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- Mark Hollis by Mark Hollis
9/10 Clinton Staff review, 06 October 2011
Elsewhere this week our Phil has waxed lyrical about Talk Talk's swansong "Laughing Stock'. And so he should, its an absolute gem of a record and an essential purchase. Slightly less well known is front man Mark Hollis's self titled and only solo album released seven years later. An album which features not one but two bassoon players. I remember being beyond excitement when this came and listening back to it today with weathered ears it sounds even better than i remember it. The first track 'The Colour of Spring' is a complete red herring. Its gospel tones sat as awkwardly with me then as they do now. Instead hop straight onto track two the excellent 'Watershed'. Despite completely different musicians being involved, this follows the late Talk Talk template of gorgeous rhythmic drumming, picked guitar and seemingly random horns and woodwind. It differs in that its much more of an organic, woody sound with no electric guitar present. Hollis's vocals are as indistinct as ever, mumbling along then suddenly bursting out of the mix. On 'Inside Looking Out' the track starts with quiet Rachel's like piano before emerging into a foggy strum with Hollis's vocals playfully on top of the mix without the listener being able to discern a single word he is saying.
One of the standout tracks for me is 'The Gift' which pounds along with driving drums, carefully picked nylon stringed guitar and fabulous Danny Thompson-esque bass. Odd, discordant woodwind pull the track out of focus before it randomly and awkwardly regains momentum. The playing style is surely influenced by jazz, what is created is so subtle, tiny variations in the playing change the mood in an instant.
My favourite overall though is 'A Life (1895-1915)' which wanders along pleasantly for awhile before busting into the most amazing piano chords underneath which sit gorgeous cut up female vocals, after a horn led interlude the drums flit back in as if nothing happened with fabulous organ drones, wooden bass and chirping bassoons. This is gorgeous unforgettable music...and so it goes on.
Its amazing that Mark Hollis produced this record without the input of the two other Talk Talk members, it closely resembles the parent band in style and substance but it is different - at times its like Talk Talk unplugged - it lacks the wild mood swings, dynamics and changes in tempo of 'Laughing Stock' and its slightly more linear predecessor 'Spirit of Eden' yet still its a major work incredibly being able to stand up strong alongside those earlier albums.
Bruce Mehlmann-Wicks said:
Don't mind if I do!
Lars Dideriksen said:
Love this album to bits. One of my all time favourites. All the more reason to avoid this repressing of this one and 'Laughing Stock' at all costs. They were done very poorly. Lots of crackle and noise on them. A total waste of money. I contacted the label to complain. Was told that Universal wanted to do the printing. And they obviously cut every corner they could when it comes to quality. Too bad for Ba Da Bing Records' reputation, but even worse for Talk Talk / Mark Hollis fans who just wasted a shitload of money on these reissues. Man, it really hurts when classics are butchered like this. Universal never cared about Talk Talk or Mark Hollis when they made their best work. Go figure. Can't remember the last time I was so disappointed about a record I was looking forward to like this.
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