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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Adrian Belew

Side Three

Review by Gary Hill

When I first got Belew's Side One it was said that that disc was going to be the first a trilogy of CD's. This album draws that set to a close, but as it turns out, there is now to be a fourth. In fairness, though, Side Four is going to be a live album drawn from shows performed by the power trio that is featured on the first and third disc. Adrian Belew's biggest strength, in my opinion, is his ability to take what would normally be heard as odd sounds and textures and putting them together in a way that makes them feel almost mainstream. From that context Side One was probably the most successful of the set of albums. Still, that doesn't mean that the other ones are bad. They just aren't quite the powerful creations that the first one was. It is in that context that I see this disc. Taken without the surroundings of the other discs, though, this is a strong release in its own right. I'd have to say that I prefer Side One, but this one is still very good. It should please fans of King Crimson, Belew afficianados and prog fans in general. But it should also be something that fans of cutting edge guitar work and adventurous music in general will enjoy. I'd recommend picking up Side One first, but in all honesty, you probably should get all of them because they work best in the context of one complete unit.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Troubles
This one is a pretty pure blues cut with a bit of a modern King Crimson twist. It's a nice change of pace.
Incompetence Indifference
Feeling closer to modern Crimson, this one is a gritty rocker that's just to the left of mainstream. An effect of listening to a scratched record is included here.
Water Turns to Wine
And Belew turns to mellow. This is a ballad, sort of, but with a twisted sort of sound. It's pretty, but just off kilter enough to make sure that you can tell it's Belew. This cut is very cool and seems to feature a lot of backwards tracking. This one turns really weird in the instrumental segment that serves as the outro.
Crunk
This is an extremely short and very tasty odd instrumental.
Drive
Appropriately this one starts with the sounds of a car starting and driving away. As it shifts into the actual song it's a stripped down mellow approach that has a lot of Belew era K.C. in it, but also a touch of country music. This is probably the coolest track thus far on the disc.
Cinemusic
While this short instrumental is sedate, it is also creepy to the point of being disquieting.
Whatever
A funky bass line starts this one off, then waves of processed guitar come over top. This one begins to purely soar as a more funky take on Belew era Crimson. This one is a very awesome and intriguing track. By this point, this track takes over as the favorite of the CD.
Men In Helicopters v4.0
Based on a symphony orchestra type sound, this is a bouncy pop type number with a major Beatles leaning. It's also a highlight of the disc.
Beat Box Car
This one is another of the songs that Belew seems to do so well, an almost mainstream, but yet so meaty and prog filled cut. This is yet another standout on show here. It has a Crimson sort of texture, but also feels a little like Niacin. This instrumental also includes a smoking saxophone solo. Toward the end it shifts to something that is just percussion and what sounds like a very processed voice that sounds almost like a static-based cymbal. As the title suggests it is musically related to Side One's "Beat Box Guitar."
Truth Is
Another short one, this is a pretty ballad. It is in many ways the most mainstream cut on the disc, but is still just a bit odd. It feels very much like it would be a perfect fit for King Crimson's Power To Believe album. The last verse and instrumental segment before it also have elements of K.C.'s very first album.
The Red Bull Rides A Boomerang Across The Blue Constellation
A song that comes in as a serious contender for longest title, this is also the strangest piece on show here. It's a free form, jazz/prog/classical excursion for those who are into RIO (Rock In Opposition). Slight twinges of vocals are over powered by backwards tracks, electronic rhythms and odd textures of sound. This turns heavy at points, but never really moves into a traditional song structure. It's interesting, but just a bit too strange for this reviewer. It ends with a child's voice saying, "wake up."
&
From an incredibly long song title, we go to a one character one. This starts off with noise from the last track, then after a time kicks into a fun, but still rather strange retro tinged jam. The cut is sort of a rougher take on "Ampersand" from Side One. It turns very weird before it ends.
 
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