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4.4 out of 5 stars49
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 28 June 2015
What can be said? This is possibly the most important album of the last 100 years, its that simple
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on 13 March 2012
This is a lovely, gentle album filled with beautiful music. It is perfect for late night listening.

Mark Hollis mumbles his way through the record accompanied by a variety of abstract musical interludes - it's not jazz but it has that same late night vibe that works well for me. The minimalist warbling isn't for everyone and I'm sure many will hate it.

Recommended for romantic curmudgeons everywhere.
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on 15 October 2011
It's an astonishing masterpiece; perhaps the nearest someone has came to recording silence.

Many years have passed since this was released and I still return to it again and again; a truly astonishing piece of music; and in those years we can only imagine the music that has passed through Mark Hollis' head and hope one day he will share it with us.
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Mark Hollis' solo debut from 1998 is certainly one of the most underrated albums I can think of; released seven years after Talk Talk's final album Laughing Stock, it continues the journey Hollis set out on with songs like Chameleon Day and 1988's Spirit of Eden. This is living in another world to that of the well-crafted synth-pop hits Talk Talk were initially famous for (It's My Life, recently murdered by No Doubt; My Foolish Friend, Talk Talk). Both Spirit of Eden (which fights Brilliant Trees for the Astral Weeks of the 80s) & Laughing Stock employed aspects of ambient, folk, & jazz- which 'Mark Hollis' most definitely does, though it is a lot more minimal in its approach. Songs like New Grass and Taphead most definitely predict tracks here (the missing link by the way is the 'Missing Pieces' album, or O'Rang's equally neglected output).
Mark Hollis was recorded after he broke with Tim Friese-Greene, his collaborator since 1984- here Hollis is the producer, with aid from engineer Phill Brown; while the songs are arranged/composed by Hollis with Warne Livesey, Dominic Miller & Phil Ramacon. Mark Hollis definitely continues & advances on the sound/approach of those last Talk Talk released; influences include Mooney-era Can, Debussy, Morton Feldman & Ravel. It sounds like nothing else; or rather, it's one of those albums that sounds like nothing else, think: Alexander'Skip'Spence's Oar, David Sylvian's Blemish, Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom, Nick Drake's Pink Moon, Tim Buckley's Lorca, Miles Davis' Agharta, Bark Psychosis' Hex...
The link to the past is suggested by the title of the opening song, which is just Hollis alone with a wonderfully recorded piano- making me think of Sylvian/Fripp's Damage, John Cale's Wilderness Approaching, or various Mark Nevers productions of acts like Bonnie'Prince'Billy, Lambchop & Silver Jews. The piano sounds wonderful and will probably make people think of Satie and Schubert- it's notable that the closing track A New Jerusalem is equally minimal, giving a circular-sense to the record and highlighting the fact it's really a suite that just flows: it's almost unfair to single out specific tracks. Mark Hollis is very much an album that reveals itself with every listen, and is one of those great records to play at night...
Hollis had been very much influenced by Can, notably Michael Mooney's vocal delivery which stretches the sound of words- an example of that influence here is found in The Gift, and it's use of the word, "purest." It's hard to think that Hollis was once considered equal to A Flock of Seagulls & Duran Duran- like Marc Almond, Julian Cope, & David Sylvian he grew bored of such restrictions and drifted toward the avant-garde (so no chance of Talk Talk playing at those awful 80s arena things on DAT!). A Life (1895-1915) is the longest song here, drifting off into music that recalls Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time & influenced by World War I literature such as All Quiet on the Western Front & Testament of Youth. It's lyrics are wonderfully minimal and recall the Dos Passos' writings on WWI in Three Soldiers & USA:"Uniform/Dream cites freedom/Avow/Relent/Such suffering/Few Certain/...And here I lay." The words are minimal and precise- much like the album- & these words seem to be all that's left, after all what can words say? As John Lydon said, "Words cannot express..."
The lyrics evoke a literary feel- the definite-minimalism of Samuel Beckett- Inside Looking Out reminds me of Rainer Maria Rilke with lines like, "Turn my seasons turn/Lived in much younger times/Left no life no more/For me to shine." While A New Jerusalem can be seen to have the transcendental qualities found in William Blake- a writer frequently associated with rock&roll; as well as focusing on themes of home and war, "For the emptiness of war remains/one among five/But I'm dead to love/A pawn the same..."
After the complexities of A Life, the album moves back to minimal-acoustic territory- one that recalls artists like Derek Bailey and Bill Frisell. The most epic track here, & the one that recalls Eden/Stock-Talk Talk the most is The Daily Planet (imagine a more complex take on the territory of 1982's Have You Heard the News?), which is around 7-minutes long. It opens with pure ambient jazz, Martin Ditcham's drumming helping the song build up as Hollis' sublime vocals and words cascade forth. The song then veers off, the acoustic/folk qualities colliding with those of jazz/woodwind. There's nothing close to this (maybe a few tracks on Cocteau Twins minimal Victorialand?) & the song is as close to overload as this record gets...letting A New Jerusalem wash away all that precedes...
Mark Hollis is a definite conteder for that Desert Island Disc, one of those records that I'm sure in time will receive retroactive adoration (well...here's some anyway...). Hollis is one of those infrequent geniuses, like Paul Buchanan, Kevin Shields, or Scott Walker. I'd love to hear more music from him- perhaps the royalties from No Doubt's cover could take us on the next journey from this 1998-classic?
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on 20 March 2015
Intricacy veiled by simplicity. The man is a genius.
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on 4 October 2015
Wanted to buy this on vinyl to go with the rest of my Talk Talk material. Agree with a lot of other reviewers on here - a terrible, terrible pressing. So bad I had to send it back! The music does not deserve this. Buyer beware!
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on 25 January 2009
Not sure about this one. Talk Talk's final 3 albums are all glorious (Colour of Spring, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock) but they chart a course away from the mainstream into minimalist experimentalism, and I think Mark Hollis's album takes it too far. You'll find nothing on here that resembles a tune - it's all long pauses, sporadic piano chords and pained (though beautiful) vocals. Pretty, yes; mournful, yes; original, yes. But after years of trying to get into this I've had to admit that it is also - a tad dull.

3 stars, in recognition that Mark Hollis has one of the finest singing voices of all time.
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on 9 December 2015
Forget Talk Talk's 1980's synth pop. This album is something else. When Talk Talk ended their career with the jazzy minimalism of Laughing Stock, this was a logical follow up.
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on 13 September 2005
Spirit of Eden was a first step to this brilliant album.
Emotion with a good sense of tension and release.
Beautifull, if you are a fan of meditative music from Eno, this is another piece to discover. Subtil and melodic.
My only regret is that Hollis was not more productive.
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on 18 October 2012
So 2012.
An absolute stand-out Listen.
Timeless.
Got here via a circuitous route Nils Frahm and Fyfe Dangerfield who did songs on the Spirit of Talk Talk album. How glad I am that they did and thus I came to hear this most gorgeous album. Thanks Mark !!
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