16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
One of Brian Eno's finest albums,
This review is from: Before and After Science (Audio CD)
Brian Eno is one of the most marvelous paradoxes in all of music. He is both a musical genius and yet not the least virtuosic. On the one hand, as he is avid to emphasize, he is at most an average musician. He is competent as a guitarist, a keyboardist, and bass player, but hardly brilliant. If one hears a strikingly brilliant instrumental solo on a number, it is almost invariably the result of a contribution by one of the many musical guests on his albums. On the other hand, he is astonishingly masterful at constructing exquisite musical competitions, layering one marvelous element upon another to produce music that is both energizing and utterly unique. Eno possesses an almost preternatural ability to add a new wrinkle that cranks up the level excitement to a higher level, almost functioning like a sonic masseur who locates one musical pressure point after another with his subtle variations and machinations. BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE is one of his very finest albums. I would put it on a short list of his most essential works, along with the three other vocal albums (HERE COME THE WARM JETS, TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN BY STRATEGY, and ANOTHER GREEN WORLD) and one purely instrumental album, AMBIENT IV. Although he is at best an adequate vocalist, his vocal albums have a richness of texture and content that is missing in all of the instrumental efforts. To say that the instrumental albums are more boring than the vocal ones doesn't quite get at the point: the instrumental albums seem empty at their core. They are not bad, but except for the sole exception noted above, none of them come anywhere near to the level of the four vocal albums.
Although BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE was Eno's fourth (and up to the present, last-one fears that he may never attempt another) vocal album, it is possibly his most pop oriented. Although none of the cuts was a candidate for a top 40 hit, this album is far more accessible than anything else he has recorded. This could be a fault if the individual songs were not so marvelously done. Although this is not my favorite vocal album, it nonetheless has several cuts that I enjoy as much as anything that Eno has done. Nothing on this album approaches the extraordinary beauty of a cut like "Everything Merges With the Night" from ANOTHER GREEN WORLD, but it does contain several remarkable numbers. My personal favorites are "Blackwater," a joyously surreal nautical tale that is notable for its hard driving energy and relentless forward momentum, and "King's Lead Hat," which shows Eno at his creative peak. Other highlights include the opening cut "No One Receiving," the fascinating "Kurt's Rejoinder," "Energy Frees the Magician," and the gentle, folkish "Here He Comes."
I originally got Eno's albums around the time that they were first released, and over the years they have provided me with as much consistent enjoyment as anyone I have listened to. Now that most of his better albums have been re-released on CD, all fans of music should avail themselves of this opportunity to experience these albums firsthand.