Monday, October 17, 2011

Rock Albums Post VIII: Adrian Belew

Adrian Belew has gone on to become a legend of sorts in the world of rock music including; alt-rock, modern rock, new wave, classic rock and prog rock. He is highly influential within the rock music inner circle, yet to the general public his name is virtually unknown. Despite this he has had his share of major/minor successes which have afforded him the ability to continue recording and releasing music for over 30 years now.

Wikipedia describes Belew as follows: Adrian Belew is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. He is perhaps best known for his work as a member of the progressive rock group King Crimson (which he has fronted since 1981) and for his unusual impressionistic approach to guitar playing (involving arresting yet frequently melodic sounds more akin to animals and machines than to standard instrumental tones).

His career began in 1977 (he was 27 years old) when Frank Zappa discovered him while he was playing a gig with his cover band named Sweetheart. Shortly Belew began touring with Zappa and appeared on his 1979 album "Shiek Yerbouti". He also appeared in Zappa's 1979 concert film "Baby Snakes". From there Belew's career blossomed until he became a leading man in the world of rock guitar genius.

Let's follow Belew's career. The following albums are highlights in Adrian Belew's career. These are not all the albums he's worked on. The solo albums listed here are not the only ones he's released but a few that have really made an impression. To date Belew has released 16 studio albums and 6 albums with King Crimson.


This is where it all began for Adrian Belew.
Frank Zappa first noticed Belew in 1977 and by 1979 appeared on a Frank Zappa album. But it wasn't just any Frank Zappa album, it was "Sheik Yerbouti", Zappa's best selling album in his entire career. This album represented a new )sort of) beginning for Zappa in that it was the first release on his own Zappa Records.The album even brought Zappa his first Grammy nominations for the songs "Dancin' Fool (Rock Male Artist) and Rat Tomango (Rock Instrumental). Adrian Belew features prominently in this album as his named was listed 2nd in the credits. Belew played rhythm guitar to Zappa's lead guitar. He also sang lead vocals on three tracks including "City Of Tiny Lites", "Jones Crusher" and most notably his Bob Dylan impression on "flakes". It's easy to say Adrian Belew was on his way to bigger and better things. But how could it get any better than Frank Zappa?

Album Chart Stats: U.S. #21, UK #32, Norway #5, Sweden #4, Austria #6
Singles Chart Stats: "Dancin" Fool" U.S. #45, "Bobby Brown Goes Down" Germany #4, Switzerland #5, Austria #2, Norway #1, Sweden #1

City Of Tiny Lights (Frank Zappa band w/ Adrian Belew on lead vocals)


David Bowie - Lodger (1979)
Bowie was so impressed with Belew after seeing him on tour with Zappa that he poached him for his album "Lodger". this is the first and only very few instance of both Adrian Belew and Brian Eno on the same work. It is here where Belew was introduced to Robert Fripp who later invited Belew to join King Crimson.

Adrian Belew plays some incredible guitar all over "Lodger".  Belew's lead guitar work especially shines in "Boys Keep Swinging" in which his animalistic emotions take charge in the tones and groans of his guitar. In "Look Back In Anger" Belew comes in with fierce energy and sets the song afire. "Red Sails" brings us Belew's glory, his guitar work screams with a chaotic beauty that travels mysteriously into the avante-gard while maintaining a sense of melody.
Album Chart Stats: U.S. #20, UK #4, Norway #11, Australia #11, Austria #13, New Zealand #3, Sweden #9
Singles Chart Stats: "Boys Keep Swinging" UK #7, Ireland #19. "DJ" UK #29.

David Bowie and Adrian Belew


Talking Heads - Remain In Light (1980) CLICK HERE

Belew's next stop was with Talking Heads. "Remain In Light" represents Talking Heads at their highest artist peak along with Adrian Belew's synthesized guitar solos and all produced by musical genius. It was a triple attack on the senses. Belew took the guitar to places even Jimi Hendrix had not discovered.

It was upon the request of David Byrne, Jerry Harrison and Brian Eno that Adrian Belew joined the band in recording this album. Recording of the album was sagging until Belew was brought in. His eclecticism and energy brought a renewed verve and interest in the recording sessions for the album.

belew's influnece is found on every song in the album and most prominently in "The Great Curve" which includes Belew's extended guitar solos.

Album Chart Stats: U.S. #19, UK #21, Australia #25, New Zealand #8, Norway #26, Sweden #28
Certified Gold in U.S. and Canada, Certified Silver in UK
Singles Chart Stats: "Once In A Lifetime" U.S. #103, UK #14Australia #23, Canada #28, Ireland #16, Netherlands #24. "Houses In Motion" #50 UK, #26 Ireland

The Talking Heads - The Great Curve

Tina Weymouth and Adrian Belew


Tom Tom Club (1981) CLICK HERE
Belew's next turn was with Talking Heads off shoot band Tom Tom Club. The group includes Talking Heads husband and wife team Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth along with Adrian Belew and Tina Weymouth's sisters (Lani, Laura and Loric).

This time around Belew's guitar work was featured heavily throughout the entire album. He took his guitar in several directions, most of which emulated animal sounds or (if possible) animal emotions. In "As Above So Below" Belew give a mystery filled performance giving the emotion of a lonely rhinoceros. In "Booming and Zooming" his guitar portrays an understated sense of bounce, it's a booming and zooming in the confines of electric synthesis. Best of all is bold and brave elephant speak on "L' Elephant.

This album became a highlight in music of 1981. The single "Genius Of Love" became one of the most played club hits of 1981 and 1982 as well as going on to become a dance club classic.

Album Chart Stats: U.S. #23, UK #78, New Zealand #18
Singles Chart Stats: "Wordy Rappinghood" UK #7, New Zealand #35. "Genius Of Love" U.S. #31, UK #65, New Zealand #28.


King Crimson - Discipline (1981) CLICK HERE

Just when you think it couldn't get any better Belew outdoes himself with King Crimson. This time getting top bill as lead vocalist and guitarist, as well as co-writing all the songs."Discipline" was a gateway album for King Crimson having blended the current day New Wave sounds with the dark heavier sounds of 1970's prog rock. The result was one of King Crimson's most adventurous and complex albums at the time.

The song "Indiscipline" was based on a letter written by Belew to his then wife Margaret concerning a sculpture she had made. With "Elephant Talk", Belew again displays his interest in the animal and gives a totally awesome futuristic guitar performance. Belew seemed to have a liking to Elephants.
Album Chart Stats: U.S. #45, UK #41, Canada #18, Sweden #37


Adrian Belew - Lone Rhino (1982) CLICK HERE

Finally after three years of working with the best of the best in alternative rock and having contributed to five iconic albums, Belew decided to go solo. He released his first of 16 studio album (with his most recent being 2009's "e") in 1982.For those anticipating this release it was everything they waited for and more.

In researching this album I came about Ted Mills' review on the album at AllMusic. His review was so spot on that I decided to share it in it's entirety.
Here's the review:
The first solo album from monster alternative guitarist Belew comes in the middle of Robert Fripp's early-'80s reformulation of King Crimson, so it's no surprise that many a Crimson-esque herky-jerky guitar run and melody line pops up among Belew's other trademark sound, that of the animal-turned-guitar wail. Songs similarly explore Belew's fascination with raw animal nature: "Big Electric Cat" (the album's obvious single) is exactly that, howling five-stringed felines over a propulsive Afro-funk beat, and "Animal Grace" is its less frazzled companion. But Belew can also be gentle, exploring guitar synth ambience on "Naive Guitar" and even performing a duet with his four-year-old daughter Audie Belew, who plays acoustic piano on "The Final Rhino." 

Album chart Stats: Sadly none of his albums have made it on to any charts.

Over the next few years Adrian Belew remained extremely busy touring with King Crimson as well as touring for his solo material. When he wasn't on the road he was busy recording. In the next few years he recorded 2 more solo albums and 2 King Crimson albums. As well as contributing to half a dozen other albums (some of which will be listed at the end of this article).

King Crinson - Beat (1982)

Adrian Belew - Twang Bar King (1983)

King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984)

Adrian Belew - Desire Caught By The Tail (1986)

Now we take a stop at Belew's next super project. In 1985 Belew formed a power pop group named The Bears. The Bears consist of Adrian Belew, Chris Arduser, Rob Fetters and Bob Nyswonger.In 1987 they released the first of 4 studio albums.


The Bears (1987) CLICK HERE

The sound of the Bears was more devoted to pop chords and melodies than any of Adrian Belew's bands. They gave a modern spin to the Beatles' melodic moments. The album is filled with well-defined guitar driven pop gems. Belew and Fetters share the lead vocal duties, and their vocal harmonizing is up to the standards set by Lennon and McCartney, yet maintaining their own unique flare.

Within the music you can hear the joy and excitement of these band members as they performed together. It's evident that shared comrade was present during the recording of the album, which makes this all the more an enjoyable listen.

Between The Bears debut album and the next album in this feature Belew released another ten albums between his solo work, King Crimson and The Bears.

As well as working on and contributing to an additional half dozen or so other albums (some of which will be listed at the end of this article). Belew just never stopped, he has continuously worked on recording music for 35 years.

In 1998 came one of Belew's most innovative collaborative works...


ProjeKct Two - Space Grooves (1998) CLICK HERE

"innovative", "out of this world", "spacey", "eclectic", "atmospheric"...
With Robert Fripp and Trey Gunn on guitars and Adrian Belew on V-Drums, this league of gentlemen creates an indisputable classic with "Space Groove". Purely instrumental there are thrill-filled challenges for the listener around every corner. Belew's electronic v-drums capture the bass and beat of the music which borderlines experimental prog and improvisational jazz. Needless the say this album isn't for everyone - but for those who enjoy this sort of atmospheric sound it is an extremely enjoyable listen.

The following are links to a few other highlights in Adrian Belew's repertoire

King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984)
The Bears - Rise and Shine (1988)
Adrian Belew - Op Zop Too Wah (1996)
King Crimson - The ConstruKction of Light (2000)
Adrian Belew - Side One (2005)
"Side One" is the first of a series of 3 studio albums recorded by Adrian Belew which include Les Claypool (Primus) and Dan Carey (Tool)

The following are some of the other albums Belew has contributed to over the years

Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak (1983) - guitar on "Sharkey's Day", "Gravity's Angel", "Blue Lagoon" and "Sharkey's Night"
Jean Michel Jarre - Zoolook (1984) - guitars, synthesizer effects
Paul Simon - Graceland (1986) - synthesized guitar on "Boy In The Bubble", "You Can call Me Al" and "Crazy Love", Guitar on "Under African Skies"
Mike Oldfield - Earth Moving (1989) - lead vocals on "Holy", guitar throughout
Caifanes - El Silencio (1992) - Producer, guitar on "Piedra"
Nine Inch Nails - Downward Spiral (1994) - texture generating guitar (on "Mr. Self Destruct"), ring mod guitar (on "The Becoming")
Jars Of Clay (1995) produced the songs "Liquid" and "Flood" as well as playing bass and mandolin on both songs. "Flood" reached #37 in the U.S.
Back Against The Wall (Pink Floyd Tribute")(2005) - guitars and vocals on "In The Flesh", "Mother", "Is There Anybody Out There" and "The Show Must Go On"
Jaguares - Cronicos de un Laberinto (2005) - guitar, koto and keyboards as well as chorus vocals
Man On Fire - Habitat (2005) - heavy guitars throughout
Return To The Dark Side Of The Moon (Pink Floyd Tribute)(2006) vocals on "Speak To Me"
Nine Inch Nails - Ghost I - IV (2007) - co-writer on "25 Ghosts III" and "27 Ghosts III", played guitar on 13 tracks from the album, Electronics on "25 Ghosts III" and Marimba on "30 Ghosts IV"

"The Block" by Man On Fire (2005)


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