17 Pygmies CD reviewed by Nick Blakey

Music Reviews
17 Pygmies CD reviewed by Nick Blakey
Nov 30, 2008, 19:07


17 PYGMIES 13 Blackbirds/13 Lotus CD

The 17 Pygmies initially formed as a side project in the early 1980s by Jackson Del Rey (aka Philip Drucker) and Robert Loveless who at the time were both members of the Eastern/African-influenced punk/industrial group Savage Republic. 17 Pygmies and its Middle Eastern influenced dark approach to pop music (albeit with a strong folk influence) became their main focus when in 1984 the group released the classic LP Jedda By The Sea (which actually started life as a Savage Republic album). Loveless and Del Rey both occasionally contributed separately to Savage Republic albums and tours throughout the 1980s while continuing to focus upon 17 Pygmies.

However, that was then, and this is now: Del Rey is present on 13 Blackbirds but Loveless is not. How much this contributes to the overall shape, feel, and outcome of the album is not known, but something here seriously got lost in the passage of time.

13 Blackbirds is a collection of bordering-on-new-age pieces that is mostly murky at its best, peeling dull musical wallpaper at its worst. Though the opening title track is quite lovely, sounding like a great lost Jedda By The Sea track featuring plucked acoustic guitars, percussion, vibes, and sweet female vocals, the album heads straight downhill from there. Virtually all of the remaining songs are variations upon the very same theme as "13 Blackbirds" but far less focused, unpretentious, or interesting. While several of the tracks are certainly pleasant, such as "Get Out!" or "Water Carry Me," the foggy production reduces them into mushy background murmurs.

Worse still, "Heavenly Creatures" resembles George Winston attempting to cover It's A Beautiful Day channeling Roberta Flack's version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" right down to the melody lifts. The unlisted cover of The Beatles' "Blackbird" (ah yes I think I'm beginning to get the point here folks) sounds uncomfortably like The Roches but as if they had never met Robert Fripp and instead had been signed to and produced by Olivia Records.

There's also "Lotus," which would have been great to hear back in 1989 on a Wax Trax! 12" but makes absolutely no sense in the 21st century. A barrage of heavily echoed vocals, flute samples and a repetitive drum machine thud, "Lotus" (treated to a whopping 13 pointless remixes on a bonus disc included with 13 Blackbirds) is nothing more than an out of place, out of time din of self-importance. Yuck.

The three additional instrumentals noted as "additional interpretation trax by Cult With No Name" [sic] offer up even more Windham Hill-isms that even your grandmother would find boring and insipid and will have you further reaching for The Best of Roger Whittaker for something with a little more lift to it.

So unless you find Music For Airports to be a bit too heavy for your listening pleasure, don't bother with 13 Blackbirds. You would be much better off trying to find yourself a copy of Jedda By The Sea on eBay instead. [Trakwerx]

-Nick Blakey


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