[…continued from last post]
The dub mix of “Things Fall Apart” began gingerly, with the delicate TR-808 percussion track alone in the spotlight with just naked claves, shakers, and cowbell that were otherwise buried in the album mix for the first four bars until the marimba and the live drums and congas fattened the sound up considerably. Then the guitars and bass brought the track into familiar territory. But the order of the solos in the mix was altered, with Belew’s and Harrison’s solos teased up front. The clarion call of the BVs then took things to the next level, followed by seriously unedited solos from Belew that lasted for a third of the song until they faded out with the vocals.
“Things Fall Apart” was fairly straightforward; but “Slink” was the most radical example of the border pushing traits of the new mix, with the song more than doubled in length to 8:57! The drum/organ/bass skank was sturdy enough to carry our load for miles on end. And this was what happened. With the guitar licks a shining example of the melody coursing through the song when there were no vocals this time to grab our attention.
Harrison used a more complex take of his melodica solo right up front which was followed by the appearance of the BVs, with a tidy drop at the end of the first bar that isolated the vocals. Then we got more guitar solos which were followed by completely different takes of Belew solos that were unused in the original mix. All the while, the groove was fat and steady as the melodica entered into a call and response with Belew. Eventually allowing Belew to slowly bend chords into gently swooping harmonic structures. Leaving room for the organ skank to ride this one into the sunset.
Next we got a bold shakeup in the running order with “Fast Karma/No Questions” moved into track three position. A synth sequence led for a bar before Yogi Horton’s compressed drums cascaded downward with Bernie Worrell’s clavinet into a tumultuous fill that really got the song rolling. Harrison’s synth leads occupied a horn space here; allowing Worrell to syncopate powerfully with the bass. I loved the drop where breathy BVs and the cowbell ruled the song for a few bars before another mighty fill roped us back into the fat, funky vibe. It’s clear that Harrison and Thorngren’s tactic in the dub mix was to give the band more attention than ever. That’s what Harrison claimed in the new liner notes, and it was more than backed up in practice thus far. If this album had begun it’s history as a showcase for Belew and Worrell, it had now become a feast.
The vibe of “Fast Karma/No Questions” built nicely into the seriously funky intensity of “Magic Hymie.” Rhythmic synth loops had the sound of a man laughing and talking to someone about laughter and jokes dropped into them. Then he said, “now check this m*****f***** out, he’s going to make a million dollars f****** with a machine!” Then, catlike synth yowled over the still grooving synth loops. The basses of both George Murray and Tinker Barfield went to work and there was still room for Worrell’s almost lewd Moog synth to strut with seriously funky abandon. It sounded like we were getting served a grande slice of Worrell here; as with some of Belew’s solos, all notions of the economy of editing were out of the window here. Thanks goodness! Because Harrison had made a serious jam that much more funky.
The most radical shift of all occurred to “No More Reruns,” now following “Magic Hymie” as a sort of chill-out transitional piece before the dub album’s grand finale. Guitar loops and chirping synths gave way to congas with a deft sprinkling of 808 percussion. Liquid reverb rendered the music into a bubbling brook of sound, before synth patches we don’t remember started sproinging to the fore. Finally, the bass and drums joined in to flesh out the rondo. Shards of Harrison’s guitar accentuating the off beats until a drop let the loops and rhythm box until finally backing vocal lines arrived to become the track’s coda.
LESS ADOLPH HITLER, MORE ADRIAN BELEW
Finally, the track that I am deeply in thrall to, “Worlds In Collision,” was now moved to the penultimate position in the program; all 6:48 minutes of it. It got off to a very glitchy start with the humming drone and hyperspeed rhythm box diverging drastically from the monoloithic sound of the album mix. The droning was also variable in pitch; sounding much less like bombers and far more like flies swarming on roadkill. The rhythm kicked off with the drums and barking dogs were making their appearance right up front as the bass was accentuating the groove. Then a drop that lasted a bar with stutter gating led the bass back, bigger than ever.
A new tremolo synth patch that I can’t recall from the LP mix soloed for a few bars while wood block percussion and just the drums got a couple of bars until the delay guitar hook became the gateway to an even more scorching Belew distortion solo. Given freer reign in this longer mix. Harrison stutter gated Belew’s solo which lasted much longer than the same climactic solo on the LP mix. Almost subliminally in the mix were the sounds of men chanting. One can only imagine that there were hours of Belew soloing recorded for this record. Just when you think it must surely be over, it just kept coming, like a hurricane. Flattening any resistance. Until abruptly, it ended with a drop leaving the guitar reverberating.
The dense, foreboding harmonic that next came forth heralded the now highly altered vibe of “The Red Nights.” It was cheeky of Harrison to remix the instrumental cut on the album, but now it was more pensive and questioning than the LP mix. Seagull peals of Belew’s guitar built up the extended intro which lasted almost three minutes, with tambourines and shakers sustaining the tension before the guitar solo from Belew finally cut the tension. But the release of the vocals was delayed until the very end of the now 5:21 track. And the noise solo from Belew never gelled into the healing balm that the LP cut was in comparison. This time the mood was more conflicted.
I have to say that the activity of listening to both the original album, which is never far from my ears, along with the new remixed instrumental disc has been an incredible gift of late. I can’t stress how as soon as I learned about Discogs.com in 2007, I’ve been haunting that place in search of any mention of promo remixes of any of this material! When the years revealed no obscure promo remixes at the very least, I was resigned to my fact of just having the album itself to seduce my ears, but the appearance of the expanded album has been a late in the game boon that I never anticipated.
It seems almost churlish to suggest that perhaps with the dub album, that Harrision was possibly addressing the criticism I read from several quarters suggesting that while Harrison had made an album that sat comfortably along side “Remain In Light,” he was certainly no David Byrne. Quite frankly, the music here was so heavy and dense, that Harrison’s vocals didn’t disappoint me in the slightest. Besides, he was canny enough to enlist Nona Hendryx to arrange the vocals and she provided excellent work as she always did.
According the the new liner notes, Harrison said that he began writing this material in the break between “Fear Of Music” and “Remain In Light.” Which suggested to me that this was material intended for the fourth TVLKING HEVDS album before Eno and Byrne moved the band in an improvisatory, groove-oriented direction with lyrical content laid over them afterward, instead of conventionally bringing songs to the table.
Having had that experience of building dense grooves on his last record allowed Harrison to have the best of both worlds on “The Red + The Black.” Allowing this album to be a spiritual brother to the third and fourth Heads albums with songs that linked back to “Fear of Music” and a production style that was informed by the Heads next phase. I can certainly hear lines of continuity between a track like “Memories Can’t Wait,” my favorite song from “Fear of Music,” and the even heavier “Worlds In Collision;” my favorite song here! After this I don’t think it can get much heavier! And with the cream of the Expanded Heads contributing much here, this will always be the album that I had wished that TVLKING HEVDS had made.
Alas, this album towers over anything that band did from 1983-1988, but I’ve been resigned to that conclusion now for decades. And this expanded version of “The Red + The Black” only manages to boldly underline that state of affairs. Many thanks to Jerry Harrison for forst making in 1981, and now expanding in 2023, this extraordinary album. I’m besides myself with anticipation that I’ll be seeing Harrison and Belew in less than a month playing music from “Remain In Light” and, one fervently hopes, a track or two from this album as well!
just quickly scrolling to catch up as I’ve been away for a few days I thought that was a picture of Mark Hamill and Robert Plant. I knew it couldn’t be the case but it gave me about a second and half of pause.
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postpostmoderndad – Now there’s a team up that no one would expect! And… Mark Hammill wears fingerless gloves?