A very mixed bag, but entertaining
woburnmusicfan | Woburn, MA United States | 06/07/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first of two collaborations between folk/rock guitar legend Richard Thompson, avant-garde guitarist Henry Kaiser and bassist Fred Frith, and former Beefheart drummer John French. While it's not a bad listen, you get the impression that they were throwing things at the recorder to see what would stick. The album is all over the map, going from the frantic and funny "Where's the Money" and a joyously silly "Hai Sai Oji-San" (an Okinawan folk song) directly into "Drowned Dog Black Night", a tremendously depressive song of the type only Thompson can write, and then into a goof on Chuck Berry's "Surfin' USA". My favorite cut is "Bird in God's Garden", a Sufi song given a big assist by Frith's violin playing. Thompson contributes the good but minimalist unrequited-love song "A Blind Step Away" and "Killerman Gold Posse", a ditty about a youth gang that was reprised on the "Mirror Blue" tour. French and Frith also provide a catchy rocker, "The Second Time". There is a cover of Willie Dixon's "The Same Thing" (a LOT of bands I like have covered this one). To keep the album from building any momentum, there is a five-minute drum solo in the middle. Overall, I prefer these guys' second CD, "Invisible Means"."
Just to add to the last review . . .
Patrick Herron | 01/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"(To add to the last review, John French was the percussionist for Captain Beefheart for many years. You can hear him stand alone quite well on "Drum Boogie.")The entire album is entertaining and showcases each artist's talents. Highlights include "Where's the Money," a powerful rant written by Fred Frith, who uses the song to carry not only his wit but also his oddly timbred, thumping, and complex bass stylings. Perhaps my favorite song is the traditional Okinawan folk song, "Hai Sai Oji-San." It has a melody that is fun, unforgettable, and infectious. It may be the greatest drinking song ever composed (sorry, Mr. Waits). Perhaps the only reason why the fifth star is missing is because the album is not so much an album as it is a loose collection of remarkable songs. Let not the absence of one star dissuade you; I highly recommend it, especially to fans of any of the band members. It's an album where sounds can be deceiving; there's so much wonderful oddness slightly camoflaged under each pop song facade."