Record Review: Andy Summers + Robert Fripp – I Advance Masked US CD

and summers robert fripp i advance masked cover art

A&M Records ‎| US | CD | 1992 | 75021 4913 2

Andy Summers + Robert Fripp: I Advance Masked – US – CD [1992]

  1. I Advance Masked
  2. Under Bridges of Silence
  3. China – Yellow Leader
  4. In The Cloud Forest
  5. New Marimba
  6. Girl On A Swing
  7. Hardy Country
  8. The Truth Of Skies
  9. Painting And Dance
  10. Still Point
  11. Lakeland/Aquarelle
  12. Seven On Seven
  13. Stultified

I remember hearing about the match up between Andy Summers of The Police and Robert Fripp, who was still active in King Crimson at the time. It was an MTV news spot in 1982 and The Police had yet to issue their world conquering “Synchronicity” album which was still in the pipeline for 1983. In other words, I still thought that The Police were a fine band. As usual, I had been buying Robert Fripp albums since reading about “Exposure” in the pages of OMNI magazine. Then I managed to see the music video for the title track on MTV and that was that! I soon had a copy of this album in the Record Cell.

andy summers robert fripp i advance masked cover artThe title song was built on a very sturdy rhythm section that throbbed like a finely tuned engine. It pulsated with guitars as synths, basses, and even guitars. The compulsive rhythms almost commanded one to dance like a dervish. Then the part I live for began at 2:35 when Fripp began his inhuman ostinato solo that erupted in earnest and never ended. Eventually Summers joined in with contrapuntal, open chords to broaden the scaffolding of this impressive number. When I hear Robert Fripp pick that many notes per second I just hold my breath involuntarily until it’s all over. This 5:10 track seems like about 3:20 to me.

“Under Bridges Of Silence” was completely different, with tinkly acoustic percussion with clouds of guitar synth wafting through the landscape. Eventually, an unearthly guitar could be heard wailing on the far horizon of this song. Ostinato playing returned in “China – Yellow Leader,” which was a medley track of two minds and moods. This time the vibe was placid instead of enervated as on “I Advance Masked.” The two players indulged in call and response soloing on the second half of this longish number.

Summer’s penchant for open chordal explorations manifested on “In The Cloud Forest” as it did on the Police at their most abstract fringes. Fripp met him with soulful leads that flickered like a serpent’s tongue. The two broke out acoustics for “Girl On A Swing” for something a lot more pastoral than the album thus far. Fripp added one of his high neck solos this time. “Hardy Country” referred to the writer, who also hailed from Dorset, like these two did. This one was intense. It felt like it could have been included on side two fo King Crimson’s “Discipline” and featured the occasional crash of white noise percussion, as did the title track. “The Truth Of Skies” began with a foreboding drone, until clouds of guitar synths began roiling on the horizon to offer some challenging listening.

Acoustics were broken out later on to shake the album’s arc up on “Painting And Dance.” Providing a calm and mannered vibe that still advanced like a clockwork. Fripp’s leads here took on an almost Grecian aspect by sounding like a bouzouki. The minor key chord progressions of “Stultified” seemed to foreshadow the feel of Fripp’s work on “Gone To Earth” a few years later, though the brief, unsettling track was nowhere near the epic length of the songs on that Sylvian opus.

At the time Andy Summers was undergoing a divorce when the sessions were happening for “I Advance Masked” so being preoccupied with that, he concentrated on adding counterpoint to what were mostly Fripp’s song structures; making this an album weighted towards the Fripp axis. It stood out as a snapshot more of where Fripp was at at the time of recording the second album of the reactivated King Crimson while sounding nothing like “Beat.” Instead, it pointed the way forward to the headspace Fripp would explore following that band’s breakup after a third album. I actually can’t remember an earlier occasion where Fripp indulged in acoustic guitars but as he would soon be teaching his Guitar Craft courses in a few years, that sound would be something he’d gravitate to in a major way.

As for Andy Summers, The Police would become one of the biggest bands on the planet in the next year following this project. By the time that he and Fripp reunited for 1984’s “Bewitched,” he would find himself on a more equal footing with his partner as he said he was in a much happier state of mind. But “Bewitched” is an album I’ve yet to hear. It’s been long years since I’ve seen a CD of that one, and truth be told, I only got this CD in 2001 when traveling to Toronto. It had been a long time since I’d seen one in The States and felt that it was now or never. As it’s currently $30-50 on Discogs, it looks like I was right to do that!

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10 Responses to Record Review: Andy Summers + Robert Fripp – I Advance Masked US CD

  1. Great piece. Love this album. Both guitarists have fascinating solo career pre and post this album. Never heard Parade myself either. Quite like Bewitched but IAM is a big fave.

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  2. bpdp3 says:

    In the title track, the ‘chord washes’ happening underneath that jittery building rhythm sound very Police-like to my ears. Help me realize that Andy played such a significant role in that band’s sound…not just ‘Sting‘s guitarist’. Maybe my favorite 14 seconds of guitar anywhere is the sound of that crazy solo Andy does on Zenyatta’s “driven to tears”.

    I did NOT learn of Fripp from king crimson. It was from reading about albums like ‘exposure’, league of gentlemen, let the power fall and I advance masked…. and then seeking them out. Unraveling the fabric of the king crimson catalog came afterword.

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  3. VersionCrazy says:

    Good write up on an interesting album – if you have yet to experience ‘Parade’ I am sure you will enjoy it too. Similar yet different, bigger budget and cast in a way, though still some beautifully minimal pieces. There was a fascinating documentary aired on BBC2 in the UK back in 1984, ‘Robert Fripp: New York – Wimborne’ that is worth a watch on YouTube, it features some short snips of early incarnations of pieces that would make their way to ‘Parade’. https://youtube.com/watch?v=lcXZIM7_gwY. On ‘Parade’ – I got it on vinyl end of 1984 and many years later got it as a Japanese mini LP sleeve CD edition – it seems to have a track missing though at the end, which I’ve never got to the bottom of why.

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  4. Gavin says:

    This album is one of my absolute favourites!
    So full of texture,melody and craftsmanship.I recently added a CD copy to complement my old vinyl edition,but he beautiful sleeve of the LP is a thing to behold.
    I only recently started to appreciate The Police and bought the box set of all of their studio albums for just £10.It was fascinating to hear all the guitar synth on the later albums.I have long been a huge fan of Fripp-starting with the otherworldly sounds emanating from my elder brothers copy of Blondie’s “Parallel Lines”.
    “Parade” I am not so fond of,though also have that on CD.It just doesn’t gel for me quite as well.

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    • iac4ad says:

      Ooops… brain freeze time… when I refer to ‘Parade’ in my previous comment I actually mean the ‘Bewitched’ album!

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        iac4ad – Oops! My fault for referring to “Bewitched” as the single title “Parade” in my original post. I accept the blame! I guess the determinedly eccentric “Parade” video [once seen, not forgotten] had overshadowed my memory of the album title itself.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – It is a great album. Quite diverse with songs of intensity cheek-by-jowl with more pastoral concerns. And nothing overstays its welcome, though I’d be up for a 9:00 “I Advance Masked” 12″ mix! I bought “Exposure” after it came out, but “God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners” on release. I was all in on the Drive To 1981.
      robert fripp badge
      I loved the Frippertronic sound and was thrilled to see that when Blondie were promoting “Eat To The Beat” on “The Midnight Special,” a Friday night late music program that ran from 11:30-1 a.m. they had their friend Bob on the show to play a little Frippertronics and I audio taped this performance at the time. I was thrilled to see that someone had uploaded it to Vimeo and here it is:

      ROBERT FRIPP – Frippertronics Demo (1979) from Geoff Cheshire on Vimeo.

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  5. I also remember watching this performance, mouth agape! What a treat to see it again here. As for IAM, I have to admit that the title track blew me away so hard that I have little memory of the rest of the album — luckily it is accessible to me, so I can have both a re-listen to it as well as the never-heard Bewitched. I remember seeing that second Summers/Fripp collaboration in stores, but I guess something about the artwork for it turned me off, and I never ended up buying it.

    I always thought Summers and Copeland were the best things about The Police, though I also got the box set. While it’s very fashionable, nay desirable to hate on Sting, there’s a fair pile of worthwhile material across their career. It’s definitely worth exploring the post-Police careers of Messrs Copeland and Summers, and I have to wonder what a third album with Fripp would produce nowadays.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Sting did seem to revel in his punchability. I just looked at “Bewitched” and only five songs had a Fripp credit, so it’s more of a Summers groove. But it’s on my want list now. There had been a single US CD pressing of the title but it’s affordable [<$25] still, so it's on the Endless Want List®. The innersleve had this wacky shot of Summers and Fripp frolicking on some faraway beach and Fripp’s not wearing a weskit!
      Summers + Fripp frolic at the beach

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