Gordon Haskell It Is and It Isn't
- Released: March 3, 2008
- Label: Wounded Bird Records
- 1.No Meaning
- 2.Could Be
- 3.Upside Down
- 4.Just a Lovely Day
- 5.Sitting by the Fire
- 6.When I Lose
- 7.No Need
- 10.Learning Not to Feel
- 12.When I Laugh
Personnel includes: Gordon Haskell; John Wetton (organ, bass, background vocals).
Personnel: Gordon Haskell (vocals, acoustic guitar); David Spinozza (guitar); John Wetton (organ, bass guitar, background vocals); Arif Mardin (keyboards); Bill Atkinson (drums).
Gordon Haskell issued this solo album to absolutely no critical notice or public response of any kind in 1974, which is sort of a shame -- not that it's exactly an earth-shattering record, but it does represent a relatively light, lyric-oriented brand of progressive rock (almost resembling the Moody Blues more than it does Haskell's former group, King Crimson), and a good entry in the field. Latter-day Crimson member John Wetton is present here, playing bass and organ and providing backing vocals on this rather sweet-textured, languid, and highly melodic assembly of songs, which mostly show off Haskell's unusual vocal range but leave ample room for classical stylings on the electric and acoustic guitars and jazz-inspired fills on the drums. When Haskell does rock out, as on "Sitting by the Fire," the effect is startling, the crunchy electric rhythm guitar (courtesy of Dave Spinoza) and bold lead parts (by Alan Barry) wrapping around decent, memorable hooks and choruses -- "No Need" is a similarly accessible piece of romantic balladry that might have passed for an England Dan/John Ford Coley demo. And then there's "Worm," a pounding, too-serious-for-words meditation on (apparently) life, death, and being devoured, that repeats a cool opening electric guitar flourish in various guises and allows Barry the chance to stretch out on a related series of riffs. "Spider" is some kind of personal commentary on the music business, possibly referring to managers and their potentially devouring ways -- Haskell would know that best -- but it is funny and cheerfully upbeat in mood, with some pleasing choruses. And "Benny the Beaver," with its fascinating but confusing references to various elements of the music business, also seems to be about a subject that mattered to Haskell, and it's a pity he couldn't have shared it more clearly, but the principal acoustic guitar riff is pretty, and some of the transitions recall King Crimson's "Cadence and Cascade" (which Haskell sang), and the final section in which an old-style music hall showband picks up the riff demonstrates more humor than most entire art-rock albums of this period ever dared revealed. From a broader perspective, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the recording is that it was produced by Arif Mardin, who, at the time, was moving into some much more profitable and visible projects with the Bee Gees that went in a completely different direction; on this album, Mardin's evident goal was to meld Haskell's pop-progressive sound with the clean, sharp mixes that King Crimson of that era was using on their albums, with the results that the drumming (courtesy of Bill Atkinson) and Wetton's bass, as well as Haskell's acoustic guitar, sound like they were recorded during leftover time from a Crimson session. All in all, this is a fun piece of King Crimson ephemera, and pretty pleasant on its own terms, and the 1998 Blueprint CD reissue is a real treat, with a cleaner sound than could be found on the generally lousy Atlantic vinyl pressings (most of which were promo copies), and all of the lyrics reprinted. ~ Bruce Eder
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