Saturday, July 05, 2008

FROM THE VINYL RACK ... "Mister Heartbreak" by Laurie Anderson

Well I've never worked in a record shop. And I will never own a record shop. But I do own a record shop rack to keep my vinyl in. (Mrs A can barely bring herself to mention its existence she thinks it is so tragic).

The vinyl that I still own is quite selective though. In the early 90s I sold out huge chunks of my record collection to 'upgrade' it CD. What I kept was what was important to me (The Smiths, Pixies, Pere Ubu) or to Mrs A (her Kent Northern Soul albums - more of this on a future occasion) or the stuff I wasn't sure I wanted to 'upgrade'. So I'm left with an odd selection of loved and overlooked - most of it, almost exclusively, from the 80s.

Part of my justification (not that it's needed) for having a rack is that it's easy to access this part of The Archive. Well hasn't happened much to date. But here's where I start digging out old favourites or unfortunate mistakes.

First up is Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak - her second album from 1984.

Now Big Science is an essential purchase in my book; and I swiftly replaced my vinyl copies of this and Home of the Brave. But Mister Heartbreak languished in the 'vinyl-only' pile. I remembered an over-reliance of of-the-moment early 80s synthesisers and a really annoying duet with Peter Gabriel.

Well listening to it today, the duet with Gabriel I still find annoying but there is plenty to admire and enjoy. And I forgot what a fantastic collection of musicians are on the record (Nile Rodgers, Bill Laswell, Anton Fier, Adrian Belew). Here's what All Music says:

Probably the most pop-accessible of Laurie Anderson's recorded work, Mister Heartbreak features a number of stunning luminaries on the cutting edge of popular music at the time. Striking guitar work by
King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew permeates this disc — notably on "Sharkey's Day" — punchy and angular. The production and bass work from Bill Laswell is superb. Peter Gabriel — at the time still coming off the buzz of his departure from Genesis — is featured in a duet with Anderson on "Excellent Birds." There is a heavy reliance on early-'80s synthesizers which would normally be very off-putting, but here they are executed well. Nowhere does the music slip into irreparable '80s cliché; it is still an entertaining listen. Lyrics are typical of Anderson' work — complex, literate, provocative, difficult to fully comprehend. Haunting "Gravity's Angel" borrows imagery from Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Spoken word delivery on "Sharkey's Night" is given by the legendary William S. Burroughs. This is a very satisfying listen and a great intro for those unfamiliar with Anderson's work.

I'd still say start with Home of the Brave or Big Science ...

Laurie Anderson
Mister Hearbreak [BUY]

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