Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best Live Record of the Year - Side Four: Critique

Pre-Order Belews

I waited a long time to hear this CD. Back when the double Mike power trio was touring, there was talk about plans to release live material to complete Adrian's Sides theme. After all, a three-sided record doesn't make much sense.* Then came the Eric and Julie version of the power trio, and more promises of a Side Four in the future. Recently it was announced that Side Four would soon be released, and that pre-orders were being taken at I promptly pre-ordered my copy of Side Four in order to be among the first to hear it. That was the plan anyway... 

I looked for it in my mailbox daily, until one day, it donned on me that I couldn't remember informing Pay-pal of my address change when I moved a couple of years ago. I decided to check my on-line receipt, and to my horror, I discovered that my signed copy of Side Four had been shipped to my old address on B-40 Drive. I picked up the telephone and called the people who currently live there, but no one answered, so I left a message explaining what had happened. A few more days passed and I hadn't hear back, so I drove to Happy Valley to find out for myself. When I arrived, no one was around, no mail in the box, and no package anywhere to be found. Next door, the infamous Happy Valley Villa loomed forebodingly... making me wonder if my Side Four was being enjoyed by some villain living within the gates of the spooky complex once owned by the Elizabeth Montgomery family. On Christmas Eve, I successfully contacted the current residents at my former address who told me that they hadn't seen the parcel. OK, so it is lost, I should be able to find a copy of Side Four somewhere in Santa Cruz right? wrong! I found two Side Twos, and one Side One, but no Side Four for X-Mass. 
Unexpected Surprise

I play disc golf every Thursday, and today was no exception. I realized that I had forgotten my special disc golf glasses, so Mighty Mo met me at the course, so I'd be able to see where to throw the disc. In addition to my special spectacles, she handed me a small manila mailer. The official Nashville TN postmark was dated December 24, X-mas Eve. I knew it was Side Four before I looked to see. The good folks at
Adrian Belew Presents had made sure that I received a replacement for my lost parcel. I had a fantastique round of disc golf in anticipation of listening to my new compact disc.

I didn't open the parcel until I got home. Knowing that it would be difficult to give a critical listen with all the hustle and bustle of extra-family activity all around me, I chose to wait until the house was quite quiet and dark. I didn't want any interruptions. With headphones adjusted comfortably on my ears, I pushed play, and heard
the best live album of the year... maybe the best album of the year... I haven't heard all of them yet, so can't say for sure. 
The Listen
Writing on the Wall erupts like a volcano on a primordial landscape. The thundering sound makes me feel like some kind of Primusaurous Erectus is coming to scoop me up and devour me. Fast as punk and tight as a fine Swiss watch. Suddenly, another Dinosaur rears its head for an old familiar Krimson cover. The bass is masterfully executed, the drums are precise and deliberate. Adrian's voice is powerful as he delivers every note with convincing passion. Pretty freakin' good for an old guy. Oh, and the guitar... Oh, yea... and did I mention the bass? What really stands out on this track is the bare foot pretty's phenomenal frettery. Wow! Queen Crimson.

I had always hoped of one day seeing and or hearing
Les Claypool play Ampersand live with Belew... this is probably better... Next, Adrian introduces his masterful young musicians who have just made such an impression on the audience (and listeners at home like me). Young Lions sounds as though the trio has played together for a decade. Adrian's guitar solo roars and reminds everyone what they're there for. He manages his custom-made Parker Fly guitar as though it is an extension of himself. No wonder Beat Box Guitar was nominated for a Grammy a couple of years ago. Infused with a touch Krimsonesence, it really grooves, and is a lot of fun to listen to too. It sounds like the band is having a great time... like three kids in a sandbox. One of the most beautiful songs in the sides series is Matchless Man. The lyrics and backwards guitar give this piece a bit of a Lennon flavour.

Next the band plays
A Little Madness. I wonder how mad folks feel about the title. I don't think they'd like it, but I do... really... what, do you think I'm Krazi? In a couple of months, I'm going to Drive all the way to San Fancisco to see this dynamique trio because they're not coming to the vegetarian and barefoot-friendly Santa Cruz. The Siblings Slick sit this one out as Adrian commandeers the wheel and takes everyone on a Belooperistic adventure. Nice!

One of my favorite Belew songs is
Of Bow and Drum, from the Op Zop Too Wah album. I couldn't ask for a better live presentation. Great job. Last November, I was impressed when these three played Big Electric Cat at the Catalyst here in Santa Cruz. Listening to this track reminded me of the excitement in the air that night. From frogs croaking in the jungle to the slick presentation on this disc, there are now lots of versions of Thela Hun Gingeet for the Krimsonnoisseur to enjoy. 
Not Kids Anymore

Now that I've heard
Side Four, I feel like it isn't fair to refer to Eric and Julie Slick as kids any longer. They've proven themselves. Any band would be thrilled to have either one of these exceptional performers in their ensemble... Adrian Belew is fortunate to have both of them. He'll have to work hard to keep up with these two.

I have to wonder what is next for the Twang Bar King now that the
Sides are complete...
and what of the siblings Slick?
* Unless you're the Residents who recorded a three sided concept album called Tourniquet of Roses. The double album was intended to have a blank fourth side, but economics outweighed concepts, and the music was whittled down to accommodate the limitations of a single 12# vinyl disc, (two sides). Fortunately, the full version is now available on one side of a single compact disc.

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