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Adrian Belew - Side One CD (album) cover


Adrian Belew


Eclectic Prog

3.56 | 75 ratings

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4 stars Adrian Belew took a break from his solo career after 1996 to continue his work with King Crimson. However, after KC released 'Power to Believe', that band went on hiatus again, and Belew went back to releasing solo albums. His 13th solo album was released in 2005 and was the first part of a trilogy of albums, this one entitled 'Side One'. This is the album that is notorious for featuring Les Claypool and Danny Carey (Tool) on the first 3 tracks. The placement of these tracks as the first three make for an easy transition from Belew's King Crimson days as the carry the same style of loud, almost abstract playing, very eclectic with heavy grooves.

The beginning trio of tracks start with 'Ampersand', a hard and heavy, complex rocker with the involvement of top-notch musicians. There is a rock n roll foundation that definitely stands out even with the heavy guitar, bass and drum layers, and layered vocals on top of it all. The ending is quite chaotic and noisy. 'Writing on the Wall' gets funky and effectively combines the weirdness and brashness of Belew's guitar with the punch of Claypool's bass and Carey's solid, complex drumming. It makes you wish this was a supergroup, but alas, the lineup only lasts for 1/3 of the album. The track is crazy, cool and tasty. 'Matchless Man' ends this dream trio with Carey mellowing out using a tabla, Belew making his guitar sound almost violin-like, and Claypool adding an almost jazz-like bass. Mysterious and a bit bizarre, very KC-like.

The question is, can the rest of the album live up to the supergroup feel provided on the first 3 tracks? 'Madness' follows with Belew unleashing his mean and heavy guitar sounds while he provides his own bass and drums this time on this instrumental. The track takes part of its inspiration from Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian with its complex instrumental lines, noise and dissonance. The rhythm is provided by the slow and steady pounding of a solid, moderate beat, chunky bass and angry guitar. The longest track on the album, it almost reaches the 7 minute mark. Belew proves he can be a supergroup all by himself on this sonic jam. 'Walk Around the World' uses Belew's unique combination of his vocals, funky guitar and complex sounds. The one man band is helped out on this one by Gary Tussing on cello and Peter Hyrka on violin, but Belew provides everything else. The sudden addition of strong bass is a welcome sound to keep the track fresh. 'Beat Box Guitar' is the last of the tracks making up the middle third of the album. This track was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Rock Instrumental Performance' in 2005, but lost to Les Paul and Friends. This track is a cool, effects-heavy track with a nice accessible beat, record static backing up snappy guitar riffs and effects and tinny percussion until the last section where the drums become fuller and the guitar bursts with personality. It is quite a brilliant piece of work.

The last third of the album is by far the shortest third with three tracks that average under two minutes each. 'Under the Radar' is a neat, little atmospheric track with a psychedelic sounding vocal melody, 'Elephants' starts with the BBC announcer Ian Wallace, and then Belew using his guitar to imitate an angry elephant and some spoken word field recording peppered among the plodding sounds, and the 'Pause' ends the album with spooky sounding effects followed by some violin/guitar playing, then fading.

The last three tracks are okay, but almost seem to be tacked on to the end of the album in order to make it reach the 33 minute mark so that it could be considered an album, not an EP. This is the biggest fault of the album, as up to track 7, it sounds very much like a 5 star album, but then the short experimental tracks don't really fit in with the rest of the album making it feel like a bad extension. The album is too short as a result of this. It feels like a strong album and then is let down by the short, experimental ending tracks. It still comes out as a 4 star album, however, but maybe Belew should have combined 'Side One' and 'Side Two' to make one album.

TCat | 4/5 |


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