Facelift MAY 1998 - by Stephen Yarwood


A true classic of the Canterbury genre and it nearly didn't make it. Other than some long lost demos, Quiet Sun were never recorded during their life-time, it was only when guitarist Phil Manzanera became rich and famous after joining Roxy Music that a Quiet Sun album became possible.

Formed around 1970 whilst still at school in South London, the line-up was Manzanera with Bill MacCormick (bass) and Charles Hayward (drums), later augmented by Dave Jarrett (keyboards). Unfortunately, record companies were not interested in their brand of complex and highly arranged prog-rock and the band subsequently faded away after a couple of years. Bill MacCormick teamed up with old friend Robert Wyatt in Matching Mole, Charles Hayward pursued his won maverick musical direction and Dave Jarrett became a maths teacher. After a couple of successful years in the stylish rock'n'roll that was the early Roxy Music, Phil Manzanera took time out to record his first solo album, the excellent Diamond Head. He also decided to temporarily reform his old band, so in January 1975 between his own sessions, using off-peak studio time and after several weeks of hard rehearsal, Quiet Sun finally recorded their debut album.

Their palette of sound was expansive mainly due to Phil Manzanera's innovative guitar techniques and producer Brian Eno's treatments. Sol Caliente develops Into a Manzanera tour de force, his playing is rarely what you would call orthodox, scratchy riffs, clusters of single notes, distortion, feedback etc. The menacing opening section actually appears in its own right as Lagrima on Diamond Head and also opens the 801 Live album under the same title. Overall the composing is split fairly evenly between all four musicians, Charles Hayward being responsible for the shortest and the longest. At one-minute-thirty-seconds, Trumpets With Motherhood is by some way the shortest piece and is a rather silly mix of drums and kazoos, or perhaps I missed the point. Two Dave Jarrett compositions follow. The main theme of Bargain Classics is a Ratledge-esque fuzz organ riff interspersed with heavily distorted guitar noises and riffs, yet despite Manzanera's off the wall contributions the whole piece is actually a pretty formal arrangement.

This fades directly into RFD, a sublime Jarrett solo effort wherein multi-tracked keyboards and minor chords produce a melancholy atmosphere in contrast to the high excitement of Bargain Classics before. Alas Dave Jarrett is a now dormant musical talent, do his maths students know about his previous existence? Mummy Was An Asteroid, Daddy Was A Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil is the bizarre title of the only Bill MacCormick tune. A chunky opening riff, also recycled on 801 Live, and lots of Eno treatments lead into a spiky organ solo from Dave Jarrett, again rather in the Mike Ratledge mould, but that's no bad thing. The final coda is a host of harmonising guitars building to a harsh rounding climax with an abrupt ending.

Phil Manzanera's Fender Rhode piano Introduces Trot, followed by a superb distorted backwards guitar effect that brings in the main theme. A beautiful piano solo from Dave Jarrett in the middle section builds with ringing guitars to another intense Manzanera solo. Finally we have Charles Hayward's Rongwrong the only song on the album and at nine-minutes-thirty-nine-seconds the longest piece. The opening section sounds a bit like Gentle Giant in places, a few stops and starts in true prog-rock fashion and notable for some excellent piano from the composer. The vocals put me in mind of Robert Wyatt and the lyrics appear to be from the Eno school of word association. I suppose what I am saying is that I don't know what he's singing about but it sounds good. The middle piano/organ/bass section develops into a tour de force for the bass of MacCormick before returning to the vocals and final coda with Manzanera once again prominent.

So there we have it, at last available in digital format, a terrific album with a few familiar reference points but overall Quiet Sun never really sounded quite like anybody else. Within the band was a considerable amount of underrated talent, perhaps only Phil Manzanera really came close to fulfilling his potential. A compulsory purchase for Facelift readers.