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David Sylvian

Crossover Prog

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David Sylvian Secrets of the Beehive album cover
4.13 | 205 ratings | 15 reviews | 40% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1987

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. September (1:17)
2. The Boy with the Gun (5:19)
3. Maria (2:49)
4. Orpheus (4:51)
5. The Devil's Own (3:12)
6. When Poets Dreamed of Angels (4:47)
7. Mother and Child (3:15)
8. Let the Happiness In (5:37)
9. Waterfront (3:23)

Total Time 34:30

Bonus track on 1987 CD release:
10. Forbidden Colours (5:59)

Bonus track on 2003 remaster:
10. Promise (The Cult of Eurydice) (3:28)

Line-up / Musicians

- David Sylvian / vocals, organ, synthesizer, piano & treated piano, acoustic guitar, tapes, arranger & co-producer

- David Torn / electric (2) & acoustic (7) guitars, guitar loops (3)
- Phil Palmer / acoustic (6) & slide (4) guitars
- Ryuichi Sakamoto / organ, synthesizer, piano & treated piano, string & brass & woodwind arrangements
- Mark Isham / flugelhorn (4,8), trumpet (6,8)
- Danny Thompson / double bass (2,4)
- Steve Jansen / drums (4), percussion (8)
- Danny Cummings / percussion (2,6-8)
- Brian Gascoigne / orchestral (4) & string (8) arrangements

Releases information

Artwork: 23 Envelope with Nigel Grierson (photo)

LP Virgin ‎- V 2471 (1987, UK)

CD Virgin ‎- CDV 2471 (1987, UK) With a bonus track
CD Virgin ‎- CDVX 2471 (2003, UK) Remastered by Tony Cousins with a new bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy DAVID SYLVIAN Secrets of the Beehive Music

DAVID SYLVIAN Secrets of the Beehive ratings distribution

(205 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(40%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DAVID SYLVIAN Secrets of the Beehive reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by arcer
4 stars After the longeurs of Gone to Earth, which while lovely to listen to occasionally slid into the relams of sameyness, Secrets of the Beehive is a simpler, more tightly constructed affair. In some ways it represents the end of a period of Sylvian's work (you could almost lump Brilliant Trees, Gone to Earth and this together as a trilogy) and some would suggest that this is the weakest of the three, Sylvian sounding a little bereft of inspiration in places. Indeed, hereafter he set about deconstructing his music with abandon, eventually culminating in the almost empty nothingness of Plight and Premonition, a collaboration with Holger Czukay. Here though, he's still writing songs and there are some gems here. Orpheus blends gently tumbling acoustic guitar with some beauifully sweet flugelhorn from Mark Isham. When Poets Dreamed of Angels features some stunning Spanish Guitar and Let the Happiness In features a lovely muted brass arrangement. Secrets is a lush record, far removed from the ambient textures Sylvian spent the following years exploring. It ain't prog as far as I can tell, but it is a very, very pretty and often sad album.
Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This album is a slow paced, atmospheric and beautiful piece of art. Something similar might be TALK TALK's "Spirit Of Eden", although I would say this is more accessible, and I like the vocals here more. David Sylvian sounds like David Bowie, he has a warm, deep singing voice.

The highlights for me are the far too short opening song "September" with David's singing accompanied by piano and strings.The lyrics on this record are very good and thought provoking,some songs are simply telling a good story, like "The Boy With the Gun" the only song I believe to feature electric guitar and double bass. "Maria" is a short, spacey and eerie tune. "Orpheus" is the best song in my opinion, it just flows and it is so melodic, i've hit the repeat button many times to hear this amazing song again and again.

"The Devil's Own" features a vocal and piano intro that comes back later, in between synths and woodwinds are added to the mix. "When Poets Dreamed Of Angels" is an excellent tune, with a Steve Howe sounding acoustic guitar melody throughout, on a song about a woman who is being physically abused. "Mother And Child" has a jazz feel to it. "Let The Happiness In" is a great song featuring trumpet, fluglehorn and synths. I like "Waterfront" too, with the strings and piano complimenting the vocals.

This is a record I highly recommend.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album is a work of pure art and of the sort where the artist does it with love and passion.

Although this is "progressive rock" site, please you should forget about this "rock" element when listening to David Sylvian's solo efforts. Nothing rocks on "Secrets of the Beehive" and many prog fans would perhaps dismiss it right away as being too serious, adult- oriented, elaborated, cold or whatever... But, once you got acquainted with this artist, he won't let you go easily.

This album is an album of atmosphere and Sylvian is the master of creating atmospheric music. Combining the elements of jazz, pop, classical, electronic and experimental music, he creates a completely new world that may sound as a classic, or more precisely, a romanticist novel or poem transferred into sounds.

At times, the music presented on "Secrets..." sounds like what would be subsequently labelled "chamber pop", at other moments ambient jazz/avant-garde prevails."The Boy with a Gun" and "Orpheus" are actually quite accessible even on the first listen and perhaps the closest Sylvian got to "pop music", at least in this period of his career. On the other hand, "Maria" and "Forbidden Colours" are dark and disturbing songs, the ones you can expect to hear as soundtracks for a horror movie.

This may sound odd, but whenever I listen to this music, I got a vision of characters from one of the most accomplished graphic novels ever created - "Corto Maltese" by Hugo Pratt. Somehow it all goes together in my mind. Sylvian's music demands solitude and dimmed light. You don't take it with your iPod or a mobile player device. You better stick to your Hi-Fi in your dark room, put on your headphones, sip a glass of whiskey if you like and enjoy the trip!

The title of the song "When Poets Dreamed of Angels" pretty much summarises the feeling of this album.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There are 2 musicians involved here who played on Mark Isham's Castalia, an album I consider to belong to my all-time top 20 records: Mark Isham himself and David Torn. There are actually some similarities between Castalia and Secrets of the beehive, although the record here is less jazzy and atmospheric. Torn still uses here his excellent typical instable guitar sound packed with abrupt tremolo shots and ethereal loops. Isham's typical trumpet is rather subdued and not very much used. Because of the presence of Isham and Torn, the album, like Castalia, is quite atmospheric, ethereal, enigmatic and mysterious. It is a really mellow album. Sylvian' lead vocals are mellow and reassuring. I like the floating melancholic and dreamy keyboards textures. The album has many beautiful acoustic guitar sounds. There are serious and nostalgic piano parts. There are delicate drums and warm & jazzy acoustic bass. The combination of acoustic bass and piano on "Mother and child" is absolutely wonderful! The whole is relaxing and never aggressive! All the tracks are equally very good.
Review by kenethlevine
5 stars It is a testament to the personal nature of music that an album can be simultaneously regarded as somnolent drudgery and introspective genius, depending on who listens to it and even how and when they do so. "Secrets of the Beehive" is a case in point, but ultimately its ability to externalize and give voice to one's most deeply hidden feelings makes it a far greater awakening experience than any Black Sabbath album. Moreover, while any given piece here might be considered an odd bit of filler on a convention collection of songs, here it is the accumulated effect of the spiritual shift over the course of 45 minutes that is to be cherished.

Sylvian's lyrics and voice are poetic and soul bearing, like the voice in your head, but with subtly revealing musical inflections, while the sparse musical accompaniment provides just enough for any listener with patience to connect the dots. In particular, guitarist Danny Torn and wind player Mark Isham both play perfect foil to Sylvian's muses, completing the journey that began with "Brilliant Trees". While everything here flows naturally and genuinely, the standouts are the wondrous "Orpheus", "When the Poets Dreamed of Angels", "Let the Happiness In", and the bonus track "Forbidden Colours".

That we are all alone in more ways than not is perhaps one secret of the beehive both unnerving and comforting. This is a desert island disk with the ability to maintain sanity even in lengthy if not eternal solitude.

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars David Sylvian's fourth solo album remains one of the best and more accessible efforts from one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. It was released on the heels of his 1986 double-disc 'Gone to Earth' (my own introduction to Sylvian's music, thanks to the marquee value of guest stars like ROBERT FRIPP and BILL NELSON), and the new album further refined the twin aesthetic impulses that continue to shape his career: urbane ambient pop and drifting ENO-esque instrumentals.

'Gone to Earth' had isolated the songs and the soundscapes onto separate LPs (later combined onto a single compact disc, but with omissions). This time Sylvian was able to blend the two musical paths into a unified style: not rock, but sometimes close; not jazz, but often jazzy; and not quite classical despite the woodwind arrangements and occasional flugelhorn.

And, unlike some of his more esoteric minimalist recordings (think of 'Blemish', or one of his collaborations with Krautrock guru HOLGER CZUKAY), 'Beehive' devotes equal attention to both atmospherics and melody. The result is a beautifully crafted album of exquisite art rock, featuring another impressive roster of guest talent. Old friends Steve Jansen (JAPAN) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA) are back, plus the ubiquitous Mark Isham and ECM experimental guitarist David Torn.

But Sylvian himself is the guiding light behind the spectrum of music here. And after more than twenty years this album might still be the perfect introduction to his intimate, sophisticated songwriting style.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Secrets of the Beehive" is the 4th full-length studio album by experimental pop/rock artist David Sylvian. The former Japan frontman showed great promise on his first couple of albums but "Secrets of the Beehive" stands as something very special in his discography. The musicians he has chosen for the album are perfect for the job and it“s very audible. Especially Ryuichi Sakamoto, who is credited for organ, synthesizer, piano, arranging, string arrangements and woodwind arrangement, has a big part in the warm and unique sound on the album.

The songs are generally sophisticated vers/chorus based pop/rock songs. David Sylvian“s warm and emotional voice is the center of attention and he has never sounded more confident yet at the same time vulnerable as he sounds on this album. Some of his strongest lyrics are also to be found on "Secrets of the Beehive". I“ll make a short quotation from the song "When Poets Dreamed Of Angels", which is one of my favorites on the album: "She rises early from bed, Runs to the mirror, The bruises inflicted in moments of fury. He kneels beside her once more, Whispers a promise, Next time I'll break every bone in your body". There are several strong themes like this one on the album. This short quote about domestic violence is just one of them. Others I could mention are "The Boy With the Gun" and "The Devil“s Own". What is most important about the music on the album is the melancholic warmth it possesses and the emotional impact it has on me. "Secrets of the Beehive" is probably one of David Sylvian“s least experimental albums, so I don“t listen to the album to be challenged or to experience progressive details, which is sometimes the case with his other releases.

The production is warm and pleasant. A real treat to my ears and it suits the music perfectly.

I listen to lots of music each and every day in many different genres and styles, but very seldom do I find music that has an emotional impact on me like "Secrets of the Beehive" has. Such a rare achivement is of course awarded with a 5 star (100%) rating. A brilliant album this one IMO.

Review by aapatsos
4 stars Three years after the very promising debut Brilliant Trees, Sylvian delivers his 4th full-length album, trying to reveal the Secrets of the Beehive. In this effort, he has the assistance of a number of talented musicians and most of all Ryuichi Sakamoto, who is responsible for most of the album's string arrangements.

Compared to his debut (my only reference point), there are a number of small changes in Sylvian's songwriting that shift the album a level up. The melodies sound very mature and carefully worked. Acoustic guitars play the dominant role and are executed beautifully, while the characteristic ambient/avant-garde atmosphere is still the main element of his sound. To this latter feature, the critical point is the use of synths and organ arrangements. The warm voice of Sylvian clearly adds to the character and quality of the album - a quite unique voice that does not easily compare with other artists.

The electro, funk and synth-pop influences are almost wiped out from this album, and have been replaced by more ''optimistic'' ambient moods. In a not-so-dark version of an overall ''a-la Dead Can Dance'' atmosphere, Sylvian blends jazz, avant-garde and Floyd-like elements to create a purely nostalgic album. Even if there is a constant very slow tempo throughout the music, the album does not bore the listener, as it flows like a well-worked soundtrack. The short duration works for the benefit of the album. The demanding prog fan might be disappointed by the absence of complex arrangements, but will be rewarded with warm melodies.

The trinity of Orpheus, The Devil's Own and When Poets Dreamed of Angels forms my favourite part in an album where there are no weak moments and which deserves at least 4 stars (subject to change with a shift higher...).

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In 1987 David Sylvian released his fourth solo album Secrets Of The Beehive. Definitely on a par with his wonderful debut " Brilliant Trees", yet more mature and accessible. When one listens to early Japan and the innocent naivety some of the music displays, the leap Sylvian took on his solo ventures created a significant lunge forward to intriguing, pensive and deep thinking music.

Sylvian works with some great musicians like Mark Isham and D. Thompson, marked contributors to the respective trumpet and double bass. The album holds up pretty much flawlessley. The high point without doubt " When Poets Dreamed Of Angels", some exquisite accoustic guitar flickering between stereo corners, overlayed by Sylvian's velvet voice and the song fades with a Shakti/Raga like percussion interplaying with perfect accoustic guitar that smack of that genius John Maclaughlin. Truly a real gem from the 80's. And that is just one song! The rest of the album is consistently of highest quality. One of Crossover's finest albums. Essentially missing something if you do not have it.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars While I liked this album well enough, gone was the magic and experimentation of Brilliant Trees and Gone to Earth. There are definitely amazing songs or parts of songs on this album--including one of my Top Five David Sylvian songs of all-time, "Orpheus" (4:51) (10/10), "Let the Happiness in" (5:37) (8/10), and (on some versions of the album/CD) the studio recording of the amazing Ryuichi Sakamoto song, "Forbidden Colours" (6:01) (9/10) which was originally composed for his soundtrack to the film (in which he also starred--an amazing performance!!), "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence"--but the rest of the album is pretty much forgettable (as I have done). The tour supporting this album, however, was INCROYABLE! David, his amazing brother Steve JANSEN on drums/percussion, with the extraordinary David TORN on "guitars" (unlike any guitars I'd ever heard) and the one and only Mark ISHAM on trumpets & keys. What a night! A lot of improvisational music, sometimes very heady, sometimes very dreamy-spacey, and yet absolutely mesmerizing.
Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Secrets of the Beehive is a tranquil half hour of light progressive pop music. The husky lead vocals provide an agreeable contrast with the minimalistic and feathery instrumentation. Despite its brevity, the album can get sleepy and less engaging toward the end; it is dreamy and inoffensive throughout. In sum, Secrets of the Beehive is darkly sweet but lacks sting.

"September" A quiet, piano-led opener introduces the listener to Sylvian's hushed vocal style and mellowness.

"The Boy with the Gun" Sylvian's gently hoarse voice drifts over a thudding double bass and calm symphonic textures.

"Maria" "Maria" is a swirling, hypnotic bit of music.

"Orpheus" An acoustic pop song in 3/4 time makes up the fourth track.

"The Devil's Own" Quiet piano is juxtaposed with tranquil singing that leads into a lovely, more orchestral passage.

"When Poets Dreamed of Angels" The primary instrument here is the classical guitar, which provides several plucked sections that complement the vocals well.

"Mother and Child" More of a smoky vocal jazz number, this one has Sylvian crooning over an almost lonely bass. Some lead piano adds further jazzy textures.

"Let the Happiness In" An unassuming song consisting of atmospheric pads and hand percussion, this piece contrasts with the others by virtue of some tasteful trumpet in the backdrop.

"Waterfront" Again, this is a pleasant piece of music, but the quietude may be too much for the album.

Review by Warthur
4 stars David Sylvian's style of ambient pop takes the laid-back, almost sedated tone of the slower sections of Japan's Tin Drum and strips out the orientalism (and, indeed, anything reminiscent of human cultures whatsoever) to craft something wholly unique. It is not an accessible album and at first seems cold and unappealing, and will require several listens to reveal the warmth hidden within. Many will find this worthwhile, especially if you after something calming and soft to play in the background; those who know David Sylvian as a New Romantic frontman may find themselves bored with this artier and more serious incarnation, however.
Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars The jazzy piano and the very warm voice of David Sylvian open the album. "September" sounds like a night club in NewYork (or the idea that I have of that, never been there). It's few more than 1 minute but it's enough to understand that this is a very good album.

"The Boy With The Gun" persists in the same atmosphere. The jazzy impressions come from the contrabass. The period is clearly identifiable: a song from the 80s with some connections with the more artsy side of bands of that period, JAPAN included.

"Maria" is sung with baritonal voice. It's quite dark and it reminds me to Richard Wright's ZEE. Sad and atmospheric. Personally I like it a lot.

Time for major chords: "Orpheus" is made of an incredibly good sequence of non-trivial passages. The pause of silence before the instrumental section makes you wishing more, and it arrives immediately after. There's some genius in this song. It ends with 3 quick chords totally unexpected.

"The Devil's Own" proceeds with 3 minutes of mainly piano and voice. Tere's no longer a night club. This is something different, but the Howe-like guitar starts the following track. In the 80s I've paid some attention to Suzanne VEGA. Call me mad, but I think that not only this song has similarities with some of her more intimate songs, even if I don't think she has never added an instrumental part of spanish guitar in songs of this kind like the excellent "When Poets Dream Of Angels".

Contrabass, piano and jazzy atmospheres are back with "Mother and Child". One of the best album's tracks. "Let The Happines In" starts with brass and the contribution of Mark ISHAM's trumpet is huge. This is even better than the previous one. Mainly based on two chords it could remind to David BOWIE.

"Waterfront" remains on the same soundscape as before. On this track, the similarities with ZEE are evident. Of course I don't think Sylvia has taken inspiration from that album, even if I consider it underrated. This is an album from the late 80s and what Wright did in 1984 was just a shy attempt to renew his offering.

The first release of the album end here. But my Japanese reissue has the two bonus tracks below:

"Forbidden Colours" is very famous. The theme was used as movie soundtrack and was actually a big hit. Very few to say about this song: It's impossible that anybody hasn't listened to it before. Thanks to Ryuichi SAKAMOTO.

It's time to close the album. The last about three minutes are entertained by "Promise". Classical guitar and warm voice. Also this song could feature on a movie soundtrack (if it effectively hasn't, I don't know). A bit too "sweet" compared to the rest of the album, so the organ at the end brings some sadness back.

Listen to it by night, on a sofa, with a drink.

Latest members reviews

3 stars After reading the reviews of David Sylvian I noticed that he was compared with TALK TALK. So I went for his best-rated CD Secrets of the Beehive. I must admit that the comparison does make sense. What I am missing on this album is the vividity of TALK TALK. The music of David Sylvian is more da ... (read more)

Report this review (#149534) | Posted by Aleph0 | Thursday, November 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Mr. Sylvian has an incredible talent to create very sad and nostalgic athmospeheres. This album is not an exception. At first sight "Secrets" can sound a little bored and repetitive but if you listen very carefully you will discover the delicate arrangements and the textures that Sylvian made ... (read more)

Report this review (#55872) | Posted by progadicto | Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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