Jerry Harrison – ‘The Red and The Black’ UK LP (Sire Records, SRK 3631, 1981)

1981 was a busy year for Talking Heads solo projects, following the high-profile ‘Remain in Light’ successes. David Byrne managed to bring two separate projects (one with Brian Eno of course) to light, while The Tom Tom Club scored the quirkiest of the hits. Perhaps more in the shadows, certainly in terms of sales and profile, was Jerry Harrison, who by the year end had brought out his first solo album. ‘The Red and The Black’. But while it might not have been a hit, it certainly did point towards the sound that Talking Heads would adopt by 1983’s ‘Speaking In Tongues’.

Jerry Harrison 'The Red and The Black' front cover

^ Jerry Harrison ‘The Red and The Black’ front cover

Jerry Harrison 'The Red and The Black' back cover

^ Jerry Harrison ‘The Red and The Black’ back cover

Definitely taking its cue from the funk-heavy direction of travel that ‘Remain In Light’ had pointed its wheels in, beat-heavy and slippery, tricky synth riffs and lush pads are the bed to which Jerry Harrison’s somewhat Byrne-derived vocals (bolstered by the now familiar backing harmonies from live Heads Nona Hendryx and Dolette McDonald (and Koko Me Evans)), while another of the Heads live touring troop, Adrian Belew, layers suitably idiosyncratic guitars on the top.

Inner sleeve front design

^ Inner sleeve front design

On the whole though, it is a somewhat darker and uneasy soundscape than Talking Heads, with the exception perhaps of the closing tracks from ‘Remain In Light’, namely ‘Listening Wind’ and ‘The Overload’. For me, the darker, slower tracks here are the stand-outs. ‘The New Adventure’, a somewhat darker-hued piece, propelled over a skittering part-military beat and ‘Worlds In Collision’, which even manages to sneak in sampled speech from Adolf Hitler to its slow-mo corrosive funk proceedings. The opening and closing tracks, while funk-heavy, don’t make things easy with their odd time signatures – no simple 4/4. You definitely hear shades of ‘Burning Down The House’ on side two’s opening ‘Fast Karma/No Questions’, the funky tom work being something of a prototype for that track’s percussive workout. ‘The Red Nights’ is a beautiful, evocative instrumental, the only real let-up in the slow-mo funk throughout.

Inner sleeve back design

^ Inner sleeve back design

A fairly low-profile release then, it did see a CD release in some territories in the early ’90s, but they fetch a fair old price now for the privilege of ownership. Currently available on iTunes et al too though, which in no ways gives you a feel for the original artifact, which I hope the accompanying photos capture.

^ Label design – side one

Label design - side two

^ Label design – side two

2 Responses to “Jerry Harrison – ‘The Red and The Black’ UK LP (Sire Records, SRK 3631, 1981)”

  1. Thanks so much for shining a light on one of my “pet cause” albums! For me, it really is the apex of what the Heads were striving for, following “Remain In Light.” I’d rather listen to this than any Head/Head related album that followed. No contest! “Worlds In Collision” in particular, attains such a fevered intensity that when the Hitler sound bites enter the mix that track attains a hellish nirvana of sorts. And the bassline laid the groundwork for Cab Volt’s “Sensoria.” Really. I posted on this album and the surrounding related releases here if you’ve an interest:

    http://postpunkmonk.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/talking-heads-funk-arc/

    For me it’s “Fear Of Music,” “Remain In Light,” and this glorious album. I was lucky enough to have bought the Warner Japan CD of this in the 90s, but I still have the LP for the magnificent Tibor Kalman artwork, which undoubtedly drove the stripper to madness!

  2. admin says:

    Ahh, I think you have nailed the album more eloquently there and good call on the pointers such as ‘Sensoria’. As for the cover… I first caught sight of the design in a black and white press advert at the time of its release and was only later I saw it in its full colour clash when I bought the thing! I do like ‘Speaking In Tongues’, but it is kind of anaemic by comparison to ‘Remain In Light’ and this outing.

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