Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24: Brian Eno, "Here Come The Warm Jets"

Artist: Brian Eno
Album: Here Come The Warm Jets
Year: 1974
Label: EG

There are few musicians who have had as much success and influence "behind the boards" as they have as a performer. Having worked with everyone from The Ramones to Talking Heads to Dido to Coldplay, there are few people who have impressive a resume as a producer. Being a member of Roxy Music, as well as collaborations with David Byrne and Harold Budd among others makes his musical credentials just as stunning. After leaving Roxy Music in 1973, Eno immediately began working on a project with Robert Fripp, and then embarked on a solo effort. The result was spectacular in every sense of the word, and it marked the beginning of a decade of magnificent and influential recordings. Though nearly every album Brian Eno made before his work with U2 in the early 1980's is nothing short of phenomenal, his debut record, 1974's Here Come The Warm Jets stands slightly above the rest and remains his finest musical moment.

Due to the amount of impact that Brian Eno has had as a producer (the guy has five Grammys to prove it), it is often hard to remember than he began as a keyboard player. As legend has it, he wouldn't even be on stage during early Roxy Music gigs, instead controlling the synthesizers and sound manipulators from off stage. His work with Roxy Music remains highly distinguished, yet even putting aside all of his amazing work with other bands, within his work as a performer, one can find even greater influence. Case in point: if you're wondering where Talking Heads got much of their influence, look no further than "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch." Eno is said to have taken a very original approach to his orchestrations, dancing and using other body language to direct the musicians in the studio, hoping his movement would convey the emotion he felt the music needed. Furthering this idea, in the liner notes, Eno credits himself with things like "electric larynx" and "snake guitar," showing he was more interested in what sort of feeling he found in each instrument. It is this unorthodox approach, combined with the solid musical foundation that Eno forged with Roxy Music that makes Here Come The Warm Jets such a unique musical experience.

The music on Here Come The Warm Jets is truly amazing, and sounds like nothing else you'll hear. Eno masterfully and magically makes the music glide and bounce at his will, and it sounds as much pop-rock as it does avant as it does noisy chaos. There are moments when the songs sound like almost-perfect pop songs, yet the way in which Eno manipulates the sound gives them a darker, stranger mood. From aggressive, clamorous tunes like "Needles In The Camel's Eye" to beautiful, melodious songs like, "Some Of Them Are Old," the album is sheer perfection at each and every turn. At times, the record is reminiscent of the work Eno had done with Roxy Music, yet on songs like "Driving Me Backwards," it sounds very much like Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Then there is the rhythmic, spacey rap, "Dead Finks Don't Talk" which sounds like a cross between the Moody Blues and The Beatles. Much of this fantastic sound has to do with the additional musicians that Eno enlisted for Here Come The Warm Jets. Aside from every member of Roxy Music (except Bryan Ferry), Eno is joined by Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Simon King (Hawkwind), and Paul Rudolph (Pink Fairies) among others. With such a gathering of talent, not enough can be said about how odd, yet amazing and accessible each song is on Here Come The Warm Jets.

The vocals that Brian Eno presents on Here Come The Warm Jets reflect the diverse nature of the songs on the album. His voice goes from the snooty, almost creepy singing on "Baby's On Fire" to the melodic tones of "Dead Finks Don't Talk," where he almost sounds like Roxy Music singer, Bryan Ferry. The singing on "Driving Me Backwards" is well beyond eerie, and the stuttered and whining delivery, combined with the haunting music makes it as fascinating as it is sinister. Perhaps the most genius thing about Here Come The Warm Jets is the manner in which Eno wrote the lyrics. After all of the musical tracks were laid down, Eno played them back, singing random syllables and scribbling random thoughts on paper until cohesive thoughts and themes were created from the chaos. This would be the manner in which he wrote all of the lyrics for a majority of his early albums. The way in which the lyrics came about understandably makes most of the songs somewhat nonsensical, yet there is a dark mood and a fair amount of black humor that is found within the words. The way in which Brian Eno sings throughout Here Come The Warm Jets is as experimental and varied as the music over which he sings, and it is the perfect finishing touch to a sensational record.

To say that Brian Eno's debut solo record, Here Come The Warm Jets, is like nothing you've ever heard is truly an understatement. Enlisting the help of some of the most talented musicians on the planet and creating some of the most unusual, yet brilliant compositions ever, the record is truly superb. Pushing for the importance of the feel and emotion behind both the music and lyrics as a paramount concern, Here Come The Warm Jets rewrites the manner in which songs were constructed. Whether he was working with them or not, countless bands have taken strong influence from the entire career of Eno, yet it is his solo work that may have served as inspiration more than anything else. Presenting styles that evoke everything from 1950's rock to deep blues to the psychedelia of the late 1960's, his debut solo album is a wide-ranging, yet breathtaking musical experience. Though he would push the aesthetic he created to new limits on later records, it all begins on Brian Eno's magnificent solo debut, 1974's Here Come The Warm Jets.

Standout tracks: "Baby's On Fire," "Driving Me Backwards," and "Some Of Them Are Old."

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