With a career that must have started playing baby rattle on his earliest recordings, Eddie Jobson started thinking about his first solo album when he was only twenty-four years old in 1980, having previously added considerable weight to Curved Air, Roxy Music, UK, and Frank Zappa as a keyboard player and violinist.
Delayed by another biggy when he joined Jethro Tull, with whom he contributed on A and the subsequent year-long tour, it wasn’t until 1983 that the Zinc (Green Album) was galvanised into being.
Now reissued in a special three-disc package with his instrumental album Theme of Secrets, plus a Blu-ray of them both in super-duper high-fidelity audio format that will annoy your dog with frequencies far too high for the ladies and gentlemen who bought this in the past.
A favourite album of the late Chris Squire, it’s not surprising as the tenor vocals, sung by Jobson himself, are reminiscent of the Yes bassist’s singing style with not a whisper away from Trevor Horn. In fact, comparisons to The Buggles’ first album are inevitable as the sharp ’80s production, supported by a fine band, certainly date stamp the year of original issue. On heavily sequenced tracks Listen to Reason and Through the Glass, Gentle Giant’s Gary Green is credited with guitar. The tender behemoth’s strumster does a fine job on the outro to the latter track, dueling with the synths like he’s trying to escape from the computer-generated gremlins that he has encountered since being assimilated into the game. A great closing track none the less.
Back to the start though and a feathery pad and arpeggio, like a benign satellite transmitting its data, transport us towards the beginning, until an electronic chug and UK-esque Resident cements this player’s keyboard sound that was a large part of his Tull contribution, which was mostly down to the Yamaha CS-80 keyboard, his then weapon of choice, and we’re into the album.
By Prelude the electronics are replaced by the classically trained pianist playing for the medieval’s kings pleasure, a stunning piece and a reason for purchase in its own right. Then the soundtrack to the circuit board’s thoughts, Nostalgia, a beautifully played showcase for the processed violin from a world many years in the future. Walking from Pastel is the binaural walk along a road with Baba O’Reilly sequencing and these two small instrumental pieces are an actual highlight of this record.
New Wave aspirations of synth pop bring back the session musicians on track seven. Howard Jones comes to mind in a song inviting the disgruntled TV viewer to Turn it Over. Easy in 1983 but not as simple for the Instagram generation in the land of a thousand channels, the video to this song reflected Eddie Jobson’s philosophy of using bang up-to-date technology as it was MTV’s first ever CGI presentation. Mrs Levinson from UK comedy The League of Gentlemen must have been heavily influenced by Mr. Jobson’s look – goggle now after the YouTube link, hehe!
There is a loose concept throughout the Green Album, but its the music that works rather than the story, for example on Green Face and Who My Friends the created noises still sound innovative with the timbre of the violin and synths belying the age of the production and the use of those early instruments, Colour Code is the son of UK’s Alaska (at least in the opening) as it yet again uses the CS80’s sock-blowing-off power.
The Green Album was clearly on Eddie Jobson’s to-do list as the era of the musician’s musician was being sidelined by the post-punk foray into a new breed of chart bothering, mascara stained blouses and being such a band-hopping journeyman he wanted to stamp his own place in that epoch. Lyrically a little sub-standard but that’s more likely to be due to the calibre of his partners during his session work.
Musically, if you like your ’80s prog/pop/rock packed with layers of prog/pop/rock synths, then you simply cannot go wrong with this one.
The second album in this collection is Theme of Secrets and it is a non-band affair with Eddie Jobson using the then new-fangled £200,000 sampling computer and keyboard combination called the Synclavier.
The first track is Tomita-like with an off-world sci-fi nonchalant drift through space and time, surprising piano-led (sampled, of course) and it’s very lovely. Spheres of Influence is a short track demonstrating the work involved in this concept, full of sounds not heard before or since. The Sojourn introduces percussion, which the enforced short sampling rate of this machine must have excelled at. The clicky kick and ka-dung toms give it an American buddy cop TV series feel, with heavy use of reverb and delays. After this, Eddie Jobson added writing music for film and television to his CV and this track must have been one of the sparks that ignited that passion.
Sampled tympani give Ice Festival a symphonic vibe, the track Theme of Secrets does appear to be a little like voice-over material for a C4 documentary on the lesser-spotted Squiggle Squonk, but by Memories of Vienna we’re back looking for the escaped alien in the air-shafts. Lakemist and Outer Secrets end the what must have taken months to complete considering that much of what has just been heard could probably be made on an iPhone nowadays. That does not, however, detract in any way.
Although this album was made in 1985, it will be interfaced with and listened to in thousands of years time by the AI and Android survivors of planet Earth’s war with its various country’s leaders as it will always sound futuristic and packs out the audio spectrum.
It was made to be played on Hi-Fi’s that could be expensively purchased from shops, perfectly set up, played at neighbour annoying levels, and ultimately used in divorce proceedings. There are still many fine examples of great musical creativity where the Synclavier’s sound-bending heart is within, but who knew that the future back then would contain the Jason Zeds, Fifty Percents, and Simon Bowels, but then again, the coin-sized speaker that can be suckered to a shower’s tiles was custom made for that kind of music, but not this…
Therefore, celebrate that these recordings have been re-found for all our enjoyment and pleasure. Theme of Secrets is a niche record for lovers of electronic music, but as an example of that classification, its right up there.
Eddie Jobson spent an entire holiday reading the three heavy manuals so that as soon as his new machine was delivered, shiny and waxed, he instantly knew how to drive it. People who believe that knowledge of anything technical dilutes their artistic bent (yes you) look away now, but there was only a 10MB hard drive. That’s one minute of stereo at CD quality (you can look back now) which makes this album even more remarkable. Only Frank Zappa attempted to make a Synclavier album and that had to be padded out with a live band track, Jazz From Hell coming out a year later.
This album has been described as “New Age” but there’s no pan-pipe or wailing yoghurt knitting whale song, there’s more of a Tangerine Dream quality about it. Coincidently, Peter Bauman of said orange coloured sleep-induced vision Germanic threesome’s own label originally released this, and there can be no greater praise.
In Conclusion, the two CD release (plus Blu-ray nerd fest) of Eddie Jobson’s solo oeuvre is well worth your hard-earned, whilst not being what is so-called, called essential, it IS for fans of this fabulously maverick composer.
CD 1: Green Album
01. Transporter (1:11)
02. Resident (6:01)
03. Easy For You to Say (4:07)
04. Prelude (2:30)
05. Nostalgia (2:27)
06. Walking From Pastel (2:07)
07. Turn It Over (4:15)
08. Green Face (4:22)
09. Who My Friends… (6:31)
10. Colour Code (1:05)
11. Listen to Reason (5:56)
12. Through the Glass (6:03)
13. Transporter II (0:22)
Time – 46:57
CD 2: Inner Secrets
01. Inner Secrets (3:50)
02. Spheres of Influence (2:58)
03. The Sojourn (6:30)
04. Ice Festival (5:36)
05. Theme of Secrets (5:23)
06. Memories of Vienna (5:00)
07. Lakemist (6:00)
08. Outer Secrets (5:35)
Time – 40:52
Total Time – 87:49
Disc 3: Blu-Ray Audio (24bit/96k stereo)
01. Green Album
02. Theme Of Secrets
CD 1: Green Album
Eddie Jobson – Keyboards, Vocals, Electric Violin
Michael Barsimanto – Drums
Alon Oleartchik – Bass
Jerry Watts – Bass
Nick Moroch – Guitar
Cary Sharaf – Guitar
Michael Cuneo – Guitar
Gary Green – Guitar
CD 2: Inner Secrets
Eddie Jobson – Synclavier
Record Label: Globe Music
Catalogue#: GMM 9190-2
Date of Release: 21st June 2019