[…continued from last post]
The first song was densely packed with Latin rhythm right out of the gate with a 3-2 son clave rhythm abetted by marimba and congas before the keys and bass joined in to find the song snaking across the dance floor. The great George Murray had one of his finest post-David Bowie band bass performances on “The Red + The Black,” before he retired from music, on half of the songs here. Harrison didn’t wast time in in picking sidemen here with Yogi Horton completing the rhythm section on most of the tracks. Harrison’s performance of the lyric, examining a person who was part of a failed relationship, jabbed his vocal stresses on the off beats to syncopate with the dense rhythms.
After the first verse, Adrian Belew’s distorted, vacuum-cleaner-hose lead guitar writhed in anguish as the ladies of the BVs [Nona Hendryx, Dolette McDonald, Koko Mae Evans] managing to wring volumes out of simply repeating the words “falling all apart, breaking all the rules” three times. Nona Hendryx was the vocal arranger here and attained a co-production credit between herself with Harrison and Dave Jerden for good reason. An extended Belew solo in the middle eight took its turns with Harrison’s synth solo [sounding like something Worrell might have played] following through to be concluded by Harrison’s deadpan guitar making its point with an undercurrent of finality. “Things Fall Apart” was a good choice for the one single that we’ve seen yesterday was released in the UK from the album.
But maybe Sire missed out by not issuing the Reggae-adjacent “Slink” as a single here. TVLKING HEVDS picked the song to include in their “Speaking In Tongues” tour for good reason. The organ skank held the spotlight but the ladies of the BVs more than held their own; adding their sunlight to the most laid-back and casual of the songs on offer. One can really pick out the distinctive drawl of Ms. Hendryx out of the mix. Harrison made the right decision to add his sunny melodica to the track for an effervescent hook. For this cut only drummer John Cooksey [Salsoul Records, Ashford + Simpson] joined second bassist Tinker Barfield [M+M, Space Cadets] in bringing the vibe of the album as close as it came to the territory his bandmates in Tom Tom Club were exploring concurrently.
Then the album shifted up to high intensity with “The New Adventure;” with what sounded like Belew guitar harmonics standing in for a forest full of howler monkeys as the fevered track soon erupted into a seething miasma of percussion, with Steve Scales [Tom Tom Club] multiplexing güiro, claves, and cabasa for a scorching intensity. Its lurching rhythms circling to maintain tension without ever daring to release it. The deep bass here was Harrison on synth; braying like a hippopotamus, and the only melody was down to the backing vocals as the palpable sense of heat and dread made a tropical hell of the track with the perpendicular stabs of the lead synth attacking minimally. A finer setting for the lyric I could not imagine as the future of America seemed to manifest in the song’s vibe.
As taut as the last song had been, the album reached a fevered peak at the end of side one. “Magic Hymie” was a the only co-write here; credited to Hendryx and Worrell as well. George Murray’s bass engaged in call and response with Bernie Worrell’s warbling synths in the deceptive intro as the the deepfunk drums and clavinet kicked in and the track burst into metaphoric flames. Harrison employed gales of intense laughter, mixed low throughout the track, as the kind of tension release hook that the last song had us begging for but were only given a deferred delivery of in this next track.
Astringent squirts of Moog synth bass were liberally applied by Worrell here; creating a jam to sit next to the best of P-Funk while the backing vocals wove a further polyphony into the massive track. Harrison sounded like he used an Eventide Harmonizer to distort the pitch on his vocals; all dealing with the release of great anxiety through unforeseen action on the part of the singer. The track stuttered to a break where the backing track dropped out as Harrison altered his delivery to that of a bland, midwestern, motivational speaker delivering a condescending lecture on how to extricate oneself from the bad juju the track dealt with. How could this album ever begin to top the intensity of this song?
Next… Into The Abyss