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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2000
It is difficult, if not impossible, to capture a musical experience with words. Nowhere is this truer than with "The Residents" in general and "Not Available" in particular. Melancholy, mysterious, eerie, strange. These are a few of the words that come to mind as I sit here trying to describe the music on this disc.
Not available, as another reviewer commented, is a story about nothing. Or is it? It may have meaning so obscure that it simply appears to be missing. I'm not sure. After repeated listenings and a study of the lyrics I have come to think that the narrative (or non-narrative)has, at it's core, something to do with identity. Again, I'm not sure.
It may be that the combination of weird, atonal music and nonsense lyrics is more akin to a musical koan than a story. Like the Zen puzzles (what is the sound of one hand clapping?)the music of "Not Available" intentionally defies logic - the intent being to snap the chains of conditioned thinking.
Whatever it is or isn't, "Not Available" is a unique album and well worth however many pennies they are asking if you are interested in music unlike any you have heard before. The copy I own also includes selections from "Title in Limbo", a joint effort between "The Residents" and "Renaldo & The Loaf". This material deserves a review of its own. Weird and wonderful!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 1999
"Not Available", like most Residents albums, really knows how to press those "Timothy Leary" buttons. This album was a nifty companion to me at times that I would sketch artwork. Not for the faint of heart or mind. Open your mind to the humor, the horror, and the strangeness of this truly original piece of work. Grinding creepiness is a hallmark of these fine fellows. A must have for any true Residents fan! Get it...get it?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2011
What's different about this CD than all the other pressings that have preceded it?

THAT'S the question. We all know that this is a Residents classic, and to this reviewer's ears, the best record they have put out in their 30+ year career. (Perhaps that's because it is the first Residents record I ever bought, way way back when it was released. But I digress.)

So what IS different? This CD adds over 7 minutes of material that has been removed from every other pressing. That's EVERY other release. To Residents fans, this is like Beatles fans finding a third side to "Abbey Road." (Before you go ranting in the comments section, telling me how ridiculous that analogy is; it's a JOKE, Beatles fans! A JOKE! Tee hee?) And YES, you can tell the difference. Especially in "The Making of a Soul," and "Never Known Questions." It is a remarkable version to hear. The other pressings' running time was a little over 35 minutes. THIS CD's running time is over 42. That's 20% more music. You read that correctly: 20% MORE!

But it does beg the question; what else are we missing from OTHER Residents classics? Are there more songs on FINGERPRINCE (their second best record in this reviewer's opinion)? Perhaps a fourth side? Why haven't they released "Meet the Residents" in its original mono, for example, with ITS original running time??
[12/7/11 update: The Residents DID, in fact, finally put out "Meet the Residents" on CD with its original running time. I don't think it's mono, but who cares? They finally restored what had been cut from the first pressing of 1,000 on vinyl. Is is possible that they read this review???? Ummm.... no. I highly doubt it. By the way... their new CD "Coochie Break" is fantastic!]

I'm glad the Residents, Ralph, and MVD are doing this. This reviewer, for one, thinks that the Residents are making a HUGE mistake by making their music available only by download (and through Amazon... though they ARE CD-Rs, or DVD-Rs as is the case with "Randy's Ghost Stories.") Residents fans are, mostly, people of a certain age (...ahem). The generation that wants a tangible product to listen to. We're not really into the whole "download-only" thing. When we could no longer get good ol' LPs, then CDs sufficed for years and years. And now the Residents tell us they're not releasing actual product anymore, but only downloads via their website. Perhaps that's why I'm so pleased with the job MVD Audio/Ralph did with re-releasing this seminal Residents album. [12/7/11 another update: they now have a store where you can buy CD-Rs, and I'm not too happy with the way they're releasing their new Ralph America limited editions, which the band said were not going to manufacture anymore. Guess what? The limited editions are baaaaack. And this reviewer is flabbergasted at they way they're being sold. Who ever thought that one day, The Residents would be concerned about making as much money for the LE CDs as possible? Are they, gulp, closet Capitalists?]

Please, please keep the new CDs coming! And the extra 7 minutes that had been originally edited out make this a double (or is it triple?) dip well worth shelling out for. And the sound quality itself is outstanding. Take note, MVD and Residents. Take note.

To sum it up: An absolutely essential release for every Residents fan. And without going into a review of the actual songs, compositions, lyrics, music (believe me; I'm well aware that other people, people much more qualified than I, have already done that), I do NOT consider it hyperbole to call this one of the most important records of the avant-guarde/no wave/new wave (or just plain alternative to top 40). Without overstating its impact on THIS reviewer, "Not Available" changed my life. So having seven extra minutes, to me, is a no-brainer as to whether or not to buy yet another CD pressing. I hope you take a chance. To paraphrase someone whom I have no idea, who originated the quote: Yes, the Residents [and esp "Not Available"] are an acquired taste. But it's a taste well worth acquiring.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2002
This five-song symphonic cycle is by turns eerie, dissonant, hauntingly beautiful, and jaw-droppingly strange. This is music that inhabits some previously unexplored hinterland between pop dementia and avant garde classicism. Probably the best of the Residents' early records and my personal favorite. One of the most singular and eccentric records ever made.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2011
Not Available was reportedly recorded in 1974 following (fictional?) musicologist N. Senada's "Theory of Obscurity", which maintains that an artist's best work is done free from the influence of an audience. In order to accomplish this, the Residents worked on the album under the premise that it would never be released until they completely forgot about its existence. It was finally made available to the public in 1978 to fill a gap in their release schedule. Even though that violated their original plan, the fact remained that the album was completed with the Theory of Obscurity in mind, and nothing would change that unless the previously-recorded sounds were altered. This 2011 reissue is remastered and restores approximately seven minutes originally cut from the LP.

I am not going to speak about the audible specifics of the work, as it is of my opinion that a piece of music should be listened to with as few presuppositions as possible in order to appreciate it in its purest form. Even vocals in known languages should be solely analyzed as instruments, because one tends to let the "meaning" of words bog down their experience of the sounds. However, because I understand that one does not have the time to hear every album in existence, and because I truly feel that Not Available is a monumental work of art, I will spoil a small bit of details about the content in the hope that I can convince the reader that a listen is well worth their time:

1. It is probably unlike anything else that you have ever heard in the past, or will hear in the future.
2. It is able to evoke a wide variety of the most intense emotions known to humankind in the listener.

That is all I will say. I hope that you will enjoy Not Available as much as I do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2000
Not Available is to me like a great piece of modern classical music. Without a doubt it's the finest thing The Residents have ever done. It's the only Residents album that I can say is a must have, although I do own almost all of their output from the early 70's through the mid 80's. The piece is tough to describe; it flows definitely, tells a story (about something ?), and can put a smile on your face for sure. I have not yet purchased the re-master, but it has to be better than the original release of this on CD, which was very poorly done. I still tend to listen to the vinyl as an alternative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 1999
This is the Residents second full length recording that was not to be released until its creator's had completely forgotten about its existence. The theory of obscurity in full effect. It was later released by the Residents management in order to fulfill contractual obligations after the Residents had disappeared with the master tapes of 'Eskimo'-- just days before Eskimo was to be pressed. Haunting, beautiful and bizarre. A certain kind of sadness prevails through most of the album with the Residents using a 5 part tone poem to ask some questions 'guaranteed to shake you up'. The album lets us take a peek at the Residents behind the eyeball masks where they ponder their own decision to live in obscurity.'To exist to show or to be shown is a question never, never known' There is an innocence and beauty to this album that can't be understated. Absolutely essential.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2005
I've been buying and enjoying Residents album for years and I finally got my hands on this little number. All I can say is why did I wait so long? This album is great, ranking up there with other classic Residents ablums like Duck Stab (their best) and their most recent Demons Dance Alone. For one of their 70's albums Not Available is very accecable. Even non-Residents fans should be able to enjoy this delicious selection of music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2014
Just as it begins to feel accessible, the disharmonious vocals return and blow it all out the door.

The Residents continue to push boundaries over and then they topple to the ground in a pile of rubble. With this album the actual musicians are anonymous and perhaps even confined to a bunch of guys messing about in a studio. The music seems thrown together on a whim and nothing makes sense. There is some esoteric concept mixed up in it but good luck in deciphering it. It begins with 'Edweena' that has a ton of horn and percussion competing together. The high-pitched vocals get on the nerves until it all changes its mind and we are on another time sig with slow meandering nonsense. The instruments are out of tune and there are no chord structures to latch onto. Of course all this is what The Residents revel in. They challenge the forms of music and mock us for listening to it.

'The Making of a Soul' is the best thing on this album with mass attacks of asylum music and wilful switching of ideas. Primitive drums have a bash and then later we have lush strings and twisted keyboards. The vocals are disconcerting and badly done on purpose. The weirdness is compelling but it may grind on the nerves after about 10 minutes.

'Ship's A' Going Down' is a case in point as it is too stupid in places to appreciate. The vocals are deplorable and this is very hard on the ears from the beginning. The high strangeness will appeal to the Avant fan but you have to be dedicated to lunatic music to return to this on a regular basis. At 5:15 the vocals mercifully cease and there are nice atmospheric horns that are improvised but generate relaxing textures. The next section is a pleasant synth motif that is very ambient after all the oddball whimsy. At 8 minutes a new passage of music begins with some low end synth and wah wah guitar, and I like this part in particular.

'Never Known Questions' again is part 4 of this incoherent story, beginning tribal percussion, and urgent synth lines. Just as it begins to feel accessible, the disharmonious vocals return and blow it all out the door. The vocals state to "spot the rot", a theme that surfaces on other albums. The next section rasps with trippy lyrics that make little sense; "When Edweena made me mushrooms, She ate the grate and ground the groom; My mother made me eat boysenberries, But my gracious sakes just ate me first. Calling cards and polling wards are just to many... See? Calling cards and winking bards are just a way to see." After this nonsense there is an Oriental piece of music that fades up.

'Epilogue' reprises vocals and music on 'Edweena, and the synths become prominent at least ending on some decent music.

I am not a huge fan of this preferring "Commercial Album", "Meet The Residents" or "Third Reich N' Roll" but nevertheless this will leave some spellbound with its high strangeness. For me it is all a bit too much, making me feel nauseous, and I prefer to move on to other Residents material. Still it is noteworthy for its unusual structure with 5 tracks that attempt to tell a tale. Whether there really is a tale or not will remain The Residents' little secret. I suspect that it is all just an incoherent challenging album designed to make us wonder what the heck we listened to in the first place. One for the extreme Avant music connoisseur.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2007
This is a good, clean version of this early Rz historical document. The original legend went that this was originally recorded under a philosophy of Obscurity, a kind of purist artistic vision that demanded art for art's sake, which included the creation of art that would never be released to the public. Various stories of the actual reason for release came through, from business needs to not wanting to reveal some personal in-fighting, but released it got, and this EuroRalph digipak release is a very listenable one. I used to have a release that included some bonus tracks from the amazing Rz - Renaldo and the Loaf collaboration, which I am thankful for because it gave me good reason to seek out _Title in Limbo_, but _Not Available_ itself was rather poorly put to disc and after a while became unlistenable. This release is a lot more listenable and clean in sound and includes some more info about the in-fighting legend and even some info about the performance aspect that was behind this recording. While this isn't the best the Rz has to offer, I've always been fond of "Ship's A'Going Down" as well as some of the other tracks within these tracks that never quite go named, though they should. This is also a good segue away from the plodding _Meet the Residents_ into their more synthesized and electronic work, which is where their art really started to take off. Well worth getting, if you're looking to make the effort.
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