Segal, Greg - Always Look On The Dark Side Of Life: Selected Recordings 1984-1993

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Phantom Airship
Catalog Number: PARGS01
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:06:00

Jugalbandi guitarist Greg Segal has a solo career of very different stripe. Whereas Jugalbandi - Segal along with drummer Hyam Sosnow - are a fusiony, instrumental duo, Segal as a solo artist is much more a psycheledic rock artist. At least here on Always Look On The Dark Side Of Life: Selected Recordings 1984-1993. Though not released commercially, Segal recorded 7 albums, 5 of which are represented on this release -- Night Circus, A Man Who Was Here, Experiemental Guitar, Water From The Moon and Darkland Express. This is truly a solo album, as Segal plays guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals and wrote the lyrics of all but one piece. The music is, however, a showcase for Segal as guitarist, though you don't get a lot of endless, flashy, substanceless solos. The compositions are tight -- the longest piece on the compilation is the 7-plus minute "The Taker" -- where the average length is about 3 and half minutes.

This is a retrospective of music that itself is a retrospective of a sound and time that is long gone...well, at least the time is gone. That time/sound period is predominantly psychedelic progressive music from the late 60s - early 70s. There are times when "Cold Sky," the second piece in, sounds to me like "Ziggy Stardust" ... well, that the key guitar phrase here could lead to the opening riff of "Ziggy." And, interestingly enough, I also thought a bit about Nirvana, though this predates Nirvana by at least 6 years. But, this would be a much hairier version as Segal's guitar tone is very distorted and fuzzed. Early Pink Floyd comes to mind, too; for example, in the heavy, dark "Night Circus Pt 2." "Introduction" is a dark, moody instrumental guitar piece that hints at what would come later with Jugalbandi. There is an often live feel here as well, perhaps owing to production but also I think that's the intent. Night Circus was a concept album where the concept is about the end of the world and "a young man [given] strong powers [by evil spirits who] manipulate him into using those [powers] to wipe out most of the world..." "As The Sky Turns To Fire" is a dramatic duel between percussion and guitar. Four pieces are taken from Man Who Was Here including "So Far," which is a musically upbeat, jangly mid-to-late 60s like tune as made by a band more influenced by the Kinks than the Beatles, with a touch of a Herman's Hermits cheerfulness about it. Segal's intent with the music on the album was to "make the kind of record that could comfortably have been put out between 1968 and 1973." He has captured that feel very well. "A Man Who Was Here" not only has a classic feel -- I thought a bit of early Deep Purple (that period before Machine Head) -- but also has that kind of dark, exploratory feel that certainly lead to heavier and darker prog. It is that kind of more involved piece a band would add to their album - that odd track that would either turn off the fans that were drawn in by the jangly pop pieces that made Top 40 or draw in those turned off by the jangly pop. As a vocalist, Segal's voice fits all in with the style of the music - a voice that could either be mid-western or English without accent (Segal is an American). I can't think of anyone in particular to say he sounds like, but his is a voice often in the lower registers, though not quite baritone; and like the guitar, distorted.

Experimental Guitar is represented by one track, "Discharge." This would be the kind of thing Segal would explore more with Jugalbandi, though here, other than sonic effects it's just guitar, and in this edited version, lasts only about a minute and half. This leads into the very, very dark material from Water From The Moon.

As you might have guessed from the title of this collection, even pieces that have an upbeat feel, aren't necessarily upbeat lyrically. The time period in music that Segal is emulating has as a backdrop the Vietnam War. And while Segal doesn't have any specifically anti-war songs in this collection, nor does he use, necessarily, the Vietnam War or "stateside" sentiment as a backdrop per se, that same cynical point of view is as present as it was in the music of the period. Given the time period in which the pieces were written, what we have is a reaction to the Reagan years and, by extension, the Bush years (that'd be George H.W. Bush, not our current "Dubya"). There was a little bit more cynicism in the music and darker themes. "I Was Back In School Again," taken from the Water From The Moon release, might be considered to be down right mournful -- the intent of Segal was an album that had a "quiet, weird, haunted quality..." "I Was..." is moody and gloomy. Segal says that the pieces on this album were based mainly on dreams; in "I Was..." it is returning to a school he didn't attend, to friends he didn't have. "The Taker" is very dark, and quite perfect for the season (it's Hallowe'en as I write this), with Segal singing in a very raw and deep voice, "I live to take your life tonight / I'd love to take your life tonight / As screams and terror fills your heart / Your death makes me a star" and later, "I'm killing you because it's fun / It could be you or anyone / I don't owe the world respect / And this is all I crave." This seems even more timely - and grim - in light of the recent sniper attacks in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC... Segal wrote and recorded this in 1987.

In contrast to this depressing gloom, we get the jangly pop energy of "Honor" (Darkland Express) which harks back to "So Far." There are dark moments here as well, as on "What Gives You The Right." "Demolished" is a piece where the lyrics were composed by Terry Ann Daugherty and the music by Segal, this to accompany Daughterty' short film A Real Human Being. The soundtrack for the film was done by Segal. It has both a retro and modern feel, modern being the stronger of the two. However, the mix here and on the soundtrack differ, Segal notes on his website. Daugherty's intent was something "that gave her the feeling [... of] 'Can't Find My Way Home' by Blind Faith and 'Behind Blue Eyes' by the Who."

Being a fan of classic rock - prog, psychedelic and otherwise - I really do like this compilation release. It brings to mind for me The Byrds, The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, Cream, and as mentioned early Deep Purple, David Bowie, Pink Floyd... etc... even if the music doesn't sound like every artist I just mentioned. The sound and style is so true, even down to production -- if you didn't know otherwise, you'd swear they were vintage records of the period from some band you know you can name, but the name is just that elusive. It's not a perfect album, but given that it is going for a retro sound, it's hard to know whether to quibble or not. Even the classic artists weren't necessarily perfect, but what they had on offer was appealing enough that the imperfections didn't matter.

As The Sky Turns To Fire (2:54) / Cold Sky (5:42) / Night Circus (Pt. 2) (3:43) / Introduction (2:03) / If I Die Tomorrow (4:38) / So Far (2:34) / King Of Illusion (edit) (2:00) / A Man Who Was Here (6:17) / Discharge (edit) (1:26) / Nothing In The Dark (That's No There In The Light) (2:42) / The Taker (7:28) / I Was Back In School Again (6:57) / Water From The Moon (5:45) / Honor (3:19) / Motifs (4:49) / The Time Used To Be (3:18) / Demolished (3:40) / What Gives You The Right (3:51)

Greg Segal - guitars (electric and acoustic, 12-string), bass, 8-string bass, drums, electronic drums, electronic percussion, organ, keyboard, vocals

A Man Who Was Here
Night Circus
The Fourth Of Three
Water From The Moon
A Real Human Being (soundtrack)
Darkland Express
Experimental Guitar Sampler
Jugalbandi - The View From The Top Of The Food Chain (2000)
Jugalbandi - Yellow Star Mailing List (2000)
Jugalbandi - The Cram And Stuff Method (2000)
Always Look On The Dark Side Of Life (2001)
In Search Of The Fantastic (2002)
Duets Vol 1 (w/Bret Hart) (2002)
Duets Vol 2 (w/Bret Hart) (2003)
intext (w/Chrissy Barr) (2003)
Asleep Of Somewhere Else (w/Eric Wallack) (2003)
Jugalbandi - Night Crazy (2003)
Jugalbandi - Laydown Delivery (2003)
Jugalbandi - Bid For Legitimacy (2003)
Jugalbandi - Mount Pinatubo Sunsets (2003)
An Awareness Of Frameworks (2004)
The Eye That Shines In Darkness (2004)
Standard (2004)
The Hero As Pantry (2004)
Planet Of Garbage (2004)
Episodes (2004)
Adventures Of Forever And Nowhere (2004)
Rivers (2005)
A Play Of Light And Shadow (2006)
The Old Familiar Place (2006)
Tales Of Today Will Be Tales Of Long Ago (2006)
Phase Two (2006)
Wonder, Doubt And Curiosity (w/David McIntire) (2007)
Jugalbandi - Jugalbandi Classic (rec 1993, rel 2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 3rd 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1020
Language: english


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