Beaver & Krause

All Good Men

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The final collaboration between Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause finds the pair floundering wildly in search of a distinctive voice. In fact, an unwary listener coming to the album blind might assume it was an early example of the mixtape, such is its haphazard collision of styles and genres chosen seemingly to demonstrate its compiler's catholic taste. Most disappointing of all, few traces remain of the pioneering spirit that at least partially justified Beaver & Krause's early reputation as sonic pioneers. The album does boast one small masterpiece, however. "Legend Days Are Over" is based on an elderly Native American's spoken lament for civilization's erosion of her people's way of life. Over a haunting blend of synths, wood flutes, and increasingly urgent tribal drums, her voice is electronically treated and looped to form rhythmic incantations in a way that predates sampling technology by at least a decade. Yet the boldness displayed here only serves to underline the milksop mediocrity that characterizes much of the rest. Worst of all are the vocal tracks, three of which were co-written by regular Bette Midler and Barry Manilow collaborator Adrienne Anderson. "Child of the Morning Sun," "Looking Back Now," and "Sweet William" are tremulous, dewy-eyed singer/songwriter fare of the kind that infested a hundred other albums in 1972. Of the instrumentals -- which provide the only sightings of the pair's trademark Moog -- "Loves of Col Evol" is bland cocktail jazz, "Bluebird Canyon Stomp" sounds like a Joe Meek castoff (made worse by its hideously dated wah-wah guitar and drum solos), "Prelude" is switched-on Bach five years too late, and "Between the Sun and the Moon" is ersatz Latin jazz over a sequenced synth riff. Most bizarrely of all, the album is top-and-tailed by a raucous choral version of the little-known Scott Joplin song "A Real Slow Drag," the result, Krause recently admitted, of a brainstorming session that went horribly awry. Before the reprise that concludes the album, there's a brief outbreak of free-form electronics called "Waltz Me Around Again Willie" -- a half-hearted attempt, perhaps, to persuade the listener that they've just been on some kind of crazy trip through a whole mind-blowing kaleidoscope of musical styles. Small wonder that Warner Bros. showed them the door shortly after.

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