also by David Sylvian:
This sprawling compilation is a treat for Sylvian fans and discoverers alike. It's arranged very approximately in reverse chronological order, moving from the sophisticated lounge of "Dead Bees on a Cake" smoothly through to the erudite New Romanticism of his band Japan. Taken in along the way are some of Sylvian's collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Robert Fripp, Nicola Alesini and the low-key Japan reunion Rain Tree Crow. It brings together obscurities and well-known singles and album tracks in equal measure.
"The Scent of Magnolia" starts us off, a pretty unreleased track from the beard-stroking jazz-pop world of "Dead Bees on a Cake". Other selections showing the album's crooning mellowness include "Wanderlust" and "I Surrender". A couple of noodly "Dobro" musings also provide some fluffy filler. The shiniest goody on the first disc is "Ride" a track which never made it onto Sylvian's flawless album "Secrets of the Beehive". It would have fitted in seamlessly, its eight minutes given vitality by Ryuichi Sakamoto's luminous piano and string arrangements. The rest of that album is represented here by "Orpheus", "Boy with the Gun" and the dignified brooding of "Let the Happiness In".
Even though I can't learn to appreciate a few superfluous new vocal wiggles on the rearrangement of "Ghosts" included here, I'm glad he didn't disown the spooky nocturnal beauty of his former band's most successful song. His distinctive quirky electronic tweakery is more self-conscious on the obscure single "Pop Song". However a notable absence is "Forbidden Colours", perhaps that was more Sakamoto's baby. The jerky funk of "God's Monkey" and "Jean the Birdman" are the obvious poppy choices from Sylvian and Fripp's "First Day".
The autumnal deep forest colours of a couple of selections from his second solo album "Gone to Earth", and "Weathered Wall" from his debut, lend their darker tone to the second disc. It's surprising how well the lost Japan track from 1980, "Some Kind of Fool", fits in here, although it's updated here with a mature, elegant arrangement. The tootling "Buoy" on the other hand, from a Mick Karn solo album, sounds more dated from the Japan era. The warmly four-square synth-pop of "Bamboo Houses" is an early Sakamoto collaboration.
Long as it is, the double compilation doesn't drag, as the flow of songs is chosen with the care that Sylvian puts into his productions. It's an absorbing journey through the career of a musicians who, from the sidelines, written and performed some of the most attractive and sophisticated pop around.
March 17, 2005