Tuesday, September 12, 2006

CD Review: The Tubes "Now"

The Tubes
A&M Records, 1977
CD Reissue: Acadia, 2004

The Tubes third album Now is their most obscure release, having peaked at number 122 on the Billboard Charts. This perhaps explains why it was never released on CD until 2004, and languished out of print on vinyl for many years. However, for the die-hard Tubes fan, the album offers an interesting mid-point between the operatic prog-rock explorations of their debut and the more commercial rock of later albums such as The Completion Backward Principle. The songs are shorter, and the edges a bit smoother than on previous efforts, with acoustic guitar and piano taking a more prominent role.

Allegedly a concept album, it is difficult for the listener to figure out what the concept is. Typical of a Tubes album, Now is so stylistically schizophrenic that it never achieves the cohesiveness one would expect from a concept album. Genres range from the disco of “Smoke (La Vie En Fumer)” to the jazz fusion of “God-Bird-Change” to the proto-new wave of “Cathy’s Clone.” They even cover a Captain Beefheart song (“My Head is My Only House Unless It Rains”), and the entire affair is infused with a Latin Jazz flavor with the contribution of new member and Santana/Return to Forever alumnus Mingo Lewis.

All of the standard Tubes elements are here, however: Fee Waybill’s trademark yodel, Vince Welnick’s fluid piano, Michael Cotton’s quirky synthesizer lines, and Prairie Prince’s complex and in-the-pocket drum fills.

While there is no indication that Acadia undertook an extensive remastering effort with this reissue, the sound quality is superior to the original vinyl version.

This would not be the best place to start for a listener unfamiliar with the Tubes; Their eponymous debut album or The Completion Backward Principle is preferable. However, for the die-hard fan, as well as anyone interested in eclectic 1970’s rock, it will be a welcome addition to the collection.
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