Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)

Fat lady of Limbourg....


Released in November 1974

Running time 48:14

This was Brian Eno’s follow-up to the beautifully strange Here Come The Warm Jets and this offering was just as peculiar, just as weirdly futuristic and experimental. Again, it didn’t sell very well, but has gained considerable subsequent gravitas. As with the previous album, its sheer oddness puts its in a different pigeonhole to any of its contemporaries.  Eno had left Roxy Music the year before, by the way.

The sound is much better on this album than its predecessor too - clearer in its treble and warmer in its bass. The murkiness is largely gone.


1. Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
2. Back In Judy's Jungle
3. Fat Lady Of Limbourg
4. Mother Whale Eyeless
5. The Great Pretender
6. Third Uncle
7. Put A Straw Under Baby
8. The True Wheel
9. China My China
10. Taking Tiger Mountain                    

Burning Airlines Give You So Much More is a jerky but rhythmic opener, staccato but with appealing percussion and a vague Chinese/Japanese feel to it. The lyrics are completely weird, of course. They reference Japan, actually. The track has a hint of David Bowie about it, several years before the Lodger album it reminds me of. Back In Judy's Jungle has a thirties-style piano backing and a haughty vocal of the kind Sparks would use in the same year.

Fat Lady Of Limbourg is a haunting number that sounds like something from the post-punk years of the early eighties, as opposed to 1974. There was simply nothing around in 1974 anything like this.  It is a track full of atmosphere and is enhanced by Andy Mackay’s parping early Roxy Music-style saxophone. This is one of Eno’s most obviously early Roxy-influenced tracks. It really is a strange delight.

Mother Whale Eyeless is another bizarrely-titled number with a bit of Sparks meets early Cockney Rebel about it. To be honest, though, you can’t really compare Eno’s music to anything. The influence this would have on Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club is clear, however, right down to the backing vocals. The Heads' Listening Wind and The Overload are brought to mind on The Great Pretender. A huge Talking Heads-style riff introduces the decidedly punky Third Uncle. Magazine must have been influenced by this too. So much. And Gang Of Four for that matter.

Put A Straw Under Baby keeps the bizarre titles coming with a weird lullaby sort of thing. A very early eighties electronic intro ushers in the Tom Tom Club-ish The True Wheel. Eno’s vocal is very David Byrne here.

China My China is full of mysterious percussion and lyrics that are even more so. David Bowie would have loved his random words on bits of paper to have given him something like this. Musically and lyrically, it is preposterously ahead of its time. Taking Tiger Mountain is a mournful extended, slow chant-like song to end another perplexing but fascinating album. Eno went on to compose soundtrack music and ambient instrumental stuff but these two odd albums were really quite ground-breaking, although not many knew it at the time.


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