Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Bob Drake - 13 Songs and a Thing CD (album) cover


Bob Drake


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
2 stars Bob Drake is a well known persona from the RIO scene, especially the American one: Mainly a sound engineer, also multi instrumentalist, who finds time to some other activities such as painting and photographing. Since 1994 he's been living in a farm in south France, which I call 'the Mecca of RIO'. Bands and artists make a pilgrimage up there to record and mix their albums. Some key albums of the scene where made right there ('Hungers teeth' and 'Crisis in clay' would be the most significant examples). In addition he creates his own music and albums, all performed and recorded in various rooms at this place as he describes very friendly in his blog. BTW there is an interview with Bob Drake here on PA which is very worth reading, and learning more about his life story and how deeply it is concerned to the RIO scene.

I've been trying this album, because I was willing to impress from his solo work, in order to understand better his significant contribution to the many well known projects he involved in. I choose this album because I admitted that the songs would be a bit longer, better formed and more crafted than his other experimental music. Well, maybe I was wrong.

Indeed, one can notify some utilities such as peculiar sounds, which BD describe and explain very well on the nice booklet, some good vocalization, though too loaded by various effects, weird harmonies, and interesting playing on guitars in some kind of 'highly acid' folk. The problem is that all this good ingredients does not assembled well, so this cake does not go well eventually, and remain halfbacked. Motives appear but not developed, tracks end up before they should be, and there is a general sense of disorder, or even chaos, most of the time. Call me conservative but I believe that some kind of care at the composition level must be taken, include avant, non regular, improvised or free form compositions. Which probably had not done here.

I really tried to dig here some good tracks, or even some memorable tracks, but it hardly worked. There is one good track with fine tune written by Stevan Tickmayer in good arrangement by BD, 'Pechan and Willy'. The first track 'Chase', written by Dominic Frontiere, could be a good one with a better development or structure. The same goes for 'Ten for a Dime' that features a mellotron, with some interesting and frightening atmosphere. Quite impressive one but ends up too soon, before you really could make up your mind about what it was. The rest tracks sounds to my ears as puzzled songs, hard to be caught by. And of course got to be mentioned is the 'a Thing' track, 12 minutes of pure noise. No melody, nor harmony, or even rhythm, nothing but a constant noise and happenstance percussion. I have to confess that I hardly managed to fully listen to this track over one time.

In short, apart from die-hard fans of the scene, that urge to get into each active scene member solo creativity, this album will suit mainly for those who highly interested in sounds, even above music. At least music as I understand this term.

Ah, and the one before last track 'and the Sun' is certainly not an improvisation as written on the booklet. This is a non professional piano player tries to read the score of the 3rd piano etude by Chopin.

Report this review (#477853)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars This was ever-so-slightly disappointing - sort of a Bob Drake "odds & ends" collection. Don't get me wrong, there are EXCELLENT songs here. But the on the whole this doesn't hold together exceptionally well. It's not really a great introduction to Bob's work; "The Skull Mailbox" is best for that, or even "What Day Is It?" ("Shunned Country," is, in my opinion, his masterpiece, but it may not make for the best introduction).

In any case, Witness:

"Chase." 100% excellence in all ways. An instrumental masterpiece.

"Foam II." A distantly-heard folk tune about an interesting stairway. Excellent ambience that soon becomes a typical Bob Drake straight-ahead rock piece. Fortunately, bizarre production values return once more for the finale, in which bass and guitars struggle to be heard through what sounds like a brick wall in front of the microphone.

"Abandoned Thermal Establishment." Mildly interesting Drake-rock. Man, what a pernicious phrase.

"Rtuff." Excellence. An overview: guitar & bass battle piles of miscellaneous junk; a nice folk tune appears. Guest vocals in Spanish appear from seemingly nowhere; a sax solo ensues over some incredible "electronic" dance music performed in at least two time signatures simultaneously on acoustic instruments. It all culminates with slammingly loud blasts of symphonic dissonance. BUY THIS ALBUM, if only for this track.

"Ten for a Dime." Another INCREDIBLE tune. Heavy doses of Mellotron for all you progheads. An amazing tune that gives me chills. Also probably the most epic song I have ever heard about a dime store.

"Move the King." A hit single featuring Drake's circuit-bent noise box & barking dogs. Folk rock for the new century.

"In Case the Insulator Fails." Probably the best old-timey country-folk tune in existence. HUGE sound here.

"Griffin." Another hit single! The subject matter this time around: magical whitewash, a forgotten museum with huge statues, & sexual lust. And, no, I wasn't being sarcastic about this being a hit single - it's quite catchy.

"Pechan and Willy." A demented waltz arrangement - again, wonderful.

"Spicules." What happens when you sing your vocals into a microphone embedded within a violin, send them through a heavily distorted guitar amplifier, then record the results? Musical excellence.

"Plinth Shriveller." Here Bob uses a random word generator to compose his lyrics. The music is also excellent, an epic on par with "Ten for a Dime." Incredible juxtapositions of style.

"Building with Bones." M'kay, here comes the disappointing part of the album - some may fancy 13-minute tracks of slowly accumulating bits of percussion in a stochastic/acousmatic manner, but I am not a fan. This reminds me heavily of "process music" & Steve Reich-style "minimalism," of which I am also not a huge fan. HOWEVER - it is my understanding that many people do enjoy this, so please ignore my subjective fancies!

"And the Sun." Continues in the abstract vein of the previous track. A piano in the other room plays slow, nostalgic chords as an ambient texture of bowed wine glasses congeals nearer to us. Actually quite nice.

"Foam I." The Spanish vocals return, now in a strange, distorted vision of so-called "world music." Not my favorite, but not a horrible way to end an album.

After typing this, I've changed my mind a bit about this album - it's pretty good. What keeps it from being excellent:

1) It only contains about 30 minutes of actual songs. 2) It's rather disjunct as a whole.

It's still classic Drake, if slightly "de riguer." Pick this one up if you are a confirmed fan, don't start here!

Report this review (#478203)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Review Permalink

BOB DRAKE 13 Songs and a Thing ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of BOB DRAKE 13 Songs and a Thing

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.