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Fred Frith


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Fred Frith The Top of His Head album cover
2.51 | 7 ratings | 2 reviews | 29% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1989

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Title Theme (1:49)
2. Driving to the Train (2:45)
3. Wheels Within (2:31)
4. Hold on Hold (2:22)
5. Lucy Leaves a Note (2:25)
6. Gus Escapes (2:19)
7. Gravity's a Rule (2:15)
8. Channel Change (3:20)
9. Orbit (1:24)
10. Fall to Call (3:52)
11. Underwater Dream (2:29)
12. This Old Earth (3:21)
13. Donuts (2:54)
14. Long Drive (4:51)
15. Lucy (2:05)
16. The Premonition (1:26)
17. Questions and Answers (2:47)
18. The Performance (2:56)
19. The Way You Look Tonight / Title Theme (conclusion) (4:38)

Total Time 52:29

Line-up / Musicians

- Anne Bourne / cello, accordion
- Jean Derome / saxophones, flutes
- Jane Siberry, Christine Macfadyen / voices
- Fred Frith / all other instruments, machines, radios, tapes, programming, etc.
- Peter Mettler / influences, advice, additional tapes
- Jane Siberry / music & lyrics, vocals, guitar & accordion (12)
- Ken Mhyr / slide guitar (12)
- Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields / music & lyrics (19)

Releases information

1989 Crammed Discs (Belgium)

Thanks to Slartibartfast for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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FRED FRITH The Top of His Head ratings distribution

(7 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(0%)
Good, but non-essential (43%)
Collectors/fans only (29%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FRED FRITH The Top of His Head reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Once you decide to start exploring the discography of Fred Frith, you notice quickly that his solo discography is quite diverse ranging from accessible music to very experimental music. To me, that's what makes him so intriguing. The problem with this is that there are a lot of great albums and there are a lot of them that are not quite so good, the same problem one might have when going through the discography of Robert Fripp, Brian Eno or John Zorn. But, the journey through artists like that, for me at least, is all worth the trip, and sometimes, that "not quite so good" stuff starts to actually speak to you.

With Frith (and other artists similar with similar varied discographies), I tend to start out not by trying out what others recommend so much as just finding CD's in 2nd hand stores for a cheap price and then graduating up to vinyl or digital if I really like the album. This seems to be the best way for me to begin exploring an artists music. Thus, this is how I came to hear this album "The Top of His Head". This one is actually a soundtrack from the movie of the same name. I have never seen the movie, but I do know it is a rather obscure Canadian comedy-drama of sorts directed by Peter Mettler that is a bit hard to find nowadays. From what I understand, it is a bit odd, but that also fits the music on the soundtrack.

So, the thing about listening to soundtracks is that I like to listen to it outside of the "movie" to see if the music stands alone well. It's one thing if the music fits the movie and enhances or helps define the movie, but it's another thing to listen to it on its own terms, which is typically how I would rate a soundtrack album. Listening to an album from Fred Frith, I would expect some experimentation and some amazing guitar work, original and engaging.

The music from "The Top of His Head" is all written by Frith except for two tracks: "This Old Earth" which is written and sung by Jane Siberry and "The Way You Look Tonight" originally written in 1936. The entire first side of the album (on LP that is) consists of 9 short tracks by Frith with him playing most of the instruments. A lot of the tracks here consist of a lot of interesting sound effects and some spoken word recordings which may or may not be part of the film. It is mostly a bit minimal sounding, and the music seems a bit aimless and definitely does not contain a lot of melodic lines. It's not all a throw away, however, as there are (as is to be expected) a lot of really great sections where Frith utilizes his unique styles quite well, but they are a bit short and spread out through the tracks. There also isn't a lot of room here for development in the typical compositional respect. There are only three out of these first nine tracks that are really good and those are "Driving to the Train", "Wheels Within" and "Fall to Call", tracks 2, 3, and 9 respectively. These can pretty much stand on their own, but the rest of the tracks don't have a lot of substance and there are a lot of tracks in the middle that don't go anywhere. They may have some tie in to the film, but without having seen it, they are just not that engaging or interesting to me.

The 2nd half of the album is a bit better, especially at first. On the CD version, the first four tracks are quite good with a combination of accessibility, melodic sensibility (especially with the Siberry track which, again, Frith really doesn't have much to do with), and even some progressive challenge which is really what we are looking for; namely "Underwater Dream", "This Old Earth", "Donuts" and "The Long Drive" (this last one is not on the LP unfortunately). After that, the last 5 tracks fall back into the sound effect, aimless feel of the first half of the album which probably have a lot to do with the movie, but for stand alone listening, it just doesn't make a lot of sense. At this point, there aren't really any great musical ideas at all.

As much as I love a lot of Frith's albums both as a solo artist and an ensemble artist, I hate to admit it a bit when I run across one I don't find that interesting. I do enjoy a few places on the first half of the album and the first part of the 2nd half of the album, but when these are taken away, there just doesn't seem to be much else to get excited about. The tracks are too short to really expand on and they also seem to dependent on the movie. I'm not certain if there is a collection out there somewhere that might bring some of the better tracks together in a compilation of some kind, but I'm not really sure if this album is worth seeking out (unless you run across it by accident and really cheap, like I did). Sad to say that in the end, I would probably only recommend this one to hard core fans or collectors. That is definitely not the way I feel about most of Frith's work however.

Latest members reviews

3 stars When talking about guitar heroes, one could easily quote Hendrix, Page, Clapton, Blackmore, Vai, Satriani, Zappa (that's a lot of Italian-American musicians now), Fripp... You can go on and on, name-dropping until the first rays of the sun. Yet Frith is closer to a free jazz tradition (Derek Bail ... (read more)

Report this review (#184616) | Posted by CPicard | Friday, October 3, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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