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Adrian Belew - Twang Bar King CD (album) cover


Adrian Belew


Eclectic Prog

3.11 | 33 ratings

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3 stars 'Twang Bar King' is the second solo album by Adrian Belew, and was released in 1983. It was recorded while Belew was a member of King Crimson in between the release of 'Beat' and 'Three of a Perfect Pair' by KC. However, this album uses Belew's band 'GaGa' that he had when he recorded his first solo album 'Lone Rhino' plus the inclusion of drummer Larrie Londin, who was in Elvis Presley's band. All of the songs are written by Belew, except for the opening track which is the only cover.

It starts out with 'I'm Down' which is a cover of a B-side originally recorded by The Beatles. Belew uses a similar treatment of the original rock n roll classic, but adds his unique voice and squealing guitar on the instrumental breaks as he approaches an experimental sound. His vocals, towards the end, strive to go over the top. 'I Wonder' puts Belew back into his element with his signature styles and sounds. The beat is straightforward, but the guitar sounds are that quirky, slightly odd playing that helped get his guitar legend status and that works so well with Robert Fripp's own quirkiness.

'Life Without a Cage' is more mellow with a slight funky backbeat. Belew utilizes the brass instruments quite effectively though the album and even allows them to venture into avant-garde territory, but still keeping things barely on the sane side of normalcy. There is a cool instrumental break in the end where brass and guitar play off of each other. 'Sexy Rhino' is a silly short track that seems to lampoon Barry White with interesting effects that tie into his debut album. 'Twang Bar King' ventures into punk-ish territory with crazy instrumental effects.

'Another Time' goes back to a more accessible feel and could have been used as a single as it has a radio friendly feel to it. 'The Rail Song' is Belew's homage to trains and their continuing disappearance. The first minute is all train sounds and effects. Then a mid tempo beat comes in while Belew's guitar echoes the sound of a train before he sings an endearing and emotional lyrics. This is not a groundbreaking song, or even progressive by any means, but it is not necessarily a straightforward song pattern either but the song is definitely heartfelt. 'Paint the Road' is an instrumental that utilizes Belew's MIDI guitar with a breakneck and psychotic pace. There is also a sax that plays a quirky melody as it tries to outdo the crazy pace. This one really shows off Belew's abilities.

'She is Not Dead' is a strange one in that the music is a backward version of 'Hot Sun' from 'Lone Rhino' while Belew sings a different song lamenting the loss of a loved one over the top of it. He matches the melody to the backward melody that is created and it actually works, but just sounds a little odd. But then, Belew's music can be a little odd and that's why we love him. 'Fish Head' is an upbeat song with a catchy feel. There are several other vocalists (Christy Bley and William Janssen, both part of the band) included in this one as it comes across as a story of sorts. 'The Ideal Woman' also includes members of the band, this time talking about what the ideal woman is throughout the song, while Belew sings about her. Except for the nice guitar effects, this one is a weaker track. The last track is 'Ballet for a Blue Whale'. It features whale sound effects underlying differing guitar styles in a pensive and melodic instrumental.

This album, like 'Lone Rhino', show off Belew's versatility and unique guitar styles. In my opinion, he does best when he is not trying so hard to be commercial. There are a few commercial tracks here, but they are also the weakest tracks. When he lets his ingenuity go to work however, he proves that he is an innovative musician. There is enough versatility here that everyone will probably find something they like a lot, but it might be harder to find anyone that will love the entire album. But it does prove that Belew is an amazing musician, and his credentials he has had through his career playing in King Crimson, Frank Zappa's and David Bowie's bands and Talking Heads only prove this. It's a good album with some excellent tracks and some mediocre tracks, but if you loved 'Lone Rhino', you will probably love this one too.

TCat | 3/5 |


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