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Tony Levin

Waters of Eden

Review by Vivian Lee

Since the age of ten, bassist/stick-player Tony Levin has been a chameloid powerhouse in the world of music, having played with artists like Seal, Peter Paul and Mary, and Andy Summers; or with supergroups like King Crimson, Bruford Levin Upper Extremities and Liquid Tension Experiment.

Levin's latest release, Waters of Eden incorporates the talents of guests like Jerry Marotta on drums, Larry Fast, David Sancious, Warren Bernhardt, and Pete Levin on keyboards, Jeff Pevar, California Guitar Trio, and David Torn on guitars, and Steve Gorn on Bansuri flute. The disc prominently features both fretless and upright bass in the seldom-heard role of melody maker and not just rhythm maker. Waters of Eden contains nine diverse tracks reflecting classical, jazz, funk, rock and world influences to showcase a musical passion and emotion that seems to emanate from the densely polyrhythmic and polymelodic instrumentals.

Long time fans of Levin's heavier progressive rock work may find this album a bit disappointing ("Tony Levin Lite", as some listeners have said), but those new to Levin's music and those who are fans of new age may want to find a place for this release in their collection. Waters of Eden is available at the Papa Bear Records website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Bone and Flesh
A moody, melodic synth movement introduces the other instruments to the listener. The track's slow start belies the buoyant body of this song, which contains elements of Afro-pop, classical and jazz. "Bone and Flesh" stands out not just because it's first on the CD, but because it uses the bass guitar to create melodies that stand beside, not merely behind the other instruments.
Waters of Eden
Quieter than "Bone and Flesh", the title track is pretty, and light, featuring cello, bass and piano playing a happy but not overly sweet melody.
Icarus
Soft percussion sets a quick tempo while a virtual soprano clarinet or sax takes turns playing a smooth melody with bass guitar. A synth riff completes the ensemble.
Gecko Walk
The use of effects, a synth bass line, really does call to mind a lizard's slithering gait, working in this melodic, kind of humorous tune's favor.
Belle
A duet named for (and dedicated to) Tony and Pete's mother, "Belle" is a stripped down tune consisting solely of bass and piano synth. I admire the bare-bones quality that allows the gentleness of "Belle" to come through.
Pillar of Fire
The martial beat of drums leads the way for synth, bass and guitar. To my bass-loving ears, this track is stronger than "Bone and Flesh" and has a King Crimsonish flavor to it, peppered with funk, rock, and jazz.
Boulevard of Dreams
The second bass and piano duet on the album has the same gentleness of "Belle", but in a lighter tone.
Opel Road
A breathy synth paired with the windy bansuri flute mimics voices on the wind, while an acoustic guitar and bass guitar share melody making duties.
Utopia
"Utopia" starts out with synth playing a series notes in harmony and increasing tempo while the bass sparingly administers a beautiful slow melody. The body of the song consists of a guitar and drums and a guitar like synth sound in an unhurried fashion. This has the effect of relaxing the listener. There are no solos per se, just the various instruments coming together and sharing melody-making duties. Drums are used for rhythm without excessive licks and chops, just solid drumming.
 
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