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Adrian Borland - Harmony & Destruction review (Big TakeOver 15-11-2002)

date: Nov 15, 2002


ADRIAN BORLAND - Harmony & Destruction (The Unfinished Journey)
( Red Sun Records - NETHERLANDS)

This was the solo LP Borland was working on when he took his own life, April 26, 1999. We know he was quite excited about it while he was working on it: Having hooked up with his old producer Wally Brill, who did so much for Borland’s old, incredible band The Sound on their scintillating 1985 fifth LP, Heads and Hearts, the singer/songwriter had already set down the majority of the backing tracks for these 14 songs when he shocked his family, friends, and fans by getting hit by a train after a fateful decision to stop taking his anti-depression medication, because he thought it was adversely affecting his work on the vocal sessions. We’ll always be saddened by that memory, but we have no problem at all with Red Sun’s decision, in conjunction with Borland’s kindly parents (who were always supportive of their son’s career), to release the LP anyway, using the guide vocals he’s set down while doing the instruments, as well as the artist’s copious pre-production notes (for example, the LP title was clearly marked, and the sequence was even chosen a month prior to his demise) and what he said while recording. Of course, we’ll never know what this would have sounded like if he’d completed the “proper” vocal sessions he intended. But listening to the guide vocals, they’re all in tune, in the pocket, and perfectly expressive as ever. There probably would have been a few more harmonies we’ll never hear to the ones completed here; but otherwise, this is not just a patchy salvage, this sounds like a finished LP with more spontaneous singing than usual, like a live recording, that’s all. And with all that noted, Harmony & Destruction is indeed his best solo LP since his first two, 1989’s Alexandria and 1992’s Brittle Heaven. It’s easy to see why Borland was so enthusiastic about his work as it neared completion: Brill’s touch is unmistakable on the warmer tracks, of which the standouts are the unsettling, just superb acoustic track, "Heart Goes Down Like The Sun," “Summer Wheels,” sounding much like a Heads and Hearts outtake, and the rollercoaster “Get Me a Witness.” Not all the LP is of this quality, but never does it falter, either. The more quietly worried the song, the more it’s full of real artistry, feeling, and his unique singing, such a staple going back to his earliest Sound classics 22 years ago, long-lasting triumphs such as 1980’s Jeopardy and 1981’s From the Lion’s Mouth. This regrettably final effort is full of aspiration, yearning, frustration, and most of all, tantalization. My old friend Adrian was someone who often seemed tantalized by bigger prospects just barley out of reach; bigger success, women, more stability, some decent money, etc. etc. And he was always able to instill this hungry and honest quality into his work it’s what made even his darkest night of the soul The Sound recordings so great (1982’s All Fall Down, 1987’s Thunder Up), and it also enlivened these more measured, philosophical works. This LP is an emotional one, on all levels, for all reasons.

Jack Rabid, Big Takeover Issue#51 November 2002

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