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LPs from the Attic: Brian Eno — Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

July 19, 2010

Brian Eno -- Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

When you get to Kyoto, send a postcard if you can

Brian Eno — Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (EG Records, 1974)

Time has obscured Brian Eno’s early solo forays after Roxy Music and before the Berlin Trilogy. Before he became an avant-garde soundscaper and hot commodity as a producer, he put out a small handful of surprisingly conventional–and sturdy– rock albums. Yes, “conventional” is relative, and, also yes, songs from 1974’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) do possess sonic flourishes, augmented acoustic instruments, and plenty of synth-driven techno-geekery for their time. Unlike other, later solo albums of a far more experimental nature, this record features all the components of your average pop-rock band: guitars, drums, keyboards, melodies, and singing. Eno wields them with confidence and a level of compositional finesse that would serve him well on future collaborations with David Byrne, especially. He certainly wouldn’t sound this weird and still commercially viable until hooking up with David Bowie towards the end of the decade.

When I heard “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More” on college radio years ago, with its clean, angular guitar and bright back-up harmonies in the chorus, I was taken aback upon discovery that this was an Eno track; it’s a fascinating document of an artist in transition and on the way to ground-breaking success. Clearly, Eno took the predictability of the pop-leaning art-rock format as far as he could before moving on. This isn’t to say that this album is perfect or “better” than those of any of his glam-leaning contemporaries, but you get the sense that he felt limitations in the form that would eventually push him out into new territory. As he advises on personal favorite “Mother Whale Eyeless,” “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Recommended listening:

  • Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
  • The Fat Lady of Limbourg
  • Mother Whale Eyeless
  • Taking Tiger Mountain
4 Comments
  1. January 17, 2011 4:26 pm

    You might enjoy listening to my band the Plastic Billionaires’ full album cover of Tiger Mountain, available free at plasticbillionaires.com.

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