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801 - 801 Live CD (album) cover

801 LIVE

801

 

Prog Related

4.17 | 53 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno always brought out the best in each other, so it shouldn't be a tremendous surprise that they'd make a really good live album together around their primes. Roxy Music was on hiatus, and Brian hadn't done much lately except for helping Manzanera out on a solo album and on another side project (a band called Quiet Sun), so when they got the urge to form a temporary band and play a small handful of shows, there was nothing to stop them. 801 (named after the chorus to "The True Wheel," obviously) only played 3 shows, but they decided to record the last one, and an album made from the recordings was released a couple of months afterwards. It's often praised as one of the absolute greatest live albums of all time, and while I definitely wouldn't go that far, it's one that I enjoy and respect plenty.

If there's any significant issue with the album, it's that the band was a little short on material, and the album (about 48 minutes, and even the deluxe edition, which I don't have, is only about an hour) reflects this. Despite the fact that I file this under Brian Eno in my collection, three of the tracks are from Manzanera's solo album Diamond Head and two are based on material from Mainstream (the Quiet Sun album), and while the Manzanera- based tracks are good on the whole, they're not quite compelling enough for me to call them great. The best tracks from this group are "Diamond Head," an atmospheric and kinda jazzy instrumental (where the guitar is heavily treated to sound like a synth), and "Miss Shapiro," an up-tempo borderline glam-rock number with Eno's vocals going like it's 1974 and he's making Tiger Mountain again. The opening "Lagrima" is basically just an extended introduction (not a bad one, but it's clearly just walk-on music), "East of Asteroid" is a fairly interesting dose of astral-prog (not much like anything from solo Eno or from Roxy Music, that's for sure) that features some nice twists and turns, and "Rongwrong" has guitar and synth parts that make it sound like a leftover from Another Green World but doesn't have an especially compelling vocal part. Overall, this chunk isn't bad, but it doesn't really seem like the main feature.

The rest of the album consists of three solo Eno tracks and two covers. The big surprise from the Eno group is "Sombre Reptiles," which sounds essentially the same as in the original and yet much more fluid and lively, and it works much better in a live context than I'd have ever imagined. "Baby's On Fire" is great but not quite as great as the original (no matter how good Manzanera's solo is, it can't live up to The Greatest Guitar Solo Of All Time), but the closing "Third Uncle" is a blazing glam-rock monster, with Eno snapping out the lyrics in his inimitable way and Phil firing out his solos and riffs in a way that once more reminds me why he's one of my favorite guitarists. If you can listen to this version of "Third Uncle" while jogging and not feel compelled to run a mile-per-hour faster than usual, I don't understand you.

Meanwhile, the covers are fantastic. The first one is of "Tomorrow Never Knows," where only the basic vocal melody is preserved (with Eno singing) and the music is almost like a space-jazz deconstruction of the original, and while it doesn't have all of the goofy tape loops and sound effects stuffed into it, what's here is great. The other cover is of "You Really Got Me," coming out of "Miss Shapiro," with Eno's synth bloops working in perfect tandem with the growling guitar riffs, and the moment where the crowd is faded into the mix (the crowd is usually mixed completely out) and you can hear them going nuts is intoxicating.

All in all, the material isn't perfect, but it's really good overall, and the production of the album (for various technical reasons this is one of the best-sounding live albums made to this point) makes the good material sound really great. Any serious fan of Eno should own this, and it's a great reminder of how much material with Eno on vocals could rock out back in the day.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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