Columbia, apparently attempting to cash in on Pink Floyd's explosion in popularity, released this album in 1981 under Nick Mason's name when in reality he's simply the drummer in this incarnation of Carla Bley's ensemble; Ms. Bley composed all the music and lyrics for this project. It's possibly her most overtly pop-oriented album, with all eight songs featuring vocals by Soft Machine alumnus Robert Wyatt. The music, by Bley's standards, is fairly pedestrian if occasionally catchy, though the lyrics are often wryly amusing. So we have songs about failed car motors and a skeptic's encounter with a flying saucer, and one dedicated to unappreciative audiences titled "Boo to You Too." Though the band is staffed with several fine jazz musicians, the music has more of a rock or jazz-rock feel, largely due to the spotlight on guitarist Chris Spedding, who evidences slick, if relatively uninteresting, chops. To the extent the songs succeed, Wyatt can take much of the credit. His engagingly hoarse voice is capable of both wrenching sincerity and mordant humor; pieces like "Do Ya?," where he is asked to tortuously squawk the line "God knows I try!," would collapse entirely with a less convincing vocalist. The closing cut, "I'm a Mineralist," is the one that leaves a lasting impression. Conflating geology and minimalism, it includes lines like "Erik Satie gets my rocks off/Cage is a dream/Philip Glass is mineralist to the extreme," before launching into a note-perfect rendition of some pointedly bland Glassian measures. For Pink Floyd completists, this album might provide a glimpse into an alternate universe of which they were otherwise unaware, but fans of Bley's earlier masterpieces like Escalator Over the Hill are likely to emerge somewhat disappointed.
Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports Review
by Brian Olewnick