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Adrian Belew - Lone Rhino CD (album) cover


Adrian Belew


Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 61 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Few debut solo albums show this much range and sophistication. Belew pulls out everything (for the time being) from his bag of guitar tricks, as well as showcasing his under-appreciated songwriting skills and distinctive vocal style. Of course, he was no newcomer- anyone who'd followed him from Zappa to Bowie to Talking Heads knew that this likeable virtuoso had plenty to offer.

"Big Electric Cat" opens the album with a driving cybernetic grind laced with screaming fuzz leads, very comparable to Bowie's Fripp-heavy "Scary Monsters". "The Momur", "Stop It", "Adidas in Heat" and "Swingline" reflect a definite Zappa sensibility- often less acidic and more playfully quirky, but with just as much attention to musicianship and stylistic left turns. The more serious songs ("Man in the Moon" and "Animal Grace") provide an additional layer of emotion to the album- he really sounds like he's singing his heart out at times. And in-between there is the title track (well, close enough) which veers from goofy to melodramatic, but with a surprisingly earnest pathos. The short instrumentals are less structured but very evocative; "Naive Guitar" is one of my all-time favorite instrumentals, a lovely quiet melange of cascading guitars that sounds wonderful played forwards or backwards (I've always wondered if Belew constructed it as a musical palindrome, something Nabokov might have done if he'd used guitars instead of words). "Hot Sun" is a tense atmosphere, an excellent lead-in for "Lone Rhino", and hints at some of the more raspy passsages of the 80s Crimson discography ("Industry", for instance). "Final Rhino" could be seen as a throwaway, a little girl plinking randomly on a piano while daddy noodles, but there is something uniquely expressive in the interplay, and it closes out the album with a mysterious yearning beauty.

There are very few negatives about this album; I suppose if you're turned off by the more experimental end of 80s pop, you'll be hard-pressed at times...and while his vocals are distinctive and evocative, they may be something of an acquired taste. However, there are hooks aplenty and more than enough texture to reward further listening. The guitar work is exceptional, varied, and unique- Belew deserves a place among guitar greats on the basis of this album alone. I fell in love with it when it was new- and unlike many, many albums, it hasn't lost much of its appeal to me over time. It's a no-brainer if you're a KC or Zappa fan, and offers much to anyone who appreciates the Bowie/ Gabriel school of early 80s art rock. My rating hovers between three and four stars- it's definitely not essential- but I enjoy this album so much that I have very little hesitation rounding the final score up.

James Lee | 4/5 |


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