801 - 801 Live

801 Live

Released 1976 on expression records
Reviewed by Jasonaparkes, 17/02/2007ce

1. Lagrima (2:34)
2. T.N.K. (Tomorrow Never Knows) (6:14)
3. East of Asteroid (4:58)
4. Rongwrong (5:10)
5. Sombre Reptiles (3:14)
6. Golden Hours (4:16) *
7. Fat Lady of Limbourg (5:51) *
8. Baby's on Fire (5:02) *
9. Diamond Head (6:21)
10. Miss Shapiro (4:20)
11. You Really Got Me (3:23)
12. Third Uncle (5:14)

* - not on original LP but on 1999 reissue on Virgin

"We are the 801/we are the central shaft", The True Wheel from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) :

Phil Manzanera - guitar
Eno - keyboards, synthesiser, guitar, and vocals
Lloyd Watson - Slide Guitar and vocals
Francis Monkman - Fender Rhodes and clavinet
Bill MacCormick - bass and vocals
Simon Phillips - drums and rhythm generator

I guess 801 Live is a bit of a cliche of Seventies rock: the supergroup, a statement uttered a lot in the wake of the Good, the Bad & the Queen album of late. The supergroup was possibly a shit idea when you think of the dire group based around Duran/Guns'N'Roses & Sex Pistols members, Keef's wino toss, Emerson Lake & Palmer or C, S, N & Y - whose output is dire and scared me off C, S, & N's work for years...

801, whose name stems from an Eno song not included, were a brief supergroup who surfaced in 1976 featuring Professor Eno alongside former Roxy Music colleague Phil Manzanera who had played on albums like Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (RM were on hiatus for a few years, interesting to contrast Viva! to this live recording), and former members of Curved Air and Matching Mole. Names that are familiar to early 1970s albums, when Eno's name might be found alongside names such as Robert Wyatt, Phil Collins, Robert Fripp, Paul Rudolph etc...I guess it's in the spirit of the 1974 live album that featured Eno, John Cale, Kevin Ayers, Nico, Mike Oldfield et al. 801 Live was the band's third gig recorded at Queen Elizabeth Hall on the 3rd of September 1976 (...the live recording of it was technically advanced, one of the reasons why it's odd that 801 Live isn't mentioned in those endless lists when those endless lists are focusing on live albums - I think it's up there with the usual suspects: The Ramones' It's Alive, the Velvets' two volume '69 set, Crazy Horse's Live Rust, Magazine's Play, Live at Leeds, Kick Out the Jams etc...)

Manzanera's instrumental 'Lagrima' opens the album, an ambient instrumental equal to anything on Another Green World that stemmed from his solo album 'Diamond Head' (...the pre-Roxy Music outfit Quiet Sun are kind of a precursor and some songs here sound like Roxy without the Ferrymeister dominating things - as did 'Here Come the Warm Jets' which featured all of Roxy apart from the one who mates with the upper classes...). This seagues into 'T.N.K', a six-minute plus reinterpretation of the climax to 'Revolver' that was 'Tomorrow Never Knows' - a wild, wild song that along with 'Glass Onion', 'I am the Walrus' & 'Rain' is one of the Fab Four's greatest moments that haven't been dulled by over-familiarity or over-importance. Starting a live album with a song that pushed the boundaries (...why didn't those Anthology compilations have a three day version of TNK where Ringo locks into a groove 'Mother Sky'-style?...) is a bold move - the opening keyboards were the model for Gary Numan for his Beggars Banquet albums - by the end the track becomes both a bit jazz, and a bit tight - the Krautrock and Oblique Strategies elements not quite taking hold in Eno-world.

'East of Asteroid' opens with a wild collision of speedy drumming and keyboards before a wild guitar comes in, slipping from slick prog to avant gardness at will. I guess this was the point where Tangerine Dream gave way to Throbbing Gristle, a grey zone that probably confounds the strict prog/punk division we're taught in musicville these last few decades. 'Rongwrong' is a lovely song performed by Eno on lead vocals, evoking a similar feeling to a charming ditty like 'I'll Come Running' - it was written by Quiet Sun drummer Charles Hayward, who would later form This Heat - perhaps this is why TG or Scritti-with-Wyatt makes sense? Maybe this is why I came away with the conclusion that Genesis and Roxy and Can were as punk as anything following a browse of John Robb's Punk Rock Reader (...what the majority of punks appear to have been influenced by...)

The album flows wonderfully together, a tribal take on 'Sombre Reptiles' shifts out of 'Rongwrong' and forms a central part of the album stemming from Eno's key 1975 album 'Another Green World.' This is much more groovy than the original, Monkman's Fender Rhodes reminds you of Bitches Brew-era Miles or stuff like Mahavishnu Orchestra. One minute it sounds like something off 'Journey Through a Body', the next we're in noodly Weather Report-territory. A trip then...The version of 'Golden Hours' obviously can't come near the Cale-Fripp assisted studio take, but goes somewhere else - a subtle take on a song that still blows my mind. The latter part of 'Golden Hours' veers off into ambient-jazz noodling, this was probably one of the last times Eno dabbled in stuff like that - trading in 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' for 'Tracks and Traces...'

It all becomes very Eno-tastic with a brilliant take on 'Fat Lady of Limbourg' from 'Taking Tiger Mountain' - the rhythm track is similar to that of Wyatt's 'Sea Song' & would recur on Scritti Politti's Wyatt-aided single 'The "Sweetest Girl" Eno still sounds miles ahead of Bowie and anticiptates many, many acts in the years that would follow. At about two and a half minutes in a brilliant bass/guitar groove comes in - this sounds like the start of all those acts Eno would produce in the next few years: Devo, Talking Heads, Ultravox! (the "now we checked out this duck...QUACK!!! " sounds very Cale). The tempo is upped even more with another rhodes-heavy reinterpretation of the Here Come the Warm Jets' track 'Baby's on Fire.' Along with the closing 'Third Uncle', this is the closest to the punk-post-punk-new-wave-etc sounds of the next few years. The song shifts into a minimal groove that is pure Devo as Manzanera goes off on one - parts of this may also shift into Watson's slide guitar, hard to tell. Bizarre that the Eno-trio wasn't on the original album!!! Their presence, along with the cover of 'Tomorrow Never Knows' on a Beatles-related-cd with Uncut, was the reason I bought it!!

Manzanera's 'Diamond Head' lets him explore territory between Eno and the Floyd, which certainly wouldn't have made it on 'Country Life' or 'Siren.' 'Miss Shapiro' is another lost pop song with Prof Eno at the helm, like a jazzier 'Thrill of It All' it is another reason why 'Diamond Head' should probably be explored in the mid-price world. The point where Eno begins to sing is just another one of those pieces of evidence we can use to throughly dismiss Josef-Ferdinand. 'Miss Shapiro' shifts into a cover version of The Kinks' standard 'You Really Got Me' (also covered over the next few years by Silicon Teens and Van Halen), which is fine if not radical. Finally, there's a take on 'Third Uncle', which featured Manzanera on the studio original - the opening is very 'One of These Days' - a speedy, angular piece that underlines Eno's forward-thinking approach. The guitar is as wild as McGeoch in Magazine (...Shot By Both Sides...), Levene in PIL (...Public Image...), or Rankine in Associates (...Paper House...). Just a shame the song is fading out, since I'm wondering how much longer the song went on and how it all turned out...

801 Live is a bit of an oddity, located in the mid-price realm and certainly not given much prescience in Eno's back-catalogue. There's much good here and certainly a record for Eno & prog-heads of the time and one that still sounds pretty wild these days...

They were the 801. Live.

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