A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.
This is Eno’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly. On the right pressing this is a Twisted Pop Demo Disc like nothing you have ever heard. If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile.
That’s the kind of stereo I’ve been working on for forty years and this album just plain KILLS over here.
That being said, it may not be the kind of thing most music loving audiophiles will be able to make much sense of if they have no history with this kind of Art Rock from the ’70s. I grew up on Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Supertramp, Yes and the like, bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the chains of the conventional pop song. This was and still is my favorite kind of music.
When it comes to the genre, I put this album right at the top of the heap along with several other landmark albums from the period: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Roxy Music’s first, Sheet Music, Crime of the Century, Ambrosia’s first two releases, The Yes Album, Fragile and perhaps a handful of others, no more than that.
Repeat As Necessary
Like Roxy Music’s first album, this is a powerhouse that not only rewards repeated listenings but requires them. Music like this simply cannot be digested at one sitting. Like the Beatles said, It’s All Too Much. But the more you hear it the more you will be able to understand it and appreciate it and, if you’re like me, really start to love it (I hope). I’ve been listening to this album since the mid-’70s and have never tired of it. To me it’s the very definition of a Desert Island Disc: a record that knocks me out every time I play it and never wears out its welcome. It’s still fresh and “cutting edge” (if I can use that term) thirty odd years after its release.
This album is all about sound, pure sound itself if you will: the sound of the instruments, their textures, and the textures of the soundscape Eno has created for them. Much of that information is lost or perverted on the LP reissues and of course the CD. Only these British originals sound like they are made from fresh master tapes on rich, sweet tubey-magical, super high resolution cutting equipment.
With the subtle harmonics of Eno’s treated sounds captured onto vinyl intact, the magic of the experience far exceeds just another batch of catchy songs with clever arrangements. It truly becomes an immersive experience; sounds you’ve never heard in quite that way draw you into their world, each more interesting than the next.
Mystery Reviewer’s Much More Insightful Commentary
Brian Eno’s sophomore solo outing is a grab bag of freaky, science-fiction-dipped confections. Filled with a battery of innovative, unsettling effects, the album is darker and more complex than Here Come The Warm Jets. He shows an increasing willingness to experiment with texture, as on “The Great Pretender,” whose whirling, oozing keyboard line and synthesized vocals approximate delirium tremens or a hatching hive of maggots, or on “Put A Straw Under Baby,” which features the Portsmouth Sinfonia, whose members have no knowledge of their instruments.
Yet Eno’s grasp of melody and songcraft is everywhere: on the bouncing, absurdist/philosophical “Burning Airlines (Give You So Much More),” and on straight-out rockers, like the deliciously intense “Third Uncle” (which is propelled by the churning guitar of Roxy Music’s Phil Manzenera, and is, arguably, the album’s highlight).
Eno’s tunes are even more otherwordly and warped than his glam cohort David Bowie, making use of the full palette of bizarro synthesizer effects and creepy-cheeky postures. The songs, however, are as inventive and appealing as their treatments, and make for Eno’s most solid–and experimental–pop album. This LP holds up magnificently, even years on in the artist’s brilliant career.
(Which, by the way, is BRILLIANT from the opening guitars of Burning Airlines to the never-ending chirping crickets of The Great Pretender. I mean that literally: on these early British pressings the run-out groove has the sound of the crickets embedded in it so that the crickets chirp until you pick up the arm, much in the same way that Sgt. Pepper has sound in the run-out groove at the end of A Day In The Life.)
Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
Pure Pop for Now People. Listen to all those multi-layered harmonies! They’re sweet as honey, and only the best British copies get them to sound that way. You can make out practically every voice. This is what we mean by Midrange Magic.
Back in Judy’s Jungle
This track has a BIG BASS DRUM that will rattle the walls and threaten to bring your house crashing to the ground if you are not careful with the volume. Love that whistling too — genius!
The Fat Lady of Limbourg
This song is so good I found the lyrics on the web and have included them for your edification below. Once you fit the words to the melody you will no doubt be as convinced as I am as to the brilliance of Eno’s songwriting skills.
Mother Whale Eyeless
The high pitched chorus about the man without his raincoat in the body of the whale can be a bit much on the copies that are not cut cleanly. Those kinds of high frequencies at loud levels are hard to cut and hard for your arm/cart to track.
The Great Pretender
Pure Eno magic to finish out the side on a high point; it doesn’t get much better than this! Listen to those sustained lower piano notes — on the best copies they are deep and powerful and keep resonating seemingly forever. It’s one of the most interesting sounds on an album that’s full of NOTHING BUT interesting sounds.
Note that on most copies side two is cut a db or two lower than side one. Please increase your volume level accordingly when playing side two..
A real rocker, the first one on the album. The boys do a great job with this one on the 801 Live album as well.
Put a Straw Under Baby
The True Wheel
Probably my favorite track on side two. The chorus of mostly female voices should be amazingly sweet and delicate; wall to wall too.
China My China
Taking Tiger Mountain
Eno’s richly layered arrangements juxtapose very different treated sounds, yet they blend and flow together perfectly, hinting at the directions his work would soon take with the seamless sound paintings of Another Green World. Although not quite as enthusiastic as Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain is made accessible through Eno’s mastery of pop song structure, a form he would soon transcend and largely discard.
The Fat Lady of Limbourg
Well I rang up Pantucci
spoke to Lucia
Gave them all
they needed to know
If affairs are proceeding
as we’re expecting
the weak spots will show
I assume you understand that we have options on your time
And will ditch you in the harbour if we must
But if it all works out nicely,
you’ll get the bonus you deserve
From doctors we trust.
The Fat Lady of Limbourgh
Looked at the samples that we sent
And furrowed her brow
You would never believe that
She’d tasted Royalty and Fame
If you saw her now
But her sense of taste is such that she’ll distinguish with her tongue
The subtleties a spectrograph would miss
And announce her decision
while demanding her reward
A jelly fish kiss.
Now we checked out this duck quack
Who laid a big egg oh so black
it shone just like gold.
And the kids from the city
finding it pretty
Took it home
and there it was sold
It was changing hands for weeks
Till someone left it by their fire
And it melted to a puddle on the floor
For it was only a candle
a Roman scandal
and now it’s a pool.
That’s what we’re paid for
That’s what we’re paid for
That’s what we’re paid for