Prisoner is Shea's homage to Patrick McGoohan's paranoid BBC TV spy series from the 1960s (as well as other spy/adventure shows from the same period), and liberally uses samples from the show. He continues working with additional musicians after the solo effort of I, but the musicians are used to better advantage than his debut work Shock Corridor. He has compared the work to sound cinema, and the description is particularly apt in the way that he transitions from one scene to another, and where the later pieces in the suite harken back to the earlier ones. Each piece has its own character, but the transitions between them occur in a cloud of brief, noisy segments, mixing Shea's turntable work and instrumental improvisation. The instrumentalists get opportunities to solo without dominating the work, especially guitarist Mark Ribot (who gets a long solo on #2 and some great feedback noise on #6) and Cyro Baptiste, whose Brazilian percussion dominates #5. The four pianists get a long workout on #4, which includes a beautiful stretch of neo-classical piano writing. The paranoia of the show is reflected in the alternation between circus music and ominous sampled voices and sombre string music. Prisoner shows Shea moving away from the cacophony of Shock Corridor and working with longer forms, towards his excellent later suites, Hsi-Yu Chi, Tower of Mirrors, and Satyricon.
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AllMusic Review by Caleb Deupree