guitar player - he's also a singer and a multi instrumentalist - Herb Heinz
is mostly known for having been a member of The Men, the agile line-up that
for a long time accompanied Amy X Neuburg in concert and on record. Their
beautiful work is well represented by inventive albums such as Utechma (1995)
and Sports! Chips! Booty! (1999): complex albums that hid/never flaunted their
complexity. Those who saw the group live (this writer managed to catch a January
2000 live webcast) easily remember their cultivated nonchalance.
Failure (1998) was his first solo effort. Heinz demonstrated that he had the
right stuff for a solo album - solo in the most literal sense, since with
the exception of some vocals by Amy X and some percussions by Joel Davel he
played and sang everything. It would be easy to say that Failure was an album
of songs, but things are more complex, given the variety of materials he made
reference to. It could be argued that the organizational logic of the album
was "American"; however, it was not too difficult to discern - for
instance, on False Images - traces of the "new waver", post '75
Peter Hammill; while one was reminded of Gentle Giant by some knottiness that
showed up here and there. It was not that difficult to imagine some of the
melodies as sung by Robert Wyatt - but not that easy, either, Heinz's voice
being quite different. Plus a pinch of Zappa. The album was "easy on
the ears", sure - and never "difficult", anyway - but its materials
had been assembled according to a highly sophisticated compositional logic.
Hence, an open-ended work - I won't even begin to mention its self-referentialism.
Just listen to Beautiful Thing or Fame.
years later, Heinz released a joint CD with Mark Briggs under the name Hmmm...
®. Titled I Only Want Love, it was an album with ideas, and not devoid
of merits, but which (to this writer, at least) did not sound entirely convincing.
Two years ago, This Is... An Is Production Sampler presented two new, unreleased
tracks by Herb Heinz: Pot Of Gold and Attitude made me curious about his new
work in progress.
is another nice surprise - better said, a confirmation of his talent. Also
a good answer to the question "Aren't there beautiful albums of songs
anymore?". Of course, if "beautiful albums of songs" equals
"albums of beautiful songs" depends on each listener's concept of
beauty. The same goes for Heinz's voice: it's not conventionally "beautiful",
but it's intelligent and versatile - a "musician's voice", if you
know what I mean.
The new work confirms many of the positive qualities of Failure. But
where the previous album put one voice to the foreground and
showcased the electric guitar, Another works by multiple connections
of keyboards and vocals. So more than its predecessor it needs many
listening sessions to fully come into focus (it needs the lyrics, too;
they're not included here, but luckily one can find them on Herb Heinz's
website). Shawn King and Joel Davel are on percussions, Amy X on vocals.
Suggesting a particular song is not easy, Another being the kind of
album that invites the listener to invent his/her own personal route.
But I'll mention the calypso-flavoured title-track; the strange mixture
of Egoboy, where some "prog" timbres match an "incompatible"
sing-along air; and the long Pot Of Gold, in many ways a good summary
of the whole work.
Beppe Colli 2004
| April 14, 2004