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Friday, December 18, 2009

Adrian Belew: Belewprints


ADRIAN BELEW: BELEWPRINTS (1998)

1) Men In Helicopters; 2) Cage; 3) I Remember How To Forget; 4) Young Lions; 5) Never Enough; 6) Things You Hit With A Stick; 7) Everything; 8) Big Blue Sun; 9) Bad Days; 10) One Of Those Days; 11) Return Of The Chicken; 12) Dinosaur; 13) 1967; 14) Free As A Bird (Live At Longacre Theater); 15) Nude Wrestling With A Christmas Tree.

Subtitled The Acoustic Adrian Belew Volume 2, this is exactly what it is, and, from a general standpoint, a big improvement over Volume 1. The basic message is the same as before: this is not a technically-minded, virtuoso-bestowed experiment, but just a modest bunch of Adrian's pop numbers sung, played, and arranged minimalistically, friendly, and with feeling. But there are a few pleasant additional touches that are worth mentioning.

First, the arrangements are a bit more complex and diverse; many of the numbers have Belew ad­ding bass and drums, or switching from guitar to piano, bringing on a true "Unplugged" feeling rather than deconstructing every­thing in favour of his singing. As such, some of the songs, like 'Young Lions' and 'Never Enough', still manage to rock out even in this setting. The album also opens with a big surprise: 'Men In Helicopters' accompanied by a string quartet (the only non-Belew musical presence on the album), a very joyous touch.

Second, the song selection is perfect — apart from three pieces of musique concrète (which are actually short and fun), Adrian runs through his catchiest, pleasantest pop creations from 1989 to 1994, even reproducing the entire mini-suite '1967' which I am adoring more and more with each passing day: in this setting, with all its unpredictable, but memorable sections laid out even more transparently than in the original, it threatens to convince me of being his one true masterpiece in the psychedelic pop genre.

One last surprise is the live recording of Lennon's 'Free As A Bird', taken from Adrian's acoustic solo interlude during King Crimson's Broadway show. Ever the hip purist, Belew covers Len­non's original demo rather than the McCartney-enhanced version on Anthology, refusing to re­produce Macca's 'Whatever happened to...' section and sticking instead to the mumbled la-la-la's of John's old recording, and even the audience seems to be getting the point and digging it. May­be it symbolizes a sincere belief in purity and authenticity; maybe it is snubby and pretentious; but, in any case, it is one more small non-trivial move from a small non-trivial artist. A most heartfelt thumbs up, even for such a trifle.

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