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The Residents

Secret Show (Live In San Francisco), CD/DVD Edition

Review by Gary Hill

I love The Residents. I totally get why some people don't like them. They are definitely not for everyone. This live set is so special for a fan like myself. The group got together with a number of guests and performed a set of songs, some never before performed live, for a very special show. This CD/DVD collection is the record of that performance. I am reviewing the CD track by track, but both contain the same music. The stage show and video effects are amazing. This is exactly the kind of artsy project you would expect to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the group. If you like The Residents, I can't recommend this enough.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2024  Volume 2 More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
Would We Be Alive?
There is almost a jazzy element as this gets underway. The track turns weirder and more crazed as it marches forward. This is freaky stuff that's also very cool.
Hey Everybody! It’s Randy!

This is a spoken piece that gets a parental advisory.

Coming in percussive, the vocals bring in a real world music majesty and sense of mystery. This has an Egyptian feel to it with symphonic instrumentation in the mix. All that drops away for a spoken recitation that gets some ambient accompaniment as it continues. That part ends around the halfway mark. Then a jazzy sort of proggy arrangement rises up gradually with piano and tuned percussion making it up. That ends. Then we're into a percussion and vocal movement from there. The Egyptian stylings from earlier return. That section ends this.

Angular, driving, King Crimson-like guitar sounds get this going. The track gets into more theatrical, freaky zones later, but that KC element is still on display. It drops to a distorted, processed poetry reading thing for a time, but then works back out to the crazed rocking sounds from there.

Rest Aria
There is jazz and classical music merged on this artsy sort of instrumental piece. It is a nice interlude.
Welcome, Mr. X
This is another spoken piece.
Life Would Be Wonderful
Acapella and multi-layered, this is cool. It's part barbershop quartet and part doo-wop.
Hello Skinny
There is more of that King Crimson thing at play here in some ways, particularly early. This is a dramatic and driving tune that has plenty of Residents classy sound on display.
The Whispering Boys
I like the vocals on this, but the dramatic musical arrangement, complete with tuned percussion, is really magic. This is an intriguing number that works really well. This gets so proggy on the instrumental section further down the road. I love the slow moving electric guitar that plays over the top of that movement. The vocals return later and this continues with cool rocking textures.
Tyrone Contemplates Love
Here we get another spoken section. This actually has a message of acceptance, which is very cool.
Santa Dog
Dramatic but somehow understated and trippy music gets us going here. There is a rock meets classical meets soundtrack vibe. This continues to evolve and build. This get powerful and freaky and even has some hints of space rock at times.
Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats?
With a clockwork rhythm, this track has an intriguing musical arrangement that combines classical music, art sounds and some rock elements as it builds.
Driving, harder rocking sounds are on the menu here. This has some punky angles along with metallic ones. Yet, it's pure art rock. It's powerful and intense. It's also very cool.
Whitey Tells It Like It Is
This is another spoken piece.
The Car Thief
Starting acapella, this works forward with some rather world music like sounds coming up gradually in the background. There are weird, echoey operatic things later that almost feel like whalesong.
Honey Bear
World folk music styled sounds are on the menu as this gets underway. A sea of acapella vocals take over from there.
Grandpa Elvis Tells His Baby King Story (Again)
Here we get another spoken section.
Burn My Bones
Chiming bells get us underway here. Chorale voices join as this continues. Classical instrumentation takes over further down the road. Then twisted, horror movie like chorale vocals join and the cut drives towards crazier almost soundtrack like sounds. It resolves back out to more chorale styled stuff without instrumentation beyond that.
Who Do You Love?
Weird, distorted, twisted vocals join piano on this strange cover of the classic cut.
Weird acapella vocals bring this into being. The cut powers out with a fierce jam. Then it shifts to strange classical music from there. Chorale, musical theater-like concepts take over from there. Distorted, freaky music comes in beyond that.
No One Laughs When They Leave
Jazz and blues merge on the slow moving buildup here. Then it turns to a tentative, but hard-edged King Crimson like movement from there. It continues driving onward with a slow determination. The intensity and tempo increase as this drives onward. Chorale vocals come over the top as it turns toward a symphonic hard rocking sound. This turns to pounding hard rock for the actual vocals as this continues. Fast-paced prog metal styled sounds take over later. A final blast of horns is added to the mix to finish things off in style.

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