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Bob Drake


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4 stars What Day Is It? opens in traditional Bob Drake style; the listener is greeted by the sounds of a guitar mic being set up, its player adjusting his seating position or perhaps the way he is situated in relation to his instrument. Then, softly, strumming enters solely the left channel; the sound cuts out at intervals, as though the mic was not fully plugged in. Slowly, the sound pans center and the acoustic guitar setting adjusts to the normal expectations of well-recorded music, and thus begins a calm ballad regarding one of Bob's favorite subjects, that of the haunted house. Drake would explore this topic much more in-depth on later concept albums, and this song pales in comparison to those later epics - however, as a prelude to the album and Bob's career as a solo artist in general, The House functions more that satisfactorily.

The instrumental Weeds introduces Bob's disjunct brand of rootsy bluegrass music, a style he was never to abandon even as his work got more and more avant-garde over the years. It's very interesting, but on the whole not extraordinary.

Balladlike, The Statue is comprised of an eerie old organ-driven tale of a possibly living statue. Once again, in light of Drake's later extrapolations regarding the supernatural and bizarre, this particular track seems unexemplary.

Rainy stands out as perhaps the best song on the album, and well worth the time and effort one may expend to add this album to one's possession. It features Drake's most Jon Andersonlike harmonizations yet and a somewhat off-kilter fiddle rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic set to a distorted tale regarding an old courthouse.

Spiders has a style similar to Weeds, but is much more uptempo and overall incredible.

The Drawing seems to approach a romantic sentiment usually absent in Bob's works, although it still features his rather unusual vocal harmonies; it is another ballad, albeit one with a lengthy 12/8+15/8 instrumental midsection & hints of "Here Comes the Sun."

The fast-paced Plates introduces the sort of sun-baked desert feel that pervades throughout the next four tracks. It seems to wobble along at an alarming rate, suggesting the tectonic movements apparent in the lyrics.

Going Somewhere continues the sun-dried feel of Plates. It is perhaps the greatest song of plodding summer I have ever heard; often, when walking or riding my bike across the open plains, heat and sweat on the back of my neck, the distant ground distorted in mirages, I will find myself humming this song... beautiful.

The Sawblade is a celebration of apocalypse. Beautiful. Once again in Bob's own disjunct bluegrass style.

I have trouble holding my attention during Death Valley; it is the culmination of the rather desert-y feel that has pervaded the last few tracks, yet it is also the most repetitive and (to me) the most uninteresting.

The 13th Animal is a genius rock number that concludes the 'desertlike' sequence of songs; it hints at the styles Drake would later explore on Little Black Train and beyond.

Precarious Glimmering is a simply beautiful, haunting ballad filled with mellifluous chorus-processed bass and dissonant yet delicate vocal harmonies.

The Cementary Trees, for all intents and purposes, concludes the album and reprises the themes of haunting that pervaded the earlier portion of the album; here, finally, is a song to live up the reputation Drake would later establish with albums like The Skull Mailbox and Other Horrors, even if its ending chorus is far and away the best part.

The last track on the album, Good Evening, is nice little instrumental track to send us off to sleep. Kinda nice.

Overall, this is a great album to start with when getting into the solo music of Bob Drake. The songs are short, tight, and highly original - there's nothing not to like here. GET IT!

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Posted Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Review Permalink

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