on 17 February 2004
I remember how eager I was to own this album when it first came out around 1990, and how on hearing it for the first time I was completely dumb struck. It is a feeling that has never diminished.
I get frustrated trying to explain just how good it is - how original, moving, unique and thought provoking, yet can never really do the piece justice. I once read an interview with Rob Dickinson (brother of Iron Maiden's Bruce) from the band Catherine Wheel, who summed it up perfectly by describing it as "organic, breathing, what love truly sounds like". He describes the opening section as like "blood seeping from a wall". I couldn't ever better it. It is indeed music for the soul. It commands you to sit quietly and just let it wash over you.
There are too many things to recommend about the Spirit of Eden, whilst it is in six parts, it is actually a "whole". If I had to choose one track, then "I believe in you" is the piece that will stay with me always. How does someone write a piece like that?
I would have to say it would be my Desert Island disc - it has been the soundtrack for so much of my life, including recently the birth of my Son.
I read recently an interview with Turin Brakes who also cite Talk Talk's influence on them. It seems to be the case for so many people.
It is one of those rare albums that can be classified as truly "timeless".
on 9 October 2007
For ages I have wrestled with the idea of trying to put into words my thoughts on what has been my very favourite album for nearly 20 years (ever since my mate Jamie played it to me just after its release - I will never forget that enlightening moment). I know that I will fail miserably, particularly as there are many fine reviews below, but I must have a go. When "Spirit Of Eden" was released in 1988, hitherto there had been no album like it. Music journalists struggled for comparisons, suggesting Miles Davis' "In A Silent Way", Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" or Can's "Tago Mago", even Satie or Debussy. These are fair starting points, but nothing can prepare the virgin listener for the boldest, most adventurous yet introspective masterpiece in modern music. Any attempt to describe this music in mere words will never do it justice or even fully succeed. The only way is to listen to it - ideally, as Mark Hollis himself recommended, "...in a calm mood with no distractions." The apparent influence this album (and its sequel "Laughing Stock") has had on other musicians is immense: Elbow, Pineapple Thief, Bark Psychosis, Porcupine Tree, Oceansize, Radiohead, Portishead, to name but a handful. I will round off by saying to anyone reading this: if you are yet to hear this inspired work of art, please at least give it a try, and persevere with it if you don't fall in love with it immediately - its charms are many and subtle. It changed my life and, just in case Mr. Hollis, Friese-Green, Webb or Harris reads this, I wish to thank you so much...
on 13 January 2016
OK OK I know - there's a lot of great music out there, everyone has their favorites. I listen to a wide range of music, and have over the last 40-odd years. Rock, Classical, World, Folk, Dub, Dance, Pop, Electronica. But for me, this is a very special album. It may even be my favorite ever piece of music. I can't think of anything to match it at this particular moment.
I bought it, unheard, in 1990 or thereabouts, along with Aswad's A New Chapter of Dub (great music shopping day, that was). Don't even know how many times I've heard it over the last 25 years. Must be hundreds. And I listened to it again this morning. An amazing thing is that unlike so much music from the 80s, that has the "80s sound" (snare too loud), this sounds absolutely contemporary. It could have been released last week. It is timeless, in the sense that it's not fixed to a certain genre or era of music. That's a testament to the great good taste of the musicians and their genius engineer Phil Brown, the unsung hero of Talk Talk & Mark Hollis's sublime sound.
I absolutely expect that if I'm still around after another 25 years I will be listening to this record.
If you haven't heard it, buy it without hesitation. If you have, go and listen to it again. It's one of the achievements of 20th century music, and should be considered up there with the greats, imho.
I love it. And I just wanted to share that.
Brave title for a review, eh?
Because I might, in a year's time, have found something better, mightn't I? Well, it's been no.1 in my headspace for 18 years so far, and showing no real signs of being threatened by a serious contender.
Maybe it's because it's a timeless production, with classical and jazz leanings, and a grandiose vision that helps it transcend everything else that shuffled out of the 1980s. Maybe it's because the lyrics are as good as impenetrable, and you can make of them what you will. Maybe it's because Talk Talk surpassed everything anyone could have expected of a former New Romantic floppy-fringed synth-pop band with this release. Maybe it's because it is such a bold musical statement (and one that lost them their record deal!).
Or maybe I'm right, and they achieved a perfect synergy of music, vocal, production, melody - everything.
The previous album (The Colour of Spring) showed they were going to get here, and the belated follow-up album (Laughing Stock) went even further (and left me behind a bit - it's a much more difficult listen, and sounds a lot more improvised than 'Spirit of Eden').
Whatever, it's almost impossible to write about music, but this album makes me want to try, in the hope that other people will get the message.
So, then. My favourite album of all time.
on 29 October 2012
A beautiful album, only perhaps now reaching its deserved audience.
Released back in 1988, there was nothing quite like it, and for some, it was a difficult experience to listen to it. I had friends tell me it was 'atonal', and I disagreed. I felt there was some amazing beauty there, yet, still, I had difficulty in classifying it.
Roll forward to today, and we are now comfortable with the 'post-rock' badge, and fantastic bands like Sigur Ros, and the beautiful 'Rice Boy Sleeps' album by Jonsi and Alex. Listening to 'Spirit of Eden' in todays climate, it's like Mark, Lee and Paul had seen the future.
Spirit of Eden has been the template for a lot of 'post-rock' bands. It's a classic album, deserved of much post release attention. It's just a shame we weren't of a mind at the time to accept its beauty. But that's often the case with masterpieces - they are of their own time, and they often are only understood much later. That is certainly the case with this album.
Atmospheric, experimental, jazz influenced, classical influenced, and I'd say from the heart. Mark, no wonder you decided to call it a day. If I'd been you, I'd feel I'd said and done what I needed to say. Thanks so much for giving us this.
on 25 January 2004
Spirit of Eden was the first album in which Talk Talk were allowed to craft a unified work in the kind of studio isolation unheard of in popular music until the success of Radiohead's The Bends eight years later. The fact that it came from the late eighties, a decade more synonymous with synthesised art-pop and Pete Waterman makes this achievement even greater... giving us an album filled with deeply poetic rumination, backed by wonderfully melancholic ambient noise. Though it isn't hard to see why it failed at the time, what with bandleader Mark Hollis's insistence that no singles be released from the album and, that no live shows could be performed due to the complex sonic arrangements of the work found herein... it has still stood the test of time perfectly. Now, rightfully being hailed as one of the major artistic achievements of album production and song writing of that particular decade... as well as being a clear indication of the band's direction for the follow up; 1991's seminal Laughing Stock.
Musically, the sound developed here is both a continuation and a progression of the musical landscapes developed for the previous album the Colour of Spring... though the clarity of the songs are less underlined, instead, developing from the almost choral tranquillity of Hollis's fracturing vocals and the deft, bluesy musicianship of multi-instrumentalist producer Tim Friese-Greene. The introduction to the opening number The Rainbow features a bed of synthesisers, string arrangements, guitar feedback and world instrumentation that brings to mind Peter Gabriel's mid-eighties work via Miles Davis... an element made even more obvious by the inclusion of various horns later in the album. As the song gets going properly, Hollis and Friese-Green alternate guitar parts that swirl in and out of each other in a somewhat-bluesy progression, whilst the vocals go even further to bring to our recollection the best of Rory Gallagher (Tattoo, Calling Card, Against the Grain, etc).
The fusion of the instrumentation and the wild variations and chord progressions draw on both classical and jazz influences also, usually triggered by the emotional resonance of Hollis's mournful lyrics; whilst the music often fractures even further into wild passages of distorted guitar, crooning vocals and twisted harmonica overdubs that lead us in and out of the six songs included here... making this much more cohesive than the Talk Talk albums that came before. It also would seem to have been a great influence on John Squire of the Stone Roses who brought a similar approach to guitar playing and musical arrangement on such tracks as I Want to be Adored and I am the Resurrection... which brings up the question of how come the Roses' debut album often features in the Q top 100 albums, while this masterpiece doesn't even get a look in...? The fusion of ambient noise with a more potent (poetic) rock-edge was still very new at the time, combining elements of art-rock and progressive with the aforementioned styles, in the way that Radiohead have been doing since their own artistic turning point, OK Computer.
The six songs featured here represent some of the most beautiful musical textures available... lulling us into a realm of quiet reflection whilst, Hollis and the band take us on a journey into an unknown dominion of pure musical creativity. The music becomes more and more dense as we are propelled to the final, with the closing numbers (I Believe in You & Wealth) building to an epic crescendo before winding things down in a gloriously lush arrangement that sees each instrument slowly dying away. Spirit of Eden is everything the title suggests... a haunting collection of music in the tradition of Eno, and seen in continuation by bands like Sigur Ros. Some have criticised this for being a difficult record... though I didn't find anything difficult about it at all. This is beautifully understated music that really does create a (almost) spiritual feeling for the listener...
on 18 April 2012
I ought too preface this by stating that 'Spirit of Eden' would be amongst my desert island selection, so be prepared for some minute musings. For the casual reader, please simply read many of the other reviews of this wonderful, soulful, near spiritual masterpiece which crosses genres to simply produce music which draws on so many influences, from Satie, Miles Davis, blues, soul, gospel, rock and pop and yet effortlessly finds it's own, near unique, niche. A genuinely GREAT album, to employ a hideously over-used word when it comes to music criticism.
First a minor gripe re. the packaging - James Marsh's front cover painting is back to its original orientation, having been 'flipped' for the previous remaster, but it is reproduced at around 75% of it's previous size, and loses from the re-sizing. A pity. The original album rear typography is indifferently imitated too - why can't designers simply leave these things alone - they were better as they orinally were? A minor gripe. The interior booklet restores the original hand written lyrics and for the first time they are legible, so well done on that score.
The real question I'd like to raise is to ask if this has been remixed? There is now a greater clarity of sound than either of the previous releases but I'm sure that some of the quieter passages have been boosted. I don't go in for digital analysis, but I'm sure someone might, as it feels as if a layer of ethereal mist that swirled, and I think intentionally so, around the original recording, has been lifted and waved away?
The music 'feels' more clearly defined but it also feels as if it's an album that I've spent the last 25 years (crikey) listeing to on virgin vinyl, in analogue has now been presented in digital clarity. It sounds clearer but I'll reserve judgement as to whether this is an improvement, or if it is the case that an ambient layer that was intentionally retained has now been rubbed away by an over enthusiastic restoration?
That having been said it's still some of the most magnificent music I've had the pleasure of listening to and it's another reason to listen to again. And again.
I think I've seen it mentioned that Mark Hollis was consulted with regard to this release. I'd love some sort of comment from the now (unfortunately) retired prodigious talent, to let the listeners know what the full score is with this series of reissues.
on 19 February 2015
Kind of liked Talk Talk in the 80s, then they went off my radar. Occasionally read what a great album this is but never got round to checking it out as.Then recently I got a deal on Spotify and decided to give it a go. And wouldn't you know it, it is a work of genius. Why did I wait so long??
I'm into Post Rock (Sigur Ros, Mogwai) plus Radiohead and Elbow, and I can hear this albums (plus Laughing Stock's) influences all over their work.You kind of feel that nowadays most bands would not have the talent or bravery to make such a record, plus I imagine record companies would not encourage it either. Perhaps Radiohead have got the closest in terms of talent and progression in their music over their careers, plus they are mostly able to do what they want. But I would argue that this album stands out as an essential body of work in terms of musical influence, showing bands what is possible and just being so damn perfect. And I am pretty sure that if it was not for this then a lot of my favourite bands would not be so good.
on 14 June 2016
Simply one of the very rare records that could be called a 'masterpiece' ...
This is music of the 'soul' , a deep place of truth and wonder , a place which record company's don't get , a place which is truthful , unique and above all a place which won't just let you just dip in ...
You are forced to listen to the album as a complete piece , it makes you wonder where this comes from...
It is light years away from anything else you can compare it to .
Is it pop, rock, classical, jazz, ambient, prog...does it have any reference point , does it need it ?
Early King Crimson meets early Jeff Buckley having coffee with Pink Floyd ...Jamming with Karl Heinz Stockhousen...( Maybe )
Forget all that , forget labels , forget everything you know about modern 20th century music ...
Year zero ...
A brilliant , wonderful , magical record ...which has influenced so many bands , most of them possibly don't know it so makes it even better...
Talk Talk were always there first , always will be ...
Check out the band playing in Montreux in 86 ( DVD) . An amazing concert, full of innovation , sparkle and incredible sounds
Mark Hollis was the leader of the band with Paul Webb and Lee Harris Bass and drums respectively...
Paul Webb must be one of the best players on the planet and Lee Harris was always doing the right thing at the right time .
Simple , evocative and so powerful .
Please please listen to Talk Talk I urge anyone with a passion for great popular music to lend an ear and to understand for all new music there has to a catalyst , a genesis of sorts ...
Talk Talk were it ...