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Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis CD (album) cover

MARK HOLLIS

Mark Hollis

Crossover Prog


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Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars What a coincedence. I've just listened to this album...again.

Heaven bless you in your calm, Mark Hollis. God knows what you're doing away from your music now, but I hope you're fine. You've become one of the biggest inspirations for me, both musically and lyrically. You've got a wonderful voice, Mark. From the earliest poppish TALK TALK records you had that magic ability to carry emotons with these sudden accentos and whispers. Fortunately time done nothing to your voice, and on this album it is even better - overwhelming, deep, intimate, matured, unfolding any spectre of what a human being is able to feel and beyond. Wait, Mark, there's a lot of nice music too. Recorded live with no overdubs, isn't it? As a clever one said, this is music where silence is as much important as the music itself. Very true. I won't stuck to hits there, OK? Yes, "Watershed" and "The Colour of Spring" are kinda stand-out tracks, but this is probable because they are the closest ones to what people call "a song", he-he. Others float half-asleep through ambient waters of acoustic guitars, horns and piano chords, with frequent vocal flashes, like lazy heart's beats. Mark, have you heard how they're calling your stuff? "Indie", "dream-pop", "adult jazz", "the least mainstream record from a former mainstream icon"...OK, I'll stop here. Have they heard about MUSIC? Genreless, ageless, fashionless, trendless, bombastless...OK, I stop here again. Can I recommend it? I should I guess judging from 5-star rating! But wait this is definitely a matter of taste. A Prog-Metal fan would hardly endure 45 minutes of sheer minimalism...wait, what did I tell you about these crappy tags? OK, I stopped here finally. A Masterpiece.

Report this review (#149469)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A last - or lost - Talk Talk album? It is a record I strongly recommend to the fans of the late period Talk Talk. Of course, it is somewhat of a given, taking into account that it is a Mark Hollis album. But even after a seven years hiatus, it has the same qualities of Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden, although it is quieter (is it possible?) and, to my ears, it possesses a beautiful contemplative feeling. It is very well recorded, the sound of this album is incredible, and the album has a really organic feel, since it was recorded live and using only « real » instrument. A really beautiful, highly recommended piece of music, 4.5 stars really!
Report this review (#161020)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Talk (Talk) among yourselves

At time of writing, this looks like being Mark Hollis's only solo album. It took him some seven years after winding up Talk Talk to deliver this album in 1998, and he has since "retired" from the music scene once again.

The absence of long time music partner Tim Friese-Greene does not alter the fact that this is effectively a final Talk Talk album. This self titled release (reportedly originally to be named "Mountains of the Moon") is a natural successor to the last album to bear the band name, retaining much of the inaccessible and minimalist qualities which defined Talk Talk's twilight years.

The opening track, "The colour of spring" did not actually appear on the Talk Talk album of that name. It is a sparse piano and vocal piece which allows Hollis the space to demonstrate the power and emotion of his voice. Even when a more defined rhythm is established on the harmonica based "Watershed", the atmosphere remains reflective and moody.

And that pretty much describes the album as a whole. Hollis uses a variety of carefully selected sounds to support his unique vocal style, while always retaining the same dark moods. There is no standout track as such, simply because the tracks on the album blend seamlessly to form a whole. It may sound one-dimensional, and it is hard to deny that is what it is. The question really is, does that dimension work for you?

In cold technical terms, the song-writing here is rudimentary, both lyrically and in terms of melodies. Hollis relies entirely on his ability to paint sonic landscapes, while conveying emotion in immense quantities. For some, this will be an album to savour and revere, for others it will be a trudge through a barren void. For me, it sits somewhere in-between. In the right mood, I can sit back and let the sounds simply wash over me. On other occasions, I find myself yearning for something more substantial.

Report this review (#168902)
Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Mark Hollis sole album from 1998 is a must for fans of the last two Talk Talk albums. The album continues the style that Talk Talk set on Laughing Stock. The music is more quiet than Talk Talk though. The approach to the music is very subtle and minimalistic. As mentioned in one of the other reviews of this album silence is a very important player in these songs.

The music is not very accessible and only the first two songs Colour of Spring and Watershed have what I would call hooks. If you listen very carefully there are some memorable lines in some of the other songs though. Mark Hollis vocals are very subtle and emotional. He sings with a vulnerability seldom heard more true in music. I have always been a fan of Mark Hollis vocal style. The music is mostly made up of piano, subdued drumming and percussion, fretless bass, quit guitar playing and occasional winds of all sorts and then lots of silence.

The musicianship is really great here and as the album is recorded live in the studio, it becomes even more impressive. There are no fast runs or scale noodling here, only very controlled emotional playing from all. Mark Hollis is of course center of everything here and his strong voice is very beautiful.

The production is very impressive too, as every little sound is clearly heard.

This is a unigue album even though Mark Hollis distinct voice will surely remind you of Talk Talk and this album is mostly for fans of that band. I must say that personally I prefer Talk Talk´s albums to this one, as I´m having a hard time listening to this subtle music for the whole lenght of the album. The subtility gets a bit annoying IMO even though it´s mostly a beautiful feature in Mark Hollis music. This is the kind of album where you have to listen yourself though. It´s so unique that even though you might feel like me and think this is a good album and not an excellent one, it will surely be an experience for life to listen to. I seldom do myself, but when I do it´s always an enjoyable ride. The mood has to be right though. I´ll rate this album 3 stars, because I think it´s good but not really my prefered taste. This is for now the only solo album from Mark Hollis and I think he retired from the music business after this. Mark Hollis had a hard time with the exposure as a pop artist and in an interview I saw in Danish televisison at the time of the release of this album he told the interviewer that he used hours searching for silence and that he lived a very simple withdrawn life. It tells a bit about the man and his music. His philosophy seems to be that one note played right can say more than ten.

Report this review (#169007)
Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Many fans of Talk Talk especially their last two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock often consider this to be the final TT album only it is a Mark Hollis solo album. And they would be right apart from the namesake change. There is a small difference however as where Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock ( to a lesser degree) exhibit such an incredible mix of ambient, minimalist progressive landscapes within a solid structural framework, Mark Hollis's debut solo somehow just does not hold as much water. Sure the frail, chilling and sombre vocals are evident again and minimalism but the songs do not hold up quite as solidly. They tend to lose their way at times and therefore ones attention kind get lost in the overall sounds. Don't get me wrong this is not a bad album but more for fans only. Highlights would be ' Inside Looking Out', the sad ' Life' and ' New Jerusalem'. The album is depressing in nature and this could depict Hollis's state of prescence in 1998 or leading up to it's release, but depressing does not mean bad either. Seldom have there been such radical shifts in artistic direction than Mark Hollis's but for any who admire the bands last two releases then this would be a must.
Report this review (#179661)
Posted Saturday, August 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is music, this is silence. It is so ephemeral that it is barely there, barely perceptible. But still, it is what countless others have failed to reach with all the distorted guitars in the world(yes, I mean you, metal bands) - evoke feelings and emotions. The music just flows, has no structure to speak of. It follows no rules, and yet it is pure harmony. I have no real means of describing what this album is about, I guess everyone shall have to judge for themselves. A masterpiece. Highly recommended, especially to anyone who enjoyed Talk Talk's last two albums, Spirit of Eden and Laughing stock.
Report this review (#200850)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A one dimensional album that, if you're in the right frame of mind you may find beautiful and peaceful. If you're not you'll find it a pile of boring kack. A logical successor to 1991's 'Laughing Stock' Lp by 'Talk Talk', this one is much quieter and basically far too frail and weak.

There's a lot less going on in here than any 'Talk Talk' album and it may sound fairly flat and miserable to most listeners. However - the guy's got such a mesmeric and original voice that you can't help but be captivated every time he opens his big Bryan Ferry mouth. Honestly, aren't they twins joined at the hip?

It's such a pity that Mark Hollis jacked it in 12 years ago. The guy had such a great, distinctive voice and it's a real pity he's no longer around.

Quite frankly after 20 minutes of this I've had enough. It goes no-where, sounds lethargic even by latter day 'Talk Talk' standards. It means nothing (apart from 1895-1915, which other than the title is feeble storytelling in itself) and has none of the intensity that his former band once had.

A dreary, sparse, sleepy and uninspiring album. Definitely Do not drive a car when listening to this album! I always feel like I've just popped 17 Mogadon sleeping pills after listening to this.

Report this review (#810283)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mark Hollis died 25 February 2019 and that made me revisit this album that in the years before I had played much less than the material of his former band Talk Talk. Undeservedly, I must say. On re-listening to it I find many of the same qualities on it that make the last two Talk Talk albums landmarks of progressive music, with a bit of development in the direction of more transparency and somewhat thinner arrangements. There are some striking similarities, of course Hollis' voice and his withdrawn approach to singing, but also the natural and vulnerable sounds of guitar, harmonica, piano, clarinets etc. Even the straight drumming, although not by Lee Harris this time (which is hard to believe when listening to this) sounds very much like Talk Talk's later days.

Although slow and calm, this album is not quite as silent as some other reviews could make you believe - Hollis has not become a second Asmus Tietchens or Richard Chartier. Most songs have a clear structure and development. They are laid back and some have very minimalist parts in between, but they don't break down, and some parts of the album have got into my "inner ear" through the backdoor after months and years and have become intriguingly familiar without playing the album all too much.

The "silence" reputation probably comes from the fact that the listener has to wait 17 seconds into the first track before the music actually starts. "The Colour of Spring" (not taken from the earlier Talk Talk album of the same title) is a calm song mostly carried by the piano, with a melody that grows if you give it some time, and some nicely meandering, surprising but still organic chord changes. "Watershed" is started by the drums and has a very different, acoustic guitar oriented instrumentation, gentle and pleasant. "Inside Looking Out" starts again with the piano. Like much of the album it has a very classical, chamber musical feel. It takes the voice more than 1 1/2 minutes to start and the arrangement changes at that point and is carried on by the acoustic guitar with some more instruments joining in later. There is an instrumental part that goes in different directions harmonically, before coming back, leading into even another harmonic place in the end. "The Gift" is piece with strong rhythmic spine, this time faster and well supported by the tasteful double bass. At the end of "The Gift" and then the beginning of "A Life (1895-1915)" there are masterfully composed gentle clarinet/bassoon parts; actually the often stunningly beautiful use of woodwind is a distinctive feature throughout the album., particularly in "A Life", which reveals its compositional intricacy with some patience. "Westward Bound" is another guitar-oriented song without drums and a very withdrawn melody and voice. This one is for me the weakest track, although it fits well into the atmosphere of the album. "The Daily Planet" is another woodwind-driven highlight, probably the highest one, with a mysterious chamber prelude that is after 50 seconds artfully woven into a rhythm. After 2 1/2 minutes then the voice, coming in like sunrise. This has the most intense singing but also fairly long instrumental passages with a harmonium solo reminding us of the The Colour of Spring album. Once more Hollis guides the on the surface transparent and repetitive harmonies carefully away from the old paths whenever an impulse is needed. The last song, "A New Jerusalem", is on the more vulnerable side again, until it changes tack around about 2:20 with a short jazzy rhythmic part that doesn't stay for long before the listener can again enjoy delicate woodwind composition, and silence returns around 90 seconds before the official end.

The album maybe even more difficult to get into than Talk Talk's last two, at least for those who don't share from the beginning Mark Hollis' philosophy about playing notes only as much as really needed, and who don't have the antennas for all that subtlety, but ultimately it is once more underlining his uniqueness, and who has the patience to explore it will be rewarded with the potential for healing (whatever there is to heal) and occasionally almost unbearable beauty. Nothing less than five stars will do. Rest in piece, gentle man! Too bad that there is hardly anything more after this album, but maybe there wasn't anything anymore that could follow this.

Report this review (#2150935)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2019 | Review Permalink
jamesbaldwin
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Dear Mark Hollis, you are died the 25 February, and I cried for your loss. Here we are with your one and only solo record. Great Lp. Not crossover prog, because here we listen to free folk- jazz music. Crossover prog? Not really! Prog-folk, or post-rock. Here we are in front of an album of Cult, extreme, made by silences. But even by an extraordinary vocal performance.

Glacial, ghostly music. Whispered, alluded to, but often undeveloped, one would say for decency, to let the silence speak. This makes the music gaunt, the emotions hover mild, and as soon as they emerge they are sustained brought back within themselves. This is the merit and also the limit of the album, its only mentioned musicality, impressionist, like a painter who has decency to touch the canvas with the brush, and paints it hardly, almost without wanting to leave trace. Silence, whisper, modesty, decency are the words. Night music. Music of the Scottish highlands. You can let it dip or it can bounce you. Love or hate. You can go into ecstasy or you can get bored listening to this Lp. It's an album where art is reached by subtraction of music and singing.

The Line-up: Mark Hollis: guitar, vocals, composer, arranger & producer. Phil Ramacon: co-composer & co-arranger (track 1); Warne Livesey: co-composer & co-arranger (tracks 2,4,5,7,8). Dominic Miller / guitar, co-composer & co-arranger (track 6). Robbie McIntosh: guitar; Lawrence Pendrous: piano, harmonium; Mark Feltham: harmonica. Chris Laurence: double bass. Martin Ditcham: percussion, drums.

Wood musical instruments: clarinet, bassoon, cor Anglais; Brass musical instruments: flute, trumpet.

"Colour Of Spring" (3:52). Twenty seconds of Silence, then piano and voice. Minimalist. Title taken from a Talk Talk disc. Great vocal Performance... Song whispered and then dramatically lived. Almost shy Piano. In the distance perhaps sounds from wooden instruments. Rating: 7,5.

"Watershed (5:45). Maybe the album's masterpiece for the central trumpet solo. Full Folk-Jazz. Great Pathos. Rating: 8+.

"Inside Looking Out (6:21). Minimalist. Without percussion. Piano, and then acoustic guitar and voice. Dissonances played by clarinet. Ardous. Rating: 7,5.

"Gift (4:22). Good rhythm, good drums... and the voice, what a voice! Strange sounds with the harmonica... Then clarinet. This is jazz. Ok? Not crossover prog! Rating: 7,5.

End of side A.

"Life (1895-1915), the longer song (8:10), is a masterpiece, with wooden instruments (clarinet, bassoon, maybe cora anglais) to make dissonances. Then, drums an clarinet. Chamber orchestra. This is new song format. Rating: 8.

"Westward Bound (4:18). Acoustic guitar and voice. Folk. Good, but it's the less original song. Whispered. Shy. Minimalist. Rating: 7.

"Daily Planet (7:19)". Another masterpiece, another new song format. Drums, clarinet, cor anglais, bassoon, dissonances: chamber ensemble of contemporary classical music... or avantgarde? Great atmosphere, event thanks to harmonium. Rating: 8,5.

"New Jerusalem (6:49). Last song. Testament? A New Jerusalem: The Promised Land? Shivering voice. Jazzy drums, jazzy guitar. Dear Mark, I wish you were here! Clarinet, flute, double bass: dissonances. Rating 7,5. After 5 minutes and 5 seconds the song ends but it goes on for a minute and 45 seconds of silence.

This silence is for you, Mark. Rest in Peace.

Medium quality of the songs: 7,72.

Rating: 9. Small masterpiece. Five stars.

Report this review (#2167057)
Posted Monday, March 18, 2019 | Review Permalink

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