angels (2015)

“I’m surprised you like this” is something Mrs. Jaybee says whenever I get something on the poppy side.

And it probably looks a little ridiculous that a man like me - dangerously close to 60 years old - is listening to this very girlish sounding woman with tunes on the beat-y/dance-y - but pretty - side.

I usually do find this sort of thing annoying, but that’s not the case here.

I did get this too soon. This is Spring/Summer music if ever I heard it.  Meanwhile, I got it oh, back in January?  No problem, I now know to put some things away until the time is right.  And with Spring now here, this sounds just lovely. It makes you want to go out and enjoy the global warming.

And although she sounds very young, and is, what she says is a bit more grown up.

What I love about this:

  • She finds strong melodies and arrangements to best complement that voice.  
  • Although the music is on the dance-oriented side, she usually starts off with an electric guitar, and preserves its tone, texture and rhythm throughout the track. She likes to keep one foot firmly in the rock n’ roll camp.
  • All of the above elements are used to their best effect, and work together, so although there’s a lot going on, it never seems overly busy.

And the above is pretty much the definition - for me - of great pop music.

There are flaws, of course. She goes girly a lot, and the songs that are more purely dance-oriented aren't as original as the rest of the record.

But, to answer your question, Sweetheart, yes, I do like it.

I don’t know if I’ll play it loud in the car like that elderly fella on the motorcycle did the other day. I tend to attribute such things to mid-life crises. But it would appear he’s a little more secure in his manhood than I am.

A-

“Artangels”






Saturday, June 4, 2016

My 70s Show

Like I’ve been saying, I’m losing my taste for current music (or it’s losing its taste for me).

And, as I mentioned in my last post, our 15 year-old musical selves usually turn out to be our lifetime musical selves. I fact-checked this on my record database (and encourage you to do the same! What?  Oh, never mind!) but didn’t find an exact correlation.

But that’s because I didn’t start really buying records until I had a real job, which was in 1974. Once I did, though, I went apesh*t and got about 200 records over the next four years.  I was clearly making up for lost time.

When you don’t have a lot of records, though, as my 15 year-old self didn’t prior to that year, you relied on your friends.  You had to wait to hear those records at their houses or when they would let you borrow them.  But even when I finally started getting my own records I didn’t always go back and get those other records I associated with my friends.

Those records would occasionally pop up in discount bins, and I would find myself weighing the option getting them - something known and inexpensive - against getting something new and more expensive.  The cheapskate in me usually held out for the new and cheap.

Another thing holding me back was the thought that these records were either played out or that I’d simply not like them as much as I did back then. So there are plenty I never did get.

But last year, in my desperation, I was tempted many times (thanks, amazon.com $5 mp3s!) to revert to the early 70s rock of my formative years. In other words, music I shouldn’t be going to now since “my tastes have changed” somewhat, but that in fact may have burned itself into my brain’s synapses regardless.


And a few made the cut:


Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (1974)

This was lent to me by Friend-Back-Then Maureen, along with For the Roses, and it was always overshadowed by that record which is easily in my all-time top 25, along with Blue.  This allowed me to burnish my pop snob credentials by dissing this one in comparison.

But “Free Man in Paris” is easily one of the greatest pop record ever made. Melodically, rhythmically, lyrically. And everything else on side one - with the exception of the merely good hit-single “Help Me” is damn near perfect, which makes it one of the greatest pop sides ever.

So it’s natural that side two can’t quite keep up. But now that I’m finally giving it a chance I find it’s quite good, and beats Steely Dan out on the jazzy-LA-sound by at least three years. And she does it better, too. A

"Free Man in Paris"



If I remember correctly, this next one was borrowed for an extended period from Brother Pat’s Friend Kenny:



Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die (1970)

“Stranger to Himself” - which is far from the best song here - has played in my head on and off for decades. Is it the nice jarring chord progression and rhythm, or the weird intro with the acoustic guitar? I don't know, but it's stuck up there.

Anyway, back then I assumed that this was one of the best albums ever made, but I’m having trouble believing me now.

Why? I mean, who doesn't like Steve Winwood's voice? But man, he can be a sloppy singer. Try a little harder, man! Like on “Gimme Some Lovin”.

And it all sounds a bit thin. Maybe if they got an actual bassist, things might have had a more oomph. That’s the very talented Mr. Winwood spreading himself too thin.

Speaking of which, the live disc that comes with this Deluxe edition is almost a total waste. It really shows the shortcomings of a band that relies on one key person to handle too many critical chores.

And let’s not dwell on the words too much. They just seem to be there because words make the singing make sense.

But I carp. “Empty Pages” shows some needed emotion, if not intelligence. The title song is done to perfection. And “Every Mother’s Son” has a great guitar riff and a rousing finish. The rest is not bad at all.

So it holds up pretty good. No, not in my top 100, but a worthwhile record for sure.  A-

“Every Mother’s Son”



This one was probably lent to me by Childhood Friend Mike.


David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)

I was bracing myself to hate this one.  After all, he is one of the biggest assholes in rock and roll history. (And isn’t that saying something?)

Critically reviled in its time, but kinda liked by foolish teens like myself , this is actually a lovely record. Not much, lyrics-wise. But Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel adds great atmosphere and his lead some needed edge.  Even Grace Slick gets all strident at the right time.

By the way, Dave’s version of “Laughing” is the best one out there.

It’s all about the vocals and the atmosphere, folks, and the LA mafia pretty much nails it here
.
And we all know that with DC we could do a lot worse. (What, are you f*cking kidding me?)

But better, too. (Now that’s more like it!)

Anyway, here’s the high point on this record:
"Laughing"

B+


So I managed okay with these records.  Oh, I don’t listen to them all that much but I knew that would happen. Still, I’m happy with what I did get.

The big question now is Should I Leave Well Enough Alone?

I’m now considering digging into some albums from that era that I never heard, but that bear the allure of the time (or the stench of datedness, depending on your viewpoint).

Leon Russell, anyone?

Jethro Tull?

Bueller?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The 16, 19, or Maybe Even My, 70s:

I’ve heard it said that your long term musical interests get imprinted on your brain when you’re around fifteen years old.  So whatever you were listening to at that time, is the type of music you’re listening to now.

For me, that would be 1972. And it works, to a certain extent.  I did become a huge Allman Brothers fan around then, with the Dead following close behind.

But I always thought my real musical imprinting came in 1979, when I was 22. It was the year punk broke (my eardrums, anyway). There was an avalanche of records that not only sounded great, but that put me on a decades-long path of exploration that is only now dying down (or branching off even further, depending on how you’re looking at it.)

But now I’m not so sure. As I find myself less and less moved by current music, I’ve been reaching back to albums from the early seventies for a boost.

In the past few months I’ve been enjoying records by Roxy Music circa 73-74 and the Kinks from 1971.

And now I’m reaching back another (three hundred) year(s) or so:




Fairport Convention: Liege and Lief (1970)

“Is this all one song?” asks Mrs. Jaybee, who, not being of Celtic origin (what a relief) doesn’t yet fully appreciate the subtle differences in/of these ten tales of tragedy and despair. To be fair it took her this long to get used to the drinking and passive aggressiveness.

“But it’s a good song!” I reply, using an argument once used against me by a fan of Slade back in high school when I was on the other side of the argument. Boy, did it sound dumb at the time. Not much better now.

Okay, I’ll admit that most of these melodies came from somewhere else first. At least half the songwriting credits say “Traditional”, which is a higher batting average than say, oh, Led Zeppelin.

Anyway, FC plays and sings these tunes with gusto. After all, they’ve got Richard Thompson on guitar, a damned good rhythm section, and Sandy Denny on vocals.

So much gusto, in fact, that the originals sound like they could have been written three hundred years ago.

And I’m sure whoever was 15 at that time would have loved them, too.

And I'm willing to bet Mrs. Jaybee comes around, too. She married me, after all. A-

“Come All Ye”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another Life, Another Bryan

After going on at such length about Brian Eno, I wanted to give his old bandmate/nemesis Bryan Ferry his due.

As weird as Eno seemed at the time, weird, at least, was in.

Ferry matched him by going to the other extreme. He went completely against the grain of the time by wearing dinner jackets and crooning like Rudee Vallee. He was so non-threatening looking that it was scary.

And irritating, too. Those aspects of his image, along with his taste for 50’s-style pop music, and a seemingly nuclear-powered vibrato, he had at least four things going on that I couldn’t stand at the time.

And pictures of him show him looking unreasonably sullen or unreasonably cheerful. Here he’s kind of in between:



Just look at him! American Psycho or what?

See what I mean? Normal, yet strange.

So, now take him, add Eno and put drag queens on your album covers, and Roxy Music gave you’ve got a lot to ponder.

I recently touched on the first two Roxy Music albums, which covers the time Eno was with them, and all I’ll add is how the first one   - for all its strange trappings - is at heart a rock and roll, and song, album. Those songs, Phil Manzenera’s riffs, and the band’s headlong propulsion easily get you more than halfway through the record. Okay, things do slack off after that, but still not a bad start.

And while not entirely successful, For Your Pleasure is pretty good, tool. Just not great, whatever hardcore RM fans may tell you.

So, Eno leaves and Ferry can now really show what he’s made of.


Post-Eno Roxy:


Stranded

Their third, and first without Eno, and you can immediately tell the difference.  Like that the person on the cover is almost certainly a woman. I say this only to point out that Bryan and the band seem to be simplifying things a bit.

The music is simpler, cleaner, poppier. But Ferry’s as weird as ever, and without Eno there to distract you, it sticks out all the more.

So for every triumph like “Mother of Pearl”, there’s a slow tiresome drag like “Song for Europe”

But I think they’ve turned a corner here. The weird old Roxy Music came to a crossroads and chose a straighter path. The kinks are not all worked out. (And I do mean kinks.), but there are glimmers of a really fine pop band here.  B+

“Mother of Pearl”

Don’t get me wrong. When in doubt, I usually favor the weird over the pop, but some people are just better at the latter than they are at the former. And I think it’s true for Roxy.




Country Life

A more sexist cover, which is a shame, (Still trying to wash that Eno taste our of your mouths, guys?) but another step forward, musically.  The keep it light, they keep it fast, they keep it rocking.  They only falter when they slow it down. But even there, those lesser tunes add some contrast.

So the strategy is the same as last time, but their batting average has improved. Nothing quite as good as “Mother of Pearl”. But overall much more consistent. A-

“Prairie Rose”




Siren

Their peak.

My first RM record and easily my favorite. (That’s Jerry Hall on the cover, btw.  She went on to Mick Jagger and Rupert Murdoch, because money and fame are all that matter, right?).

Everything comes together here. The band, while not quite as hard rocking, are game for whatever Ferry throws at them - ballads, rockers, dance songs. And Ferry’s singing has smoothed out some more. The melodies are as good as ever.

A masterpiece, and one of my all time favorite albums. Definitely in the top 25. A

“Both Ends Burning”




Manifesto

After a three year break (and various solo records), they come back with a very commercial, but very winning record. I’ve been told that they embrace disco here, but I’m not hearing it that way. They just know how to entertain. Catchy as heck.  A-

"Dance Away"



Avalon

Everyone tells me that this is their masterpiece. I beg to differ. Too smooth by half. Meh.

But if you like it I can’t blame you.

And I admit that “More Than This” is one of the most beautiful songs ever.

B+


And the rest:

I left out a whole bunch of other Roxy records, not to mention all those Bryan Ferry solo albums because life’s too short, and I’m not as big a Ferry fan as an Eno fan.  But you get the idea.

Roxy Music got lumped in (justifiably) with a lot of glam acts at the time and were dismissed for that reason, at least by the classic rock stations.  But they were a great band, and once Ferry worked out all his issues, the songs came out great.


Oh yeah, that other Brian:


I got around to his Music for Films BECAUSE I DON’T ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH RECORDS BY HIM.

And it’s pretty good, not great.  In these 18 snippets I do hear not quite worked out ideas that would make their way onto Another Green World and Before and After Science.

And some of cuts don’t age well. Back then they may have sounded cool, but now you can smell the cheese.  And the New Age (and not the Velvet Underground one, either). Thanks a lot Brian!

But it all, oddly, holds together.  B+

“Two Rapid Formations”


And the Boys Make Up:

Right about now you’d think Bryan (F) would be objecting, saying that, yet again, I got distracted by favorite child Brian (E).  But no, they’re all past that now.

They even got together to work on something a few years ago and produced this lovely song on Bryan’s solo album Frantic

“I Thought”


I knew those guys would work out their differences! And look, it only took them thirty years!

So how is Bryan looking these days? (If you remember Brian E went through quite the transformation from glam robot he-she to middle class next door neighbor.

And here we see Bryan F also arrive at his version own of normalcy, looking like someone’s dad:



Better looking than Mick Jagger and Rupert Murdoch, too! (Ah, but isn’t everybody?)

And good for him, I say. So as pouty and strange as he could be, he’s responsible for quite a lot of great music.

Thank you, Brian!  Ooops! I meant Bryan!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What Ray Wants, Ray Usually Doesn’t Get

Life is unfair. Or at least pretty random.

You get ignored after years of brilliant work. And then, due to a fluke hit single, you ride out out the rest of your career veering between the occasionally very good and the mostly disappointing.

Ray Davies has been quite curmudgeonly of the years, and would have trouble admitting to the latter half of my scenario. But let’s face it. For the Kinks, “Lola” is that hit single.

Anyway, in early 1970 the Kinks have a big hit with “Lola” - their first in years. So what does Ray do? He bites the hand that (finally) feeds him by doing a concept album about the hardships of stardom. (Of course, Ray’s the kind of guy who’d do a concept album just because he had a really good sandwich.)

The full title is Lola vs. Powerman and the Money-go-round, Part One, and as good as it is, I’m glad he quit while he was ahead and didn’t go for a Part Two.

Once an underappreciated band gets some love, every new record is hyped as some kind of masterpiece. Having been burned by this more than once, I held off on getting Lola for many years, finally giving in once they remastered it.  And they throw in the soundtrack to Percy as a bonus!

So how is the sandwich, you ask?




Lola vs. Powerman and the Money-go-round, Part One

Lola has a very good batch of songs, and a couple of brilliant ones. Even after his peak Ray was always smart enough to have at least one brilliant song on each album.

And with the remastering, we get to hear the resurgence of the band itself, and how the banjo and piano complement the guitar on “Lola”, and how Little Brother Dave’s sometimes grating harmonies are spot on here. And no horns, thank god.

On that count, this could be their best record.

Other highlights include:

“Apeman”, of course.

“Get Back In Line” Even though Ray must have just seen “On the Waterfront”, it’s undeniably beautiful.

The funny, cynical “Top of the Pops”:
Might even end up a Rock and Roll God! 
Might turn into...
A steady job!

Dave’s sweet, soulful “Strangers”.

Ray’s not as sweet, but just as soulful “A Long Way from Home”.

The band interplay on “Denmark Street”.

And how Ray sings the lines We are right, And they are wrong on “Got to Be Free”



So how does this sandwich compare to other Kinks sandwiches?

Well, here are my favorite Kinks albums:

  1. Face to Face - One of the best albums of the 60s
  2. Something Else - Almost as good
  3. Village Green Preservation Society - Almost as good
  4. Muswell Hillbillies - Many excellent songs but too much music hall orchestration
  5. Everybody’s in Showbiz - Songwriting a little weaker worse, but a great live set
  6. Preservation: Act 1 - Songwriting a little stronger, but those damn horns again!
  7. Arthur - A bit overrated, but with two undeniable masterpieces ("Victoria", "Shangri La")

As for the Compilations:

  1. The Kinks Kronikles - One of the greatest compilations of all time.
  2. Greatest Hits - surprisingly hit or miss, but mostly hit
  3. The Great Lost Kinks Album - B sides and singles, and surprisingly excellent

So if Lola doesn’t hit the stratospheric heights of their best early stuff, it is still entertaining from beginning to end, and thus nudges out Muswell Hillbillies slightly.
A-

“End of the Line”

The soundtrack to Percy - a dated exploitation film - should really suck but when looked at overall it almost holds up. Again, Ray comes through with three excellent songs, and then pads it with variations of “Lola” and “Apeman”. The instrumentals are a bore of course but it's not a terrible album by any means.
B

“All God’s Children”

The overall package still gets an A- because you came for Lola, and the good cuts on Percy should be considered a bonus.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Life of Brian, Part Two

My album database (yes, I have an album database, doesn’t everybody?) shows that I have more Albums by the Beatles than any other artist, by a wide margin. But if I were able to count by how many times an artist simply appeared on or participated in a record in some fashion, I think Eno would win it. He’s just all over the place.

So, as promised, here’s a quick rundown of records Brian Eno was involved with, limited, of course, by my knowledge:


Eno As Bandmate:


Roxy Music (1972)

Their first, with a lot of weird but infectious tunes and Phil Manzanera playing some great guitar. It almost all comes together, too, especially when they just. rock. out. I suspect Eno’s one reason it doesn’t. But Bryan Ferry’s hyper-vibrato (think the Little Rascals dog Petey on the weight loss machine) is kind of off-putting, too.  B+

"Virginia Plain"



For Your Pleasure (1973)

I already had this disappointing record on cassette and thought I’d give it another try on CD. Maybe the sound would be better. And it is, a bit, but not the music.

Their first record at least seemed to be the product of a single (demented) mind. This one has two sensibilities at war with neither one winning.

Bryan Ferry was the lead singer/songwriter of the band  and arch-nemesis of Eno. It just goes to show you can only have one Brian in a band at a time, and if you have to have two, for heaven’s sake have them spell it the same way.

It was probably a good thing Eno split. Both he and Roxy Music would go onto better things, like one of my all time favorites Siren.

But they’re not there yet.   B+

“Do the Strand”



Eno Goes Solo: 


Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

His first solo record after leaving Roxy Music, he’s now unleashed and comes on like gangbusters. Jets is an aggressively harsh and twisted affair, yet with some wonderful tunes mixed in.

Weird and fun and in your face. it’s a favorite of Enophiles. He’s got something to prove, but I think he’s trying to do too much at one time.  He’d soon settle in for the long haul, and learn to modulate the craziness. He’s only getting started. B+

“Cindy Tells Me”



Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)

His second, and my favorite of the pop-oriented ones.

At first, frustrating but it would grow on me. And hearing it again after all these years, the experiments work, and the willfully weird stuff is just plain fun. The production is clearer here and he’s not trying so hard. The songs are more tuneful and imaginatively arranged overall.
Sorry Friend Mike , but this one’s made me what I am today (which may explain a lot more than I had in mind).

And while I’ll admit, it’s still not “going to the beach” music, it is music for a long drive. Mrs. Jaybee specifically requested it while coming home from a long weekend away last month. A

“Mother Whale Eyeless”



Another Green World (1975)

And here is where the big change occurs.  He’d been preparing for it on side projects with Robert Fripp.

He takes a step back from the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach of the prior two records. Instead, this one is minimal, and mostly instrumental, but eerie, beautiful, serene, and a little scary. It’s still in my all-time top five.

And he would continue down this path for many years.

One could argue that New Age starts here, but at best it’s a stepchild, albeit one that made all the cash. See Pure Moods.

Instead of the warm embrace of simple “prettiness” the Eno I know always holds back a little, or throws a monkey wrench in. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. A+

“Everything Merges With the Night”



Discreet Music (1975)

And he goes even further - and maybe too far - here, devoting side one to 30 minutes of slightly varying tape loops that result in a kind of background music but with ever-shifting tones. He says it’s intended to be played at a volume just below audible, which is just one step away from 4’33, if you ask me. I still want to hear the damned thing, after all.

But when you do, you kind of know where he’s coming from with it. In its way, the very definition of serenity.

Side two comprises three slightly different experimental takes on Pachelbel’s Canon that are each nice enough, but when played one after the other, a bit much.

So, not a bullseye, but very worthwhile. B+

"Discreet Music"



Before and After Science (1978)

He pulls back a little here, coming back to earth on side one. which is devoted to pop-oriented cuts, but then goes off into space again for most of side two, which is quite lovely.

Overall a good summation of what he was up to at the time. A-

“Spider and I”



Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)

One cut, a simple piano figure played over and over.  Another, harmony vocals only  Another a combination of the two. And finally a vintage Eno synthesizer buzz out.

Ambient? I guess. But simple and beautiful.  A-

“1/1”



Eno the Collaborator:

The big mystery for me is what the hell he was doing in 1976.

But in 1977 he goes to Berlin with David Bowie.



Low (1977)

Hard, sloppy rock on side one, and very Eno ambient on side two. Arguably my favorite Bowie album.  A-
“Subterraneans”



“Heroes” (1977)

The same structure as Low. The rock on side one is edgier and and the ambient on side two more daring.  Overall, very good, Low edges it out slightly. A-

“Moss Garden”



Lodger (1979)

The experiments here are in the songs themselves rather than the sound. A perfectly good record, but the weakest of the three. B+

“Boys Keep Swinging”



Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food  (1978)

And then in 1978 he heads to NYC. And when you hang around the coolest places, you meet the coolest bands. And so now he acts as producer and fifth band member of Talking Heads, shifting them (and me) into a different direction.  Melodic, harsh, funky, beautiful.  One of my all time favorites. Definitely in the top 25. A

“The Big Country”



Fear of Music (1979)

This one’s a bit of a letdown because David Byrne’s songwriting opts for the weird instead of the melodic. Not Eno’s fault, I don’t think.  B+

“Paper”



Remain in Light (1980)

Ah, now that’s better! The songwriting and the band and Eno are all on one page and the results are wonderful. But by now the other Heads want to toss Eno out of the band.  A-

“Born Under Punches”



David Byrne/Brian Eno: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)

This was actually being worked on before Remain in Light and can be seen as the intense experimentation that would eventually lead to the relatively pop(!) of that record. Made up of snippets of radio broadcasts of some very charismatic preachers (the main inspiration for David Byrne’s vocals on RIL), and the musical arrangements designed to fit around their vocal tics and rhythms. This works a lot better than one would expect. Not for parties, but very intense and interesting throughout.  B+

“Help Me Somebody”



David Byrne: The Catherine Wheel (1981)

Music from the dance production of the same name, and a great balance of songwriting and overall sound.  Eno’s really just a sideman here. Officially at least. But the music is right out of Eno territory throughout. An extremely underrated record.  A

“Two Soldiers”



Jon Hassell/Brian Eno: Fourth World: Possible Musics (1981)

A collaboration with Jon Hassell - an Ocean of Sound  conspirator.  The wind instruments give this a Middle Eastern sound, but with some fog and electronica.  Not much fun, but by the time it’s over you’ve definitely been somewhere.  B+

“Delta Rain Dream”



Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Eno’s attempt to provide a soundtrack to the Apollo missions, and a pretty darned good one.  His brother Roger and colleague Daniel Lanois share the billing.

I often can’t tell the difference between what would sound good late night vs good early morning music. Not anymore. This is definitely a night album.

It’s a bit schizophrenic, though.  Eno supplies the deep space buzz, but then Lanois comes on with the more poppy guitar. They eventually split the difference and it ends up being a distant cousin to Another Green World.  That’s a compliment.  A-

“An Ending (Ascent)”



The Pearl: (1984)

A mid-80s ambient collaboration with jazz(-ish) pianist Harold Budd (another contributor to Ocean of Sound).

The formula here seems to be short piano melodies treated with echoes. The sound of a glacier (if the glacier played the piano). Every time I put this on, I hear something different. I don’t mean a different detail or a different aspect. The whole thing sounds different.

As ambient goes this one is pretty chilly. Must be all that ice, even if it is melting.

So why can’t I stop listening to it?  A-

“A Stream With Bright Fish”




John Cale/Brian Eno: Wrong Way Up  (1990)

He spends the next few years with U2, producing the underrated Unforgettable Fire and the slightly overrated Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, which probably got him interested in trying pop music again.

As I said last year it took me a little time to love this record because it was so damned normal. But love it, I do.  A-

“Crime in the Desert”


And On and On and On...

And that’s only brings us up until 1990.

He’d go on to produce many other artists, including Coldplay, Sinead O’Connor and James. Wikipedia credits him with 43(!) production jobs.

And I’m not done yet, either. I’ve still got to check out Music for Films, and Roxy Music’s third (and first post-Eno record) Stranded.

But I think I’ll stop there.  Rumor has it there are other artists out there, too.


Recommendations:

Before and After Science if you want to get the gist of it and still enjoy yourself
Wrong Way Up for fun
Another Green World if you’re ready to explore, well, another world.
Music for Airports for surprisingly simple and straightforward beauty
Taking Tiger Mountain if you want to hear something forty years old that still sounds fresh and strange.
Low if you want to hear how Eno could impact an already well respected artist.