Monday, July 18, 2016

Tony Levin - 2000 "Waters Of Eden"

Waters of Eden is Tony Levin's second solo record, released in 2000. Most songs feature the basic quartet of Levin, Larry Fast, Jerry Marotta and Jeff Pevar. Additional guest musicians appear on most songs.

Tony Levin's Waters of Eden is an eclectic, sophisticated instrumental music album. He draws on his personal experience from spending decades in the forefront of progressive rock and art rock as well as the jazz and classical music inspiration that gave rock such lofty goals. Not only does this recording reveal Tony Levin as a cellist, but it also continues to prove he is adept at and highly creative in exploring the melodic possibilities of the bass guitar, his primary instrument. Levin, along with other musicians, adds synth to the recording. Often this seems incongruously bright in the murky, bass-led compositions. Still, this is an excellent album overall. 

Tony Levin, the legendary bassist of King Crimson who has also anchored such art-rock luminaries as Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp, offers a look at his own complex musical canvases on Waters of Eden (Narada 70876-15224-2-6; 54:37). Not surprisingly, considering the company he's kept over the years, composer Levin crafts meticulously layered, complex works encompassing a range of influences, from the tribal-drum tension of "Pillar of Fire" to the ambient, jarring "Bone & Flesh," which builds and develops in unexpected directions. No one quite captures the emotion inherent in a singing, resonant bass tone like Levin, who utilizes the unique voice as the emotional center of the graceful, hauntingly wistful "Belle," and the elegant "Boulevard of Dreams," which builds on a straightahead piano figure. Levin's bass can convey disappointment, nostalgia, rhapsody and mystery in a single turn of the phrase. He takes advantage of that versatility on pieces ranging from the keyboard pulsing, suspense-filled "Icarus," full of longing and foreboding, to the brash, distorted rock-funk hooks of "Gecko Walk." "Utopia" is a full-blown epic-rock charged, constantly evolving and finally, uplifting-but the album's most telling highlight may be its stirring, awe-struck title track, with a circular piano figure and long-bowed cello setting up Levin's deceptively simple melody. Throughout, Levin chooses his colors carefully and deliberately, providing immense rewards for the attentive listener.

Over the last half dozen years, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin has produced a small but impressive body of work on his own Papa Bear Records, including World Diary (1995), a collection of collaborations with players such as Bill Bruford, Jerry Marotta, Shankar, and many others, and From the Caves of the Iron Mountain (1997), an atmospheric project involving Levin with drummer Jerry Marotta and flutist Steve Gorn, recorded in the location of the title. Levin's latest effort is released not through his own label, but New Age independent Narada, known more for meditative acoustic guitar music than progressive rock. But fear not. While Waters of Eden is prettier and more meditative than King Crimson, it is by no means lacking fire. The closest comparison is to Levin's work with Peter Gabriel, and this recording in fact reunites the core of Gabriel's band of the late 70s and early 80s: Levin with drummer Jerry Marotta and synthesist Larry Fast. A couple of tracks ("Bone and Flesh" and "Pillar of Fire") feature Fast's expansive synth pads and Marotta's throbbing toms. Think of what might have happened in a rehearsal for Security when Gabriel wasn't around and Levin decided to take the lead. This core trio is augmented by some special guests. The California Guitar Trio joins in for the title track; David Sancious provides keyboards and a credible virtual soprano sax on "Icarus;" guitarist Jeff Pevar soars over many cuts. Throughout, the melodic lead is centered on Levin's sensitive playing, on fretless electric, electric upright bass, and electric cello. In general, the music is fairly simple, sweeping melodies with chordal accompaniment, but the passion and craft of the players lifts it above mere New Age drivel.

Track listing:

    "Bone & Flesh" – 6:46
    "Waters of Eden" – 4:50
    "Icarus" – 5:35
    "Gecko Walk" – 4:58
    "Belle" – 4:00
    "Pillar of Fire" – 6:44
    "Boulevard of Dreams" – 6:47
    "Opal Road" – 6:23
    "Utopia" – 8:03

The Japanese release contains a bonus track entitled "From Here to the Stars" and features different cover artwork.

Personnel:

    Tony Levin – Music Man electric bass (tracks 3, 6), fretless bass, NS electric upright bass (track 6), NS electric cello (tracks 1, 2), engineer
   Warren Bernhardt – piano on track 7, engineer
    California Guitar Trio – acoustic guitars on track 2
    Larry Fast – synthesizer (tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 9), engineer
    Steve Gorn – bansuri flute (tracks 1, 8), engineer
    Pete Levin – synthesizer (track 5)
    Jerry Marotta – percussion, drums, Taos drum, engineer
    Jeff Pevar – acoustic guitar (tracks 3, 8), electric guitar (tracks 3, 4, 6, 9), engineer
    David Sancious – synthesizer (tracks 2, 3), piano (track 2), virtual soprano saxophone
    David Torn – acoustic and electric guitars (track 1), electric oud, loops (track 1), drum processing (track 4)

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