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Prolific quality

Adrian Belew - Side Three
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 19, 2006
Adrian Belew

Review by Andy Argyrakis

He's a solo artist, band member and side man who remains one of the most prolific to date. Yes, Adrian Belew has played with just about everyone on earth, most frequently with the likes of King Crimson and The Bears, but is also known for notable David Bowie and Talking Heads sessions. Just a mere scanning of his discography could take hours and listening to every single release practically a year, but no matter how massive the catalogue, he's generally consistent with quality. And his latest solo release Side Three is no exception, serving as the third installment of a trilogy that also includes the 2005 discs Side One and Side Two.

The trio of projects all sticks to somewhat congruent themes, focusing heavily on instrumentation, scaling back of lyrics to a mere handful of lines and whispers, plus an attention to artistic detail over commercial acclaim. Even with his radio success, Belew has always pushed the envelope beyond conventional radio programming, though these installments won't be touching upon his pop heyday with the Heads or later tag teams with Crash Test Dummies, Jars of Clay or Nine Inch Nails. But his slightly bizarre and charmingly left of center approach has worked generally well on the first two volumes, reaching several other emotional apexes on Side Three that run the gamut of prog rock, experimental jazz and entrancing collaborations. After sitting out from Side Two, Primus' Les Claypool and Tool's Danny Carey reprise their appearances from the first round, adding their signature bass and drums to the playfully peculiar jams "Whatever" and "Men In Helicopters v4.0." Crimson mainstay Robert Fripp also adds to the star power come "Water Turns To Wine," which coasts with his sultry flute guitar work against a placid electronic background.

"Incompetent Indifference" is one of the few selections that feature vocals and their ample inclusion adds a catchy diversion beyond the album's instrumental patterns. However, that isn't to say the wordless selections are any less compelling, just a little less likely to stick in a non-musician's long term memory bank. But the all out highlight (the drum drenched "&") combines bits of both, peppering in a few spoken lines with unrelenting percussion power. Though its imminent Belew will continue jumping all around the map with other artists, one could only hope he'll continue the delicate balance between those projects and a solo career, because after this offering, his stock remains remarkably high on either side of the fence.

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