Thursday, December 06, 2007

Side Four Live! The Reviews Are In!

Cover Painting by Adrian Belew

Before I get to the news of the day, which are incredible reviews of Side Four Live, two major, important events are occurring today.

First, Thursday, December 6, 2007, Gary Slick launches his brand new blog, which is cleverly titled "Sir-Realistic Fellow" and please visit to find out (1) why it has that name and (2) for a way cool, behind-the-scenes story about the trio and their new CD. I also love the name of his opening post: Greetings from 21st Century Schizoid Dad. Ha! It's a fun read but even funnier was Julie's face when she walked into the living room at 10:00 p.m. last night and saw Gary at the computer busily typing away while I sipped a brandy moodily at the dining room table. She totally cracked up, like, What's wrong with this picture?

"What's the matter, Mom, is Dad stealing your computer time?"


She laughed again. "You are so lying."

"I am not. Daddy is working on his new blog. I think it's awesome. I'm just tired -- you know me, I'm in bed by 10:00 p.m. but I'm staying here in case Dad needs my help."

"You can go to bed," Gary said.

Julie giggled again and then turned her teasing to him.

Gary pouted.

"Oh come on, Dad. Eric and I teased Mom like crazy when she first went on line back in 2000. (Yeah, I was a late bloomer). It's part of the initiation."

I stuck my tongue out her; she left to go see her boyfriend Matt's band -- more on that in a minute -- play at a bar in Old City...Gary resumed typing, and I finished my brandy and gratefully accepted his kind offer to call it a night. Monty Dog and I snuggled under the covers, and I don't know what time he finished up, only that when I came downstairs this morning there was a new and shiny blogpost all ready to go.

So yay, Gary! Welcome to the world of blogging!

Which brings us to new item #2. Julie's boyfriend Matt, as you know, is in an awesome band known as Cheers Elephant, (by the way, Julie produced the tracks on their CD which you can sample on their website)...and they are taking part in a wonderful concert tonight at World Cafe Live as part of Musicians on Call, which is a community outreach program that brings live music performances to patients in healthcare facilities around the Philadelphia area. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. tonight and the show starts at 7:30 -- anyway, I hope to see a lot of you there.

Okay, I know I am prejudiced, but I also consider myself a musicologist. So when I heard Side Four Live for the first time, I was like, is it just me or is this the best freaking new CD to be released this year?

Apparently, I'm not alone in my sentiments.

From Ramiro Rodriguez over the Planet Crimson Forum Board...and I have to say, Ade seem to have the most artistically talented fan base of any musician out there. Click on Ramiro's link - his work is outstanding and I think that's one of the things I love most about this blog...that I am constantly turned on to the coolest people.

"My impressions of the new
Adrian Belew (and the Power Trio)
Side Four (Live) cd

Ade’s powerhouse trio kicks off with a frenetic yet tasty “Writing on the Wall” that is solidly grounded by Julie Slick’s bottom end. Makes me wonder if this is why the young woman wears no shoes on stage – to keep Adrian and her brother Eric’s fast paced chops from sailing off through the roof.

An old Crimson favorite from THRAK, “Dinosaur” comes next. The composition gets some new twists from the Trio, mainly substituting the synth guitar break for some signature Belew dino blasts. The Power Trio does the Double Trio proud.

The main groove of “Ampersand” gets more of an ebb and flow feel than the previous “Sides” cd versions. The drumming is not as busy yet still powerful with the right amount of finesse.

“Young Lions” has all the galloping jungle rhythm of the cd version. An added, almost bolero-esque, break provides the base for some crazy Belew guitar pyrotechnics.

Eric leads off “Beat Box Guitar” with some fine high-hat sticking. The trio has really expanded this gem into a highlight jam platform. The talented Slick rhythm section really holds it down while Adrian works over the top with an assorted bag of guitar sounds that are pure Belew. However this isn’t just a showcase for Ade, the three musicians really lock in with some great interplay and even drop in a “Discipline” nod.

Adrian’s layered backwards guitar sound on “Matchless Man” is one of the most strangely beautiful effects I’ve ever heard.

Eric and Julie lay down the ominous grounding groove to one of the harder songs for me to listen to on cd - “A Little Madness.” It’s difficult listening for sure. Live, however, this beast builds with the layered architecture of maddening looped Belew wailings. The live experience feel is excellently captured on Side Four and this track is the proof of the quality engineering and mastering done by John Sinks and Saul Zonana respectively.

The hypnotic, “Drive,” allows an intermission of sorts as the Slicks take a breather. Adrian accompanies himself via rhythms built from loops. My very favorite part in this solo piece speaks to my inner Beatlemaniac - the “Within You Without You” reference. Wow!

The Slicks rejoin Ade for a rollicking “Of Bow and Drum” complete with ghost harmony vocals by Biff Blumfumgagne. I’ve always loved the pinched squeal of the guitar on this piece but it’s Belew’s attention to contrast in texture that really makes it for me. Julie and Eric’s groove at the end is a treat as well.

The re-vamped, big drum sound of “Big Electric Cat” made me think I was going to hear “Gun Man” for the first few beats. The update polishes up this older favorite.

Two classic 80’s Crimson songs played as encores during the tour close out the cd. “Three of a Perfect Pair” is probably my favorite KC tune and watching/hearing Adrian playing his and Robert’s parts while singing in odd time is amazing. Julie’s playing and rich sound should make Tony smile. A short nod in the “Frame by Frame” direction is fun to hear as well.

A run through “Thela Hun Ginjeet” makes for the perfect leave-them-wanting-more ending to a great set and cd. Adrian is always a pleasure to experience live. I’ve seen him many times over the years with Crimson, the Bears and solo. Every time I’ve seen him play he always looks like he’s having the time of his life on stage. It’s nice to hear a recording that captures that sense of joy and satisfaction. Time to hit repeat."


From my pal Robert Belew (no relation to Ade; he just coincidentally has the same name) over at My Belew Marble:

Side Four (live)

"I received this tasty slice of time in the ol' postal receptacle yesterday.

Recorded live at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio on February 16th, 2007

If you have seen The Power Trio, or better yet, if you haven't, you are going to be enthralled with this sonically thrilling roller coaster ride that is anything but coasting.

As Adrian proclaims in the brief liner notes, "this is the raw unadorned account of most of what happened next."

I actually like the fact that it's unpolished after the fact and shows how cohesive and gifted this unit is.

On the other hand, it still has that edge to it that says "this is live", warts be damned, of which there are few.

Julie Slick's bass comes through thunderously on this recording and really shows her understanding of the material, Julie is a Thonk Queen. Eric is capable of drumming with the best, and has.

I started listening, as I could, in my car and it sounded awesome. I decided to move indoors to my HDCD decoding surround system and start from the start.


This is as close to what it might sound like on the studio monitors as a poor boy could get on a shoestring.

The disc clocks in at a tad over 67 minutes with a minimum of stage banter and a focus on the music, as it should be.

John Sinks has settled nicely into the sound engineer seat and this recording shows it. We all dearly miss Ken but I think he would be tipping his hat to his friend for his work at the helm.

Biff Blumfumgagne has taken over as stage tech and provided those hither to mysterious backing vocals and harmonies.

The Crimson cuts, while having been recorded live in many settings before this, take on a new life and are welcome additions to the Trio cannon. Dinosaur seems fresh and driven with a slightly quicker pace to my ears.

Young Lions, which has been one of the "solo" spotlights in the past, is given the full three piece treatment here and it is a rollicking rendition indeed.

The true "star" here though is the new material plus "Of Bow & Drum". (Is it too late to tour the Op Zop album proper?)

The Grammy nominated "Beat Box Guitar" has some space in the middle for Adrian, Eric and Julie to play around a bit and, they do.

"A Little Bit of Madness" is a barn burner and I'm surprised that the venue is still standing at the end.

Adrian gives full voice to the Belewps concept in "Drive" with the rhythm section on break. The sound of the car starting this track off moves around in my speakers and drives right on by as Adrian digs in.

"Writing on the Wall", "Ampersand", Matchless Man" all come across as fresh and exciting, considering that Eric and Julie did not play on the originals, they have had space to make these versions their own.

"Big Electric Cat", a favorite of college radio in the way back when, is always fun and welcome, this rendition is no exception with new life.

In the musical circles that I frequent, talk of the annual "best of 2007" lists has already begun in earnest. I'm glad that Side Four has hit the ground in time to be in mine.

As with the previous "sides", this one has cover art as painted by Adrian with a great band photo by Mark Colman.

Mixed and Mastered by Saul Zonana.

Thanks to Rob Murphree, the official Webmunky, for keeping us informed and providing a home for the Elephant Blog and download store which has provided a whole new way for us to appreciate and keep tabs on the world of all things Belew.

Thanks to Adrian for taking the time to share in the Blogosphere and regale the loving public with so many fascinating tales.

Oh, and, thanks for the great music of which there has been an abundance, in the past few years."

So how freaking cool was that?

Today has therefore started on the kind of note I like, and I even got what could be some very interesting...okay, great...writing news which I will share as soon as I know more.

In the meantime, make yourself or someone you love very happy and pick up your copy of Side Four Live today. To make it easy for you, I will repost the link again right here.

And hey, hey, it's not on their website yet, but another show has just been added to the spring Belew tour - March 2 at the Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado.

And oh my, today is also the birthday of two very special people - my way cool brother, David, and my brilliant writer pal Maryanne Stahl. Happy Birthday, you two!