Top positive review
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Excellent second album from Eno at his quirky best
on 24 June 2004
This is almost an Eno/Manzanera album, such is Phil Manzanera's significant contribution as arranger, co-producer and performer throughout. Manzanera is a highly under-valued guitarist and was the first with which Eno experimented, using treatments to manipulate his basic guitar sound. As a second album this is much more consistent sounding with more of a band feel than "Here Come the Warm Jets". Lyrically it is just as oblique and fanciful with vividly weird tales of men inside whales without raincoats and black eggs melting into candles.
The blueprint to his work with Talking Heads is on this album. Listen to the jagged guitars, pumping bass and hissing electronic percussion on this and then compare to "More Songs about Buildings and Food". Taking Tiger Mountain like the majority of Eno's output is years ahead of it's time. Being a non-musician he had no regard or pre-conceptions about what and what could not be sonically done. He just did it!
A classic piece of new wave thrashing is "Third Uncle", with Manzanera never sounding so manic. I prefer the version on "801 Live" but there is no denying the intensity and originality on display. The centrepiece of the album is "The True Wheel" with it's wonderfully infectious squelchy electronic backing, fuelled by Manzanera's riffing guitar. The female chorus sing about being the 801 with Eno looking for a certain ratio. Amazing stuff. "China My China IS prototype Talking Heads, with Manzanera showing the way for David Byrne. There is a hint of Eno's impending ambient ambitions on the title track, with its gorgeous Harold Budd-like piano motif.
So, another original, individual album made even more remarkable set against the times in which it was made.
A couple of comments about these re-issues. They are minimally packaged in digipaks which are housed in transparent plastic slip cases. These are not remasters as such, but new transfers taken from the original master tapes using the new Direct Stream Digital (DSD) format. This is state of the art as regards mastering onto compact disc. They have been transferred by Simon Heyworth who is one of the best in the business. He has made statements about the remastering of these recordings. Why change something that was done right originally! Eno was happy with the original mastering so what is needed is just the best transfer onto compact disc that is currently feasible. Whereas the original CD's sounded flat and thin, these transfers are much livelier and offer a fuller, more detailed sound.