Picks and Pans Review: Songs from Liquid Days

updated 07/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Philip Glass

Glass, the neo-classical composer who has won critical raves for such works as his opera Satyagraha, collected a strange assortment of pop artists to turn out this curious array of songs. Paul Simon, the Talking Heads' David Byrne, performance artist Laurie Anderson and folksinger Suzanne Vega wrote the lyrics, which Glass set to music. Linda Ronstadt and the Roches are among the featured vocalists. The resulting whole, however, amounts to less than the sum of its parts. A minimalist composer, Glass uses unmodulated voices and short, relentlessly repetitive melodies to create ethereal, meditative soundscapes. The songs on this release, though, are sleep inducing; they drone on and then abruptly come to an end. Ronstadt effectively over-dubs her own voice with operatic vocals to Vega's stark lyrics about personal isolation in Freezing, and operatic tenor Douglas Perry is vibrant on Byrne's Open the Kingdom. Most of the lyrics on Songs From Liquid Days, however, come across as a put-on. Soul singer Bernard Fowler, for instance, opens the LP with Simon's Changing Opinion: "Gradually/ We became aware/ Of a hum in the room/ An electrical hum in the room/ It went MMMMMMM." Those words seem even more absurd when set to one of Glass's ornate orchestral arrangements. On the title cut by Byrne, the Roches come dangerously close to sounding like Wizard of Oz Munchkins, using high-pitched harmonies to sing: "I offer love a beer/ Love watches television/ Love needs a bath/ Love could use a shave." Apart from its arty pretentiousness, there's nothing really annoying or unpleasant about this music. There's nothing particularly engaging about it either. (CBS)

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