Friday, February 14, 2014

Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak

Today (February 14th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Mister Heartbreak, the second studio album from Laurie Anderson. The 1984 release charted at number 93 in the UK and number 60 on the US Billboard Album chart (nineteen weeks total on the chart).

Side one starts with "Sharkey's Day"; an abbreviated version of the seven minute forty second song was released as a single. The music on this one gives it an exotic, faraway mood which is fitting to a man talks about his dreams from the night before. The whole piece is like a buffet of sound treats.

"Langue d'Amour", translated to "language of love", tells a tale that parallels Eve's temptation by the snake in the Garden of Eden. The use of instruments in this one really sets up a cautious, uncertain feel.

"Gravity's Angel" was inspired by American author Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel Gravity's Rainbow (that title even appears in the lyrics). I enjoy the many types of percussion on this one and how they are layered.

Side two begins with oriental tones of "Kokoku"; they lull the listener into an ethereal state.

"Excellent Birds" was co-written with Peter Gabriel; a version of which appears on his 1986 album So. Gabriel also performs on the track (vocals, synclavier and Linn drum) as does Nile Rodgers (on guitar) and Phoebe Snow (backing vocals). This song is clearly the most mainstream sounding of all the tracks on the record.

"Blue Lagoon", a song about escape and isolation, has literary allusions to William Shakespeare's The Tempest and Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

The album closes with "Sharkey's Night", a fitting bookend to the album's opener. American novelist William S. Burroughs provides vocals on this track.

When it comes to music of choice, I am very much a pop/rock/R&B kind of listener. But every now and again I like to cleanse my music palette with other kinds of records. Laurie Anderson's work is just that kind of change of pace. I like the compositions found on Mister Heartbreak; they are very open and expansive in their sounds and ideas.

For her 1982 album Big Science, please click here.

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