Bob Drake

Little Black Train

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Bob Drake's first solo album for ReR/Recommended, Little Black Train took a step sideways from his records with Thinking Plague, Hail, and 5uu's, but at the same time it determined the direction of his career for the next few years. Among the 15 short pieces, one finds the seeds to his next two solo albums and 5uu's' magnificent Crisis in Clay. Each track is a masterpiece of creative songwriting, playing, and engineering. Drake plays all instruments and fuses influences as if time and space didn't matter. Disjointed rock beats meet ghostly violin, hillbilly guitar, prog rock synths, and postmodern dissonance. The guitarist draws from both Fred Frith and Steve Howe, reuniting England's two most influential six-string players of the 1970s, however far apart they used to be. He adopts Howe's fondness for hillbilly music ("Dust Bowl" could have come out of Beginnings) and a certain pomposity associated with progressive rock ("Same Old Story"), but also picks up most of the elements inherent to Henry Cow's Rock in Opposition. Yet, it is Drake's own brand of tortured soul melodies and spectre-like atmospheres that give Little Black Train its distinctive aura. Not as enthralling as 2002's The Skull Mailbox (And Other Houses) (but "The Unattended Funeral" already hints at that direction, style and concept wise) and a lot more rock, this first solo opus remains a must-have for the avant prog fan.

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