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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Quiet Sun Mainstream

There's A Quiet Riot Going On...

Quiet Sun

Quiet Sun originally formed in the early 70s when they were wide of loon, lapel and long hair as indeed were most of the record-buying Great British Public. However, not too many people outside of a handful of Polytechnic social secretaries were interested in their cerebral blend of jazz and rock.

Going their separate ways (Bill MacCormick to Matching Mole, Charles Hayward to This Heat and Dave Jarrett to life outside the music industry) it was left to Phil Manzanera to strike it lucky with Roxy Music. Calling the old pals back together, they frantically grabbed at the studio downtime during the sessions that spawned his 1975, Diamond Head. Mostly done in first takes, it’s this giddy, breathless urgency and energy that makes this a sensational record.

Imagine the Soft Machine circa Third minus brass but with electric guitar gravitating somewhere between Robert Fripp and Fred Frith and you’ll have some indication of what Quiet Sun were about. There’s a lot of furrowed - brow riffing on this album particularly on the opening “Sol Caliente” and “Trot” with further turbulence provided by Hayward’s consistently creative drumming.

However, a gentle self-deprecating humour pervades the set - how about “Mummy was an asteroid, daddy was a small non-stick kitchen utensil” for a title. The delightful “Rongwrong” with vocals and lyrics by Hayward (later performed by the equally classic but equally short-lived Manzanera side-project 801) provide a welcome respite from the instrumental fury.

Interestingly, Dave Jarrett is the album’s secret weapon. A strong composer and player, it is his contribution which binds the whole lot together. The rhapsodic piano solo on “Trot” from Jarrett, the spiky Farfisa stabbing on “asteroid” and the Ratledgesque noodling on “Bargain Classics” are a joy to hear.

It’s an evocative valediction to a style of music that was already passing out of favour even in 1975. Yet its varied timbres (bolstered by the presence of Brian Eno throughout the recording) and exhilarating blend that is part fusion, part prog and a hint of the Canterbury sound can still raise the hairs on the back of the neck. Essential.


Barrie Sillars said...

This is a great, overlooked gem of an album. I believe Manzanera's back catalogue was being re-released by EMI/Virgin which was to include a 2CD version of 801 Live (1 CD the original live album, plus extra tracks and corrections to the previous remaster and 1 CD rehersal tapes). But I haven't heard anything on this recently.

Trevor said...

Hear hear! A wonderful album that is as much a joy today as it was - gosh - over 30 years ago! TLev

djaitch said...

I particularly like Manzanera's earlier recordings, when I felt his talents were tightly bottled with Roxy Music. Sid, I note your cross referencing to Canterbury, which triggered off the memory that Manzanera once wrote in the liner notes of an album he wanted to sound like Mike Ratledge. It is not unusual in prog circles to be asked to nominate top keyboard players, but with Ratledge's name omitted from the poll-list more often as not we have a travesty of ignorance.

Literally flew past your door last night Sid - BMI Baby flight from Aberdeen to Birmingham with t eh visibility across north of England near perfect to see Durham Newcastle Sunderland areas crystal clear. Still haven't come to terms that the flight time was 45 minutes even with a 150mph tailwind according to the pilot.


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