Belew, Adrian - Side One

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Sanctuary
Catalog Number: 06076-84738-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 33:06:00

Side One is the first of three planned CDs from Adrian Belew - the other two being Side Two and Side Three. Joining Belew are Les Claypool (Primus) on bass and Danny Carey on drums and tabla.

I'm not going to mince words - and yes, that sounds like the start of something bad. I do not like this CD, at least not most of it. Nothing personal against Messrs. Belew, Claypool and Carey, as I've heard them (Belew and Claypool at least) in other contexts and have been happy and I know that they are top players. This album, however, goes from okay with "Ampersand" to awful with "Madness," though fortunately to better with "Beat Box Guitar" and "Under The Radar." A word about "Madness" - there's an apt title if ever I saw one, because yes, it is a piece that will drive you to madness. Perhaps that's what Belew wanted with this piece, but driving your audience insane with only the fourth track... is that really wise? My personal reaction to it is not unlike when I hear fingernails on a chalkboard. It's a piece that becomes something akin to mere noise.

So, if you were perhaps expecting easy going pop, smooth jazz, or anything that might be described as readily commercial, or even something avant-garde and angular like King Crimson... Well, let's just say, I'd rather look at the CD than listen to it. Belew's impressionistic artwork is featured, and it doesn't reveal at all what will be found inside... For me the key words are irritating and annoying... though there are a few bright spots, as we'll see.

The opening track is "Ampersand," an energetic and bouncy piece that is started by a distorted guitar that revs the piece up to speed, quickly joined by the thundering duo of fat bass and heavy drums. Instrumentally this is more exciting than vocally, though by design the vocals are underplayed. This piece has perhaps the most passion, as everyone certainly attacks their respective instruments with more gusto than is perhaps necessary, Belew bending guitar phrases as if they were made of jello... oh, wait, that's "Writing On The Wall" - the transition between the two tracks is audibly imperceptible. Except for single phrase, we'll call "Writing..." an instrumental (and still in the okay category, though tetering on the edge).

Guitars whine, sometimes most annoyingly in "Matchless Man" -- an otherwise drowsy, dreamy piece that does feature some interesting percussion from Carey -- and "Madness" (yes, that one again). Vocals are too sleepy and dreamy ("Matchless Man," "Under The Radar"), perhaps to not complete with the bold instrumentation. And, they aren't exactly appealing on "Walk Around The World," though it is the least bothersome track that has vocals. Bass, this time by Belew, is most prominent, until the solo... where the guitar is actually buried amongst the instrumentation, just peeking out enough to be noticed. Makes it tough to really call it a "solo," which is, in itself, okay. Solos aren't mandatory.

The instrumental "Beat Box Guitar" is interesting, and is the best track, from a listening perspective. It's a sometimes groovy tune that will make you think of Crimson at times. Sure, there's a bit of whine here, too, but it's back in the mix, percussion being out front. And when Belew's guitar really takes off soloing (yes, really soloing this time), well here he bends notes beautifully, giving them just the right edge and sharpness. Nice stuff. "Under The Radar" is atmospheric with watery sound effects, and watery guitar effects and watery vocals ... somewhat Beatles-esque (I thought of a hazy, drugged out "Dear Prudence"). It's a short piece, and so doesn't hang around too long.

Aside from the very brief "Pause," the album ends with "Elephants," which mixes bent guitars with grinding, show-chugging guitars... and spoken-word vocals, is all about elephants. Great use of alliteration in the lyrics to drive home a point about the killing of elephants. And the piece is just arty enough to be appealing.

So, what gets off to an average start, becomes excruciating in the middle, does end slightly above average. Unless you are a Belew devotee, or have a taste for noise... you might want to try before you by with this one.

Ampersand / Writing On The Wall / Matchless Man / Madness / Walk Around The World / Beat Box Guitar / Under The Radar / Elephants / Pause

Adrian Belew - all instruments and vocals
Les Claypool - bass (1 - 3)
Danny Carey - drums and tabla (1 - 3)
Gary Tussing - cello (4)
Peter Hyrka - violin (4, 9)
Ian Wallace - as the voice of the BBC (8)

King Crimson - Discipline (1981)
King Crimson - Beat (1982)
Lone Rhino (1982)
Twang Bar King (1983)
King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984)
King Crimson - Live At Frejus '82 (1985)
Desire Caught By The Tail (1986)
King Crimson - Compact King Crimson (1987)
Mr. Music Head (1989)
Young Lions (1990)
Desire Of the Rhino King (1991)
King Crimson - The Abbreviated King Crimson (ep) (1991)
King Crimson - Essential King Crimson (1991)
King Crimson - Frame By Frame (1991)
Inner Revolution (1992)
Acoustic Adrian Belew (1993)
King Crimson - The Concise King Crimson (1993)
King Crimson - Vroom (ep) (1994)
Here (1994)
Guitar As Orchestra (1995)
King Crimson - B Boom (1995)
King Crimson - Deja Vroom (1995)
King Crimson - Thrak (1995)
Op Zop Too Wah (1996)
King Crimson - Live In Japan '95 (1996)
King Crimson - Thrakattak (1996)
King Crimson - Thrak Tour Pack (1996)
Belewprints (1998)
King Crimson - Absent Lovers (Live In Montreal) (1998)
Coming Attractions (1999)
Salad Days (1999)
King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man (1999)
King Crimson - Cirkus (1999)
King Crimson - Live At Cap D'Agde, 1992 (1999)
King Crimson - On Broadway, Live In NYC, 1995 (1999)
King Crimson - Construkction Of Light (2000)
King Crimson - Level Five (2001)
King Crimson - Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With (ep) (2002)
King Crimson - Power To Believe (2003)
Side One (2005)
Side Two (2005)
Side Three (2006)
Side Four - Live (2007)
Flux ()

Genre: Other

Origin VA

Added: July 2nd 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1080
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]