UK: SLIGHT RETURN
I wrote a bunch of stuff about "Dead Set", but - youknowwhat - I can't be bothered to post it. You already know what I was gonna say anyway.
Instead, some more fairly vague impressions of Holdsworth/the 1st UK album.
Holdsworth contributes some great guitar runs: there's an amazing liquidity to his playing - in some places the notes run into each other perfectly; there's none of the, I dunno, discontinuity that you get with some other great players - his gtr-phrases flow as discrete interconnected musical units, rather than just a clever sequence of notes, sometimes sounding like a synæsthesic entity that seems to tumble or scuttle across the rest of the music - tho 'scuttle' is the wrong word; it implies an insect-like physicality involving legs, whereas the playing is just too smooth and weightless - Holdsworth has an amazingly wide finger-span, but his playing sounds like it's been done w/out fingers by some PKD telekinetic fusion-gtr-god. The only points where his runs don't flow is when he puts some deliberate micro-second stops in, for punctuation's sake, and then you realise just how fucking awesomely 'vocal' his playing is...
There's a really great Nancarrowlike Mentalist-Fusion rush at the beginning of "Presto Vivace and Reprise" - unsurprisingly, since Jobson had just completed a stint in Zappa's band. I wish the whole album sounded like that lol.
I spent my mid-teens being weened on KC's tryptich of "Larks Tongue in Aspic", "Starless & Bible Black" and "Red", so Wetton's voice is like an old friend on this album. It's interesting to me how 'mannered' the vocals are here - Prog was never renowned for great vocals - 's'all about the music, innit; in fact Bruford once said he wasn't really bothered about the words that people sang on his tracks; it was the sound of the voice that he was interested in...you can't imagine anyone singing in such a 'mannered' way these days (or about such vague/abstract lyric-matter), except in the UK Folk scene maybe...it does sound kinda contrived, but in a brilliantly refreshing and almost alien way 'cos no-one really does that any more - modern Pop, Urban and R n B all strives for a sort of 'contrived authenticity'; but this is just geezers singing kinda vaguely/semi-abstractly about love/life/loss in a way that fits with the stop-start 7/4 shenannigans and quasi-Jazz stylings (tho Wetton, bless 'im, really does his best to give it some welly - something that used to really get up Bob Fripp's nose apparently...)
'Mannered' vocals went out of style, I guess, during the Punk Purges, when Oik-y everyman shoutalong pub-singerisms became Da Thing. Punk bled into new Wave/Quirk/Post-Punk and vocals became increasingly hysterical, hyperventilated n fractured, but Sting, Ferry, Collins, Peter Gabriel, etc all kept the flag flying for that Old (Public) School vocal style - tho attempted to inject White-faux-Soul into their wrblings, while the subject matter (which almost felt like an after-thought (or an excuse for wordplay) for Prog/Fusionheads) became increasingly rooted in The Everyday as the 60s/70s faded into the breadhead 80s...
And there was Morrissey, of course. Tho too much camp drama in his delivery. Eno and Devoto had the right idea, but both clever-clogs. This sort of vocal is always best sung by former plumbers over a 13/8 bass-vamp.
Who does it these days, tho? White Williams? Patrick Whatsiname? Nah, not really.
Bring back 'mannered' vocals, I say. Tho it's difficult to backflip to that without being willfully 'ironic'. Would be tricky - tho not impossible - to get the exact amount of contrivance required. Sounds to me like (yet another) project for a rainy day.