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Beet Maize & Corn

16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 7, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

The High Llamas are not a band that has ever put a lot of stock in change. They have charted a course that has remained steadfastly true to their intentions of rechanneling late-'60s Beach Boys records through a filter of Steely Dan-styled soft rock and electronic cleverness. Each record since the brilliant Gideon Gaye has been a near carbon copy of the last, an enjoyable copy but still nothing that different. That being said, their seventh album does represent a rather dramatic shift in the High Llamas' sound. Practically gone are electric guitars and synthesizers; in their place are gently strummed acoustic guitars and lush orchestral string and horn arrangements. Songs like "High on the Chalk" and "The Holly Hills" go so far as to dispense with guitars and drums altogether. In fact, only a couple of songs have drums, and they are firmly pushed to the background. The organic sounds give the record a newfound sense of poignancy and grace. They are still unflinchingly clever, but cleverness is no longer the best thing they have going for them. Sean O'Hagan's vocals have never sounded better or more resonant, and he surrounds them with clouds of breathtaking background harmonies (one of the singers is Mary Hansen, who was tragically killed late in 2002). The entire record is overflowing with pastoral beauty that reaches a climax at the end of the record with the one-two heart punch of the truly wonderful instrumental "Monnie" and the sad and majestic ballad "The Walworth River." Beet, Maize & Corn is a dramatic reinvention of the High Llamas; anyone who had written them off as a one-trick pony had better get working on a new edition because that book is dead wrong. ~ Tim Sendra, Rovi

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Barny Mix
  2. Calloway
  3. The Click And The Fizz
  4. Porter Dimi
  5. Leaf And Lime
  6. Alexandra Line
  7. High On The Chalk
  8. Rotary Hop
  9. Ribbons And Hi Hats
  10. The Holly Hills
  11. Monnie
  12. The Walworth River

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 7, 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Drag City
  • ASIN: B0000CD5GZ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,829 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Goldstein on October 24, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I love everything this band does. I think O'Hagan is an incredibly gifted songwriter and few bands put out music that is more beautiful. Even Buzzle Bee, my introduction to the band, which I bought exclusively because I'm mesmorized by "The Passing Bell", which I still think is the LLamas' best song, has grown on me immenselly as langorous and perplexing as it is.
Nothing prepared me for this album though. It is one of the most beautiful albums I've ever heard anywhere. The first few times you hear it, its so simple, brave and stunning that you don't really know what it is you're listening to. I didn't really get a feel for how well written, catchy and cohesive each song was until the third or fourth listen.
Despite the fact that the sound of this album is one that is simply never heard anymore in pop music, it is entirely familiar, like an older family member's hand me down sweater. It reminds me of Christmas and childhood. Its really a gorgeous album and every song is incredible once you've heard it enough to enjoy the intricacies.
A girl who heard it with me said it made her want to dance. I was puzzled at first, but ever since I imagine slow dancing to this album every time I listen to it. The kind of slow dance where her eyes are moist, the stars are out, the moon is full and its your wedding.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
The big news for for Llamas fans is that, for the most part, this CD features very little electronic instrumentation. The sound harkens back to 'Hawaii', with beautiful string and horn arrangements carrying most of the melodic load. The obvious result of this switch is a CD that is much warmer sounding than the somewhat disappointing 'Buzzle Bee' CD, where it was becoming apparent that O'Hagan & Co. had reached a creative dead-end. So, even though some of Beet Maize & Corn sounds like recycled ideas from 'Hawaii', there's a freshness here that the distance of time has created. Their tendency towards excessive repetition has been kept in check, and the songs are just as long as they need to be; the listener's patience is never tested. I guess I never will understand the cryptic lyrics of the High Llamas songs, but words never seem to be what this group is all about anyway. The human voice becomes just another dimension in the overall sound, and what a lush and beautiful sound it is on Beet, Maize, & Corn. One song flows seemlessly into the next weaving an intricate and radiant tapestry of music that can only be appreciated by attentive listening. The memorable meoldies make this is a CD that is easy to love. Sure, it's music for the mind, but your heart may just find a place for it too. Yeah, its good- real good.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joe Dougherty on December 26, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I first heard about the Llamas in a reference made by a music critic reviewing the Beatles Let It Be...Naked album. He suggested saving your money on that, and picking this up instead. I guess there is a little bit of Sgt. Pepper/Revolver going on here, but Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach are the men they really channel.
If you want to know where to jump in with this group, this album is evidently an acceptable place, even though it's their most recent. The mood varies from warm and sunny to dimly-lit room late at night stuff. I love every track, but especially the closing song, The Walworth River. The lyrics are beautiful, but almost completely inscrutable (they do hommage Van Dyke Parks after all).
Having said all this, here's a warning: I've played it a few times for different people I care about, and so far I've gotten so-so feedback. This is a great album IMHO in a 'Pet Sounds' or 'Smile' kind of way, but maybe it's not for everyone's ear.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 15, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Now that the 90s are over, a generation of supposedly lost souls must look elsewhere for the music to soothe their supposedly savage breast. If ever there was an age in which soft emotions were expressed with raw sounds, it was the 90s - but the decade that opened with grunge and the hip-hop boom quickly gave way to a diversity of approaches, from indie-rock to the nu-bubblegum, boy-band thing to the retro sounds of...well, just about everybody. #1 on the retro hit parade was High Llamas, who delivered a shocking approximate of the Beach Boys' "Smile" filtered through early-70s technology and therefore twisted up with the savvy-smooth Steely Dan era. With each album, High Llamas widened their scope, adding Bacharach-love, Latin and world-beats and electronic sounds to the mix. When last heard from on 2000s "Buzzle Bee," their approach was being perceived as a dead-end in some circles. Good news, then, that "Beet, Maize and Corn" is a fresh take on High Llamas of the past. Some of Sean O'Hagan's best melodies are here, framed spaciously with arrangements stripped of the Lllamas former post-modern kitchen-sink catchall. However, repeated listens reveal more and more in the mix, making the experience of "Beet, Maize and Corn" more entertaining and somehow more emotional as well. It's a real departure on one level and a 'best-ever' entry on another. Best of all, it's a record by a middle-age band that acts its age, providing soothing sounds that distract and edify in their turn. "Beet, Maize and Corn" is adult-child music, a real treat in this day and age - or any other, really!
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