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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Adrian Belew

Side One

Review by Gary Hill

All right, I realize the year has just started, so this statement is probably premature, but this album may well be the best prog rock release of 2005. Yes, I like it that much. This one is catchy and quirky all at the same time. The King Crimson guitarist has produced an album that, while feeling a lot like his era of that band, also has its own unique texture. Other elements lean in the directions of psychedelia, Hawkwind like sounds, The Beatles and more. The end result is a very strong album that will be hard for anyone to beat this year. If you are a fan of modern Crimson you have to have this one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ampersand
A guitar scream gives way to a jam that at first sounds a bit like Crimson, then wanders into territory akin to the old 1960's Batman theme. As the vocals enter the effect is of a modern King Crimson take on '60's psychedelia. It dissolves into chaotic cacophony to end.
Writing on the Wall
This one comes in bouncy, fast and furious and feels very much like Belew's Crimson work. It drops to a mellower segment, then jumps up to a heavy plodding section that eventually gives way to a new fast paced mode, Belew soloing over it.
Matchless Men
This one come in tentative and funky, and has one of the coolest textures on the disc. This is slow and seductive, but still feels just a bit like modern Crimson. The bass line is exceptionally cool, as are the backwards guitar lines. This one is awesome.
Madness
A short piece of weirdness gives way to a false ending followed by a full on Crimsonian jam. An abrupt stop represents a short rest before the barrage returns. This instrumental covers a ton of territory by reworking and expanding on gradually shifting themes, and is a killer jam.
Walk Around the World
This frantic groove based rocker feels just a little like "Elephant Talk" and that era of Crimson. The vocals are rather Beatlesesque. Part way through both the intensity and power are bumped up, and the band launches into a killer jam, and the next vocals are based on this segment. A cool phased spoken vocal enters later as waves of guitar sounds cross over.
Beat Box Guitar
Scratchy record sounds start this before a meaty and slightly off kilter groove takes it. It drops back to just scratchy sounds and percussion for a time until a funky backdrop lays down the base for the weird Belew guitar sounds. Then the earlier themes come over top. It returns then to the earlier themes. Although this is essentially an instrumental, cool non-lyrical vocals come over later, and then the song shifts to a heavier, but quite melodic jam over which Belew solos. It drops back to the earlier phase to end. I love this number.
Under the RadaR
Weird sounds start this and are interspersed over top of a pretty picked mellow mode. The vocals are slightly Beatlesesque, but this really feels quite a bit like early Hawkwind.
Elephants
With a voice announcing "Back to Elephants on BBC 13" a heavy bit of sonic bounce starts this, and Belew lends guitar screeches over top. Then a voice extols the perils of elephants and jungle sounds appear throughout. Belew solos here, at first alone, then pairing with himself. Then the voice returns, Belew's guitar punctuating until the voice finishes a phrase begun earlier by adding the word "gone" to the words "elephants are".
Pause
This is a very brief neo-symphonic piece of Crimsonian weirdness.
 
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