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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reissue of Sylvian's most song-orientated album, 18 Aug 2003
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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Secrets of the Beehive was Sylvian's second masterpiece- here he temporarily put on hold the ambient/experimental directions of Alchemy & Gone to Earth & produced an album of strong songwriting. Secrets of the Beehive is probably the album that people have been hoping Scott Walker would make since Scott IV- Sylvian had been moving towards this territory with 1986's Laughter&Forgetting (which predicts September here) & also with the Karn/Jansen/Sylvian single Buoy (also 1986)
The packaging and sound of this version make it a must purchase, along with the bonus track, the Japanese-only Promise(The Cult of Eurydice)- which makes a more cohesive whole in terms of themes when placed on the same sequence as Orpheus. Sylvian knows why it was left off originally! Sadly the original extra-track, a wonderful reworking of 1983's Forbidden Colours, has been removed- & is sadly missed (there could have been more extra tracks from this era, eg Buoy, When Love Walks In, Ride...) But the original Nine-track album remains perfection itself...
The album features a typical array of wonderful musicians- longtime collaborator Sakamoto, alongside Steve Jansen, Danny Thompson, Mark Isham, Brian Gascoigne, Phil Palmer & Danny Cummings. The arrangements, from Gascoigne and Sakamoto, are suitably sublime- the ambient noodling of Gone to Earth is put on hold till Plight&Premonition. September is a divine opening track, just Sakamoto & Sylvian- the lyrics capturing a moment "they say that we're in love/but secretly wishing for rain/sipping coke and playing games"- but noting from the present point of happiness, autumn and thus winter are approaching "September's here again". The melancholy of a Rilkean autumn? The Boy with the Gun contrasts well with When Poets Dreamed of Angels- both having a Spanish feel reminiscent of Lorca- politics and violence feature in both to a degree ("He coughs out the victims names in the wooden butt of the gun"-"bruises inflicted in moments of fury...next time I'll break every bone in your body...row upon row of feaudal houses blow away...history lined up in the flash of their backs") When Poets veers off from a latin acoustic song into string-inflected respite, before a wonderful percussive section- one of the most complex (but no less affecting) songs here.
Maria is the closest to Sylvian's year zero, 1981's Ghosts- a minimal sound that surely must have influenced recent Radiohead songs like Pyramid Song & Sail to the Moon? This track does feel more organic than electronic and provides a perfect seagueway into Orpheus. Orpheus remains another highpoint in Sylvian's songwriting- a wonderful popsong influenced by the classical myth and Cocteau's timeless film Orphee. The music cannot be reduced easily to trite adjectives such as 'lush' and 'palatial' (but you get the idea)- this very much advances on the territory mapped out by 1984's The Ink in the Well (Danny Thompson's double bass, Mark Isham, Cocteau...) And it contains some killer lines:"Sleepers sleep as we row the boat/Just you the weather and I gave up hope"- which is the kind of thing that slays me on a par with Robert Wyatt's Sea Song or Mark Hollis'The Daily Planet. One of Sylvian's most beautiful moments...
The Devil's Own is another minimal track- the metronomic pulse perfectly suiting the Beckettian lyric "the ticking of the clock inexorably goes on"- before drifting off into a woodwind diversion that sees jazz-influences begin to appear in Sylvian's oeuvre. Mother & Child is another darker track and another star performance from Danny Thompson- a slightly sinister sounding track- which is highlighted when you hear the instrumental take on the Camphor collection (& another track which has jazz-inflected piano, I thought a little of He Loved Him Madly...)
The final two tracks take us back to that palace of the sublime- single Let the Happiness In (covered by The Hope Blister, a This Mortal Coil spin-off who also take their moniker from a lyric here) moves from a gorgeous blend of organ. trumpet & Sylvian's croon to a complex of brass, percussion and strings. A pity that its only just over five-minutes gone, as with 1999's I Surrender, you never want it to end! Closing track Waterfront remains my favourite song of this set- again just Sakamoto and Sylvian and poetic lyrics "they were pooled from a sinking ship and saved for last...watch the train steam full ahead as it takes the bend/empty carriages lose their tracks and tumble to their end/so the world shrinks drop by drop as the wine goes to your head..."- a gorgeous conclusion to proceedings...
Secrets of the Beehive more than warrants buying again in this (almost) definitive edition- the abscence of Forbidden Colours is still an irritant (perhaps licensing problems?) A wonderful album with typically brilliant artwork from Vaughan Oliver (who is most famous for his 4AD work) & a reissue that no Sylvian fan should be without...
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sylvian's Master Work, 6 Oct 2005
By 
Mr. S. Ragg "Raggy" (York, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Sylvian's work in the 80's was characterised mostly by themes of detachment and dis-inclination coupled with the curious sense of the personal and the objective. Although these may seem opposites, Sylvian mastered the ability to write carefully and concisely about the everyday while appearing other-worldly and ethereal. Nowhere have these themes been more prevalent or manifested themselves so clearly than in the sublime "Secrets of The Beehive". Acoustic, save for a few understatd synthesisers, Sylvian effortlessly weaves a velvety soundscape, perfectly suited for songs about vague loss and suppressed grief. Poetic, but never whimsical,much like a favourite oil painting, Sylvian always knows when a song is finished, and never overdoes the arrangements or instrumentation. The likes of Mark Isham, Danny Thompson and the seemingly ubiquitous Sakamoto are all on top of their game here and blend in astonishingly with Sylvian's cool expressive baritone. Thompson's vibrating double bass on "The Boy with the Gun" and "Mother & Child" is a particular highlight
especially next to the virtuoso guitar playing, and tight percussion. "Orpheus", another highlight, sounds so effortless, one almost hopes it will never finish. It's close to 20 years since this album was released, and still it sounds contemporary and innovative. Return to it again and again, it will never fail to surprise you with it's rich tapestries and epicurean layers. A must!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting classic with superior sound quality re-mastered, 25 Mar 2006
By 
This work came to my attention by coincidence only a few months after its original release 1987. Prior to that, I had enjoyed some of Sylvian's work with Japan. His first two solo albums were, however, somewhat boring. A few tracks on each one were focused but too many lacked direction.
That changed dramatically on Secrets, an album hardly without a misstep. It is for the most parts rather slow and soothing, simple instrumentation, often in an experimental style with jazz elements on some of the tracks. Standout tracks are hard to define, they have changed in my opinion through the years. The lyrics wander between hope and despair, domestic rage to the joy of life.
This is without doubt one of my favourite albums through the years. Listening first to it at the age of 22, I remember vividly the strange emotions the album's contradictions had on me. Despite being anything but a album full of catchy tunes, it struck a chord within me immediately.
I am not alone in that opinion, I was surprised seeing so many people stating similar thoughts on Amazon, given it was a commercial failure. I must admit that I haven't enjoyed any other Sylvian album since in its whole, although Dead Bees On a Cake had some splendid moments and his collaboration with Holger Czukay, Plight and Premonition, provides an ethereal listening experience.
The original CD version had one enormous problem; the hiss in the recording overshadowed often the sound (or lack of it). Listening to that version often made one wish that better care would have been taken of such delicate music. This re-mastered version improves that anomaly to an incredible extent. The sound becomes richer and the whole listening experience becomes more fulfilling.
The CD cover has the same artwork but in the so-called digipak. It is well done. An unnecessary poster (mini one obviously) is also included. Added lyrics or written thoughts about the album would have been welcomed.
A debated change has also been made with the album's final tune. Forbidden Colours has been dropped to be replaced by Promised. For my part, I wish that Promised would have been simply added in the end. The end result is still very satisfying. Those interested in buying this album really should invest in this more expensive version, the sound quality is overwhelmingly better and worth the difference in price.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful album, 20 Mar 2006
By 
dick (Westport CT) - See all my reviews
First, to correct the 'official' review: this was actually Sylvian's third album after leaving Japan, Gone to Earth being the second.
If you haven't yet discovered this amazing artist, I strongly urge you to take the opportunity. There are very few records I keep returning to more than 10 years later - almost 20 years later for Brilliant Trees! - and every one of David Sylvian's albums falls into this category. What's the music like? If you imagine Scott Walker's voice in a singing style closer to Bryan Ferry's, with Eno's approach to production (and, often, his choice of musicians), you're getting close. But still the experience is unique.
This is music that, at least for me, reveals itself very slowly - but then continues to unfold in meaning as I listen to it in different life contexts over the years. There's a great diversity to the work: at the time, I was disappointed with every Sylvian album up to Nine Horses, finding them to be not what I had expected - not like the previous albums. Then, sometimes years later, I listened again and was amazed at having felt that way: this music is as near perfect as anything I ever hope to hear. Put another way: I have favorite tracks on each of the albums, but they too have changed over the years.
Many listeners think Beehive is the best of all the Sylvian albums, so give it a try. Personally, I greatly prefer Gone To Earth, which is less structured, the accompanying musicians (accomplished jazzers) having more space into which to expand. But it doesn't really matter where you start - you'll get to all the records eventually!
So: if you haven't heard this one yet, I envy you the rare treat you're about to have!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best album ever made, 17 Oct 2007
By 
Mr. C. M. Beattie (uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Secrets Of The Beehive (Audio CD)
The most perfectly crafted album ever made, pure timeless. Pulls on the strings of your soul, like a perfect picture it will draw you in then leave you dreaming for more. It almost has a life of its own, can any human really write an album so perfect, an experience everytime I listen to it. A drug that is very addictive. Listen to this in Winter time and be soaked in pure beauty.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is our love strong enough?, 1 Dec 2009
...And with these words, one of David Sylvian's earliest triumphs stopped. That it carries on briefly with duff extra tracks on both the original and the re-released CD is neither here nor there. It shouldn't, but at least you know where to press the stop button.

With 'Secrets of the Beehive', brevity is the key. At the time of it's release, I was a little dubious and thought it all sounded a little too clean. Wherefore art thou, scuzzy, swirly guitars? Come hither indie values. Clean orchestration and jazzy percussion? Oh dear. Wasn't Sting trying much the same thing? ...Well, I'd been wrong before and I would be again.

'Secrets...' is David Sylvian's boldest effort to craft songs. Gone are the synths of 'Tin Drum', the experimentation of 'Brilliant trees' and the long instrumentation of 'Gone to earth.' In it's place are tidy piano punctuations, stabs of orchestra, acoustic basses, trumpet solos, nylon guitars and brushed snares. That Sylvian makes it dark yet inviting is proof of the man's artistry. That he allows Ryuichi Sakamoto so much freedom with those ethereal arrangements shows how Sylvian accepts, invites, coaxes and bathes himself in the talents of others to the benefit, and always to the benefit, of the art's end. I think it's safe to say that his contempories over at PWL productions weren't quite as concerned with such matters.

At only 9 songs long - and one of them only a minute in length - nothing is wasted, but you naturally have favourites and lesser so's: 'September', 'Orpheus', 'Mother and Child', 'When the Poets Dreamed of Angels', 'The Devil's Own' & 'Maria' are amongst the former; 'Let the Happiness In' the only latter. Just for a perverse thrill, you almost wish that 'September' was a cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire tune. Wouldn't that be good? Wouldn't it?

After an instrumental masterpiece in 'Flux & Mutability' (co-credited with Holger Czukay) David Sylvian recorded many fine tunes, but he didn't release a whole album as consistently great as 'Secrets...' until the couldn't-be-more-different 'Blemish' in 2003. 'Blemish' seems to have re-kindled his fire, and both '...Naoshima' and 'Manofon' have shown Sylvian still peaking, still pushing himself as far as he can. (We'll ignore the Nine Horses album, thanks. I'm trying to make a point here.)

It seems that David Sylvian has decided to leave the craft of song-writing to one side for the time being, leaving us with 'Secrets...' as his insecure masterclass in How-It-Should-Be-Done. When a record can be compared to 'Scott 3', 'Sketches of Spain', 'One World' & 'King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown' and all those comparisons are correct, then you know you're in the presence of something just that little bit special.

But just a brief word of caution. Buy the CD. The MP3 download was bobbins.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars secret life, 12 Mar 2007
By 
Philip Solo (UK , Japan, or Thailand) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Secrets Of The Beehive (Audio CD)
I love this album, and the magnetism of Sylvian's unique voice and refreshingly different chordal and key changes and tones all combine to create a seriously magical set of tracks. Sylvian takes all that defining sound that he had in Japan and produces songs that only he could write,

Like Kate Bush he sings and composes in sequences and key changes to his own work, so different to anyone else, and how I wish I could write lyrics as he does at times.. poetry in motion indeed!. I like it all but I suppose Boy with the Gun is my fave track and anyone out of the 'few' who know my job history will know why I pick that one, wonderfully isolationist, thought provoking lyrics and intense atmosphere, he paints a picture of the lonely soul with serial tendencies and the cold weapon, beloved friend at his side.

Evocative indeed. For me also, the wonderful combination of the Sylvian drones and Danny Thompson's double bass style make this a winner. Danny is one of my favourite musicians ever, one of the key elements of my absolute teenage onward musicial influences, Pentangle.. (digress.. one of the only real bands ever where each of the 5 members excelled totally in their field as individuals even as stand alones.)

I play this in my car and it always reminds me of that wonderful separation between the outside world and the 'secret lives' one can sometimes dwell in.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sylvians songwriterly and hangover album, 1 Oct 2004
By 
Mr. R. Rogers - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Secrets of the beehive is David Sylvians most songwriterly album, written mainly on piano and guitar with his good friend and musical polymath Ryuichi Sakamoto. It is also the perfect album for those long mornings with a hangover while waiting for that alka-seltzer to kick in.
Sylvians gentle strings, acoustic guitar and light piano tinkling all coupled with his tired sounding croon are perfect to sit back and wallow in, probably making this his most instantly accessable albums.
This not being a mainstream artist may not be everyones cup of tea, but it is both an outstanding collection of songs and a good album to just hit 'Play' and lie down to listen to. A perfect introduction to a perfect singer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful album, 20 Mar 2006
By A Customer
First, to correct the 'official' review: this was actually Sylvian's third album after leaving Japan, Gone to Earth being the second.
If you haven't yet discovered this amazing artist, I strongly urge you to take the opportunity. There are very few records I keep returning to more than 10 years later - almost 20 years later for Brilliant Trees! - and every one of David Sylvian's albums falls into this category. What's the music like? If you imagine Scott Walker's voice in a singing style closer to Bryan Ferry's, with Eno's approach to production (and, often, his choice of musicians), you're getting close. But still the experience is unique.
This is music that, at least for me, reveals itself very slowly - but then continues to unfold in meaning as I listen to it in different life contexts over the years. There's a great diversity to the work: at the time, I was disappointed with every Sylvian album up to Nine Horses, finding them to be not what I had expected - not like the previous albums. Then, sometimes years later, I listened again and was amazed at having felt that way: this music is as near perfect as anything I ever hope to hear. Put another way: I have favorite tracks on each of the albums, but they too have changed over the years.
Many listeners think Beehive is the best of all the Sylvian albums, so give it a try. Personally, I greatly prefer Gone To Earth, which is less structured, the accompanying musicians (accomplished jazzers) having more space into which to expand. But it doesn't really matter where you start - you'll get to all the records eventually!
So: if you haven't heard this one yet, I envy you the rare treat you're about to have!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Sylvian's masterpieces..., 28 May 2006
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Secrets Of The Beehive (Audio CD)
'Secrets of the Beehive' was Sylvian's second solo masterpiece (after 1984's 'Brilliant Trees')- here he temporarily put on hold the ambient/experimental directions of 'Alchemy' & much of 'Gone to Earth' & opted to produce an album of strong songwriting. 'Secrets of the Beehive' is probably the album that people have been hoping Scott Walker would make since 'Scott 4'. Sylvian had been moving towards this territory with 1984's 'The Ink in the Well' and 1986's 'Laughter&Forgetting' (which predicts September here) & also with the Karn/Jansen/Sylvian single 'Buoy' (also 1986)

The packaging and sound of thw 2003 made it a must purchase, along with the bonus track, the Japanese-only 'Promise(The Cult of Eurydice)'- which makes a more cohesive whole in terms of themes when placed on the same sequence as 'Orpheus'. Sylvian knows why it was left off originally! Sadly the original extra-track, a wonderful reworking of 1983's 'Forbidden Colours', has been removed- & is sadly missed (there could have been more extra tracks from this era, eg 'Buoy', 'When Love Walks In', 'Ride'...) This budget version offers up a cost effective replacement for an album I've owned on tape, LP and CD already...

The original Nine-track album remains perfection itself...The album features a typical array of wonderful musicians- longtime collaborator Sakamoto, alongside Steve Jansen, Danny Thompson, Mark Isham, Brian Gascoigne, Phil Palmer & Danny Cummings. The arrangements, from Gascoigne and Sakamoto, are suitably sublime- the ambient noodling of 'Gone to Earth' is put on hold till 'Plight&Premonition'. 'September' is a divine opening track, just Sakamoto & Sylvian- the lyrics capturing a moment "they say that we're in love/but secretly wishing for rain/sipping coke and playing games"- but noting from the present point of happiness, autumn and thus winter are approaching "September's here again". The melancholy of a Rilkean autumn? 'The Boy with the Gun' contrasts well with When Poets Dreamed of Angels- both having a Spanish feel reminiscent of Lorca- politics and violence feature in both to a degree ("He carves out the victims names in the wooden butt of the gun"-"bruises inflicted in moments of fury...next time I'll break every bone in your body...row upon row of feudal houses blow away...history lined up in the flash of their backs") 'When Poets...' veers off from a latin acoustic song into string-inflected respite, before a wonderful percussive section- one of the most complex (but no less affecting) songs here.

'Maria' is the closest to Sylvian's year zero, 1981's 'Ghosts'- a minimal sound that surely must have influenced recent Radiohead songs like 'Pyramid Song' & 'Sail to the Moon'? This track does feel more organic than electronic and provides a perfect seagueway into 'Orpheus'. 'Orpheus' remains another highpoint in Sylvian's songwriting- a wonderful popsong influenced by the classical myth and Cocteau's timeless film 'Orphee'. The music cannot be reduced easily to trite adjectives such as 'lush' and 'palatial' (but you get the idea)- this very much advances on the territory mapped out by 1984's 'The Ink in the Well' (Danny Thompson's double bass, Mark Isham, Cocteau...) And it contains some killer lines:"Sleepers sleep as we row the boat/Just you the weather and I gave up hope"- which is the kind of thing that slays me on a par with Robert Wyatt's 'Sea Song' or Mark Hollis''The Daily Planet'. One of Sylvian's most beautiful moments...

'The Devil's Own' is another minimal track- the metronomic pulse perfectly suiting the Beckettian lyric "the ticking of the clock inexorably goes on"- before drifting off into a woodwind diversion that sees jazz-influences begin to appear in Sylvian's oeuvre. 'Mother & Child' is another darker track and another star performance from Danny Thompson- a slightly sinister sounding track- which is highlighted when you hear the instrumental take on the 'Camphor' collection (& another track which has jazz-inflected piano, I thought a little of 'He Loved Him Madly'...)

The final two tracks take us back to that palace of the sublime- single 'Let the Happiness In' (covered by The Hope Blister, a This Mortal Coil spin-off who also take their moniker from a lyric here) moves from a gorgeous blend of organ. trumpet & Sylvian's croon to a complex of brass, percussion and strings. A pity that its only just over five-minutes gone, as with 1999's 'I Surrender', you never want it to end! Closing track 'Waterfront' remains my favourite song of this set- again just Sakamoto and Sylvian and poetic lyrics "they were pooled from a sinking ship and saved for last...watch the train steam full ahead as it takes the bend/empty carriages lose their tracks and tumble to their end/so the world shrinks drop by drop as the wine goes to your head..."- a gorgeous conclusion to proceedings...

'Secrets of the Beehive' more than warrants buying again in this budget-priced edition- the abscence of 'Forbidden Colours' is still an irritant (perhaps licensing problems?) A wonderful album with typically brilliant artwork from Vaughan Oliver (who is most famous for his 4AD work) & a reissue that no Sylvian fan should be without...I think that along with 'Brilliant Trees' it provides an ideal introduction. Certainly one of Sylvian's masterpieces alongside 'Gentlemen Take Polaroids', 'Tin Drum', 'Brilliant Trees', 'Rain Tree Crow', 'Blemish', & 'snow borne sorrow.'
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