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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Residents

Freak Show - 3cd Preserved Edition

Review by Gary Hill

In 1990 The Residents released an album called "Freak Show." That album is the bulk of the first disc of this new set. That first disc is augmented by a number of rarities as "bonus freaks." The second CD includes instrumental pieces that were part of the process of creating the album, jams, demo type works and such. The third disc is made up of live performances. This whole package is so cool. It does a great job of presenting and augmenting what I think is one of the strongest albums in the Residents' catalog.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Disc One
                    
Freak Show
                                      
Everyone Comes To The Freak Show

Circus styled music with the sounds of a barker on display here. Of course, it's The Residents, so it's seen through a wonderfully warped sort of lens. There are female vocals singing later on in the song.

Harry The Head
There is a driving prog rock concept that is trademark Residents at the heart of this piece. Various voices come in throughout, creating some intriguing melodic elements. This song has an almost haunting feeling to it.
Herman The Human Mole
This is even stranger, and there are some dropped back, sparsely arranged sections. There is almost a neo-classical vibe to parts of this piece. There are a number of shifts and changes to this.
Wanda The Worm Woman
Again we get some neo-classical things here, but a lot of Residents weirdness, too. There is a bouncy nature and cool use of different voices. The "watch me" part is intriguing in an almost musical theater way.
Jack The Boneless Boy
Distorted vocals on this cut lend some otherworldly strangeness. The music also does that, as well, though.
Benny The Bouncing Bump
Given the title, it's probably to be expected, but there is a decidedly percussive element to this song. It also has a suitably bouncy vibe. This has more traditional Residents vocals. It is a pretty trademark piece.
Mickey The Mumbling Midget
I love the lilting melody and progression on this number. It has a playful kind of feeling to it. Percussive elements (tuned and not) are a big part of the arrangement. A lot of the vocals are nearly spoken in traditional Residents fashion.
Lillie
Driving and strangely artsy, this a dramatic and fun piece that is trademark Residents. This turns seriously hard rocking later with a real edgy intensity and multiple layers of vocals.
Nobody Laughs When They Leave
There is a rather reflective and neo-classical vibe to this piece. It has a lot of musical theater built into it.
Bonus Freaks:
            
The Mutes

There is a dark and suitably freaky texture to this. It explores neo-classical textures with a Residents flavor properly infused. This works through quite a few shifts and changes along the road, encompassing a number of different themes.

Blowoff
At over 13-and-a-half minutes of music, this is an epic piece. There is a lot of it delivered sans vocals. This has a very symphonic vibe in a lot of ways. It's definitely a Residents tune, but it's also incredibly proggy. This has all kinds of changes and different movements. It gets pretty crazed at times.
All Tha' Freaks
Bouncy, electronic and driving, this has a classic and classic Residents sound to it.
The Eyes Scream
There is a driving, bouncing kind of groove to this instrumental piece.
Jelly Jack (Icky Flix)
Twisted and trippy in sound, this is so cool and intriguing.
Harry The Head (Icky Flix)
This version of the song is fun, dark and tasty.
Jelly Jack Rmx
I love the cool electronic groove of this and the processed vocals on the piece. There is almost a merging of electronic dance music and space rock on this thing that is just so rich.
Disc Two
              
The Freak Show Evolutions
                      
Spring 1990 Jam 1

This has a very neo-classical vibe in some ways. It gets suitably weird and bombastic at times.

Spring 1990 Jam 2
At nearly ten-minutes of music, this is an epic piece with plenty of classical music in the mix. There are some pretty crazed twists. There are some really playful parts to the piece.
Spring 1990 Jam 3
Dramatic and at times dark and menacing, there is a real symphonic prog and art rock vibe to this extended instrumental piece.
Rough Mix 1
A dramatic electronic piece, this is powerful and intriguing.
Rough Mix 2
Percussive and entertaining, I like this a lot.
Rough Mix 4
This gets pretty crazed at times, It's also quite percussive in nature.
Rough Mix 7
Dramatic and more hard-rock based, this is still symphonic at the same time. This turns more percussive further down the road with quite a bit of tuned percussion built into it.
Rough Mix 10
Fairly short and percussive, this works well.
Rough Mix 12
I really love some of the synthesizer sounds on this thing. The number has a lot of symphonic texture, but also plenty of electronic elements.
Rough Mix 13
Here we get another largely percussive piece, but there are electronic textures and melodies over the top.
Rough Mix 14
Driving and dramatic, this puts electronics, symphonic textures and percussive elements to great use.
Rough Mix 16
There is almost a processional kind of vibe to this number.
Rough Mix 19
I dig the driving almost pop rock electronic texture to this one.
Rough Mix 21
Percussive, electronic and fun, I like this quite a bit. It is very playful.
Pony Rink 1
Bouncy and entertaining, there is a real baseball game feeling to this in some ways, but with a lot more classical edge. It ends abruptly.
Pony Rink 3
Driving percussive electronic sounds are on the menu here.
Pony Rink 4
Feeling tentative at the start, this works out from there with style.
Pony Rink 5
Organ music is on the menu here. The cut has some freaky textures and melodies.
Pony Rink 6
Fast-paced and fun, this is another cool piece.
Pony Rink 9
Percussive and experimental, this is another intriguing tune.
Pony Rink 10
A piano dominated piece, this has a lot of drama and almost a sense of danger to it.
Pony Rink 11
The melodies on this are somehow familiar. The cut is an electronic piece that has a good groove to it.
Pony Rink 13
I dig the driving groove and twisted charm of this composition.
Pony Rink 17
A fast paced number, there is a lot of drama here.
Pony Rink 20
this is a percussive and trippy piece. This gets into some spacey science fiction zones.
Pony Rink 23
Freaky electronics open this. The cut turns dramatic and rather symphonic as it continues.
Pony Rink 26

Another with symphonic electronic elements in the driver's seat, this is classy.

Disc Three
                      
Live Freaks
                     
Ty's Freak Show Restoration (1991)

This 18-minute piece starts with weird sounds and a spoken introduction. This gives way to a dramatic arrangement that serves almost as an opening theme. Then we get into a barker bringing us into the big tent. Noisy, driving music is heard in the backdrop as it continues. This has a lot of varying movements and textures as it continues. I love the driving section after the ten-minute mark. A driving rocking movement later is a nice touch, too. I love the symphonic elements on this. There is a screaming female vocal that rises ever upward late in the number.

Everyone Comes To The Freakshow (1997)
Just a two-and-a-half minute song, this has a processional vibe.
Harry (2014)
Driving and hard rocking, I really dig this number.
Herman (2014)
Psychotic, hard-edged and freaky, this is also bordering on magic. The textures and moods are brilliant and trademark Residents.
Wanda (1995)
Theatrical and bouncy, this is fun and art-rock based. It turns toward more mainstream progressive rock later, too. There is a piano movement later as an intriguing twist. Then it rises up to more rocking zones that turn a bit jazzy in their experimental, almost Rock In Opposition, ways.
Jack (1997)
A more dramatic and powerhouse arrangement is on the menu here with strange vocals over the top. It turns twisted and freaky further down the road. A spoken voice that seems slowed down comes over the top of creepy drama on the closing section.
Benny (2001)
Freaky keyboard based sounds bring this into being in a swirling kind of arrangement. Vocals come over the top  and both male and female voices are heard on this as it continues it's driving, weird rocking arrangement. A number of changes ensue and later a hard rocking section comes in with a chugging sound that keeps intensifying and speeding up. It's very punk rock in nature. That section ends the cut.
Mickey (2018)
Coming in with some hard rocking guitar in the mix, this has an almost modern King Crimson meets heavy metal feeling to it in some ways. It's a dynamic and crazed piece that keeps evolving.
Lillie (2011)
There is a hard-edged, metallic angle to this piece. It's fierce, driving and rather crazed. It's also spacey and so cool in weird, artsy ways. This is so dark and creepy in a lot of ways, with a "Mister Bill" kind of voice early followed by a death metal vocal later.
Nobody Laughs When They Leave (2001)
I love the weird processed vocals that are heard at the start of this piece. The cut has a slow, dirge-like quality as it works outward. I love the ending section of this piece with more traditional Residents vocals. It's both evocative and powerful.
 
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