A Paean to Wilson

The Durutti Column

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A Paean to Wilson Review

by Wilson Neate

Factory Records boss Tony Wilson was Vini Reilly's first manager, his biggest supporter, and his close friend. After Wilson's 2007 death, numerous public events commemorated his accomplishments, but Reilly sought to honor him by focusing on the person he knew outside the media spotlight. He felt the best way to do this was to create a musical suite his friend would have liked. A Paean to Wilson was the result. Reilly underscores the album's conceptual unity by using Wilson's voice to frame it, opening with a 1980 sound byte of Wilson playfully quizzing Martin Hannett about his production work and concluding with a politically charged excerpt from one of his last television appearances. The music between these bookends celebrates Wilson's friendship and, fittingly, also looks back on Reilly's own work: the two were inextricably linked, and Reilly recognized that he might have never made his music were it not for Wilson. Consequently, Paean takes stock of the Durutti Column's multifaceted, genre-defying sound over the years, straddling rock, folk, electronica, flamenco, classical, and the avant-garde. Given Wilson's well-known antipathy towards Reilly's singing, this is an instrumental album, with minimal vocal parts covered largely by samples, most notably from Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." The material ranges from the contemplative and elegiac ("The Truth" and "Along Came Poppy") to the surprisingly harsh electric guitar squalls of "Requiem," where Reilly trades melancholy for raw anger at his friend's passing. Interestingly, the retrospective feeling is also reinforced by the way several pieces rework elements of earlier tracks ("Catos Revisited"; "Duet with Piano"; "Requiem"). Ultimately, while Reilly was clearly left with an acute sense of loss and absence, this beautiful work gives his friend's spirit a continued presence. Not only is this a worthy tribute to Wilson, it's also the Durutti Column's strongest release in some time.

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