Francis Monkman
21st Century Blues
reviewed by Diana Green

          Here's my in-progress-now-playing-it-for-the-first-time review of Francis Monkman's new CD, 21st Century Blues: as Darth Vader said of Luke:
          I'm only up to the second of 14 cuts (this thing times out at close to 80 minutes!) and am detecting a flavor reminiscent of (surprise) the more innovative moments of Sky, Curved Air and 801, but still unique. The first two cuts, Poisonality and Train Dun Gone Crazy, are rhythmically driven and rhtymically similar- very aggressive, riff-driven but still quite melodic. There's a manic feel on these cuts which recalls some of my limited exposure to Bill Nelson's solo work. Cut 3, Delta Bitsream Blues, follows suit.
          The next number, Another Day, has some lovely manipulated vocals over a more subdued pace and melody, which is good- one needs to relax after the opening 3 cuts! Very surreal (overused but accurate adjective), somehow seems a Satie-influenced Crimson piece circa Lizard. The Crimson parallel becomes stronger when the tempo and the vocals (and, from what I can make out on one hearing, the lyrics) take a turn for the menacing approximately 2/3 of the way into the piece.
          The followup, Heard in Dreams, continues that flavor with a more deliberate tempo. the echoed voice gets a bit lost here, but the overall effect is rather compelling!
          Now we're up to 21-Bar Blues. sounds like 5/8 to my semi-trained ears. Building gradually, gradually to something... somehow PG's "Intruder" comes to mind if I must make a musical comparison...
          I have some other quarrels with the cover. It's nice when someone has fun with computer typography, but not at the expense of legibility, as I'm sad to say is the case here. I'm reluctant to dump on it too heavily, though, as it's uncredited and may well be the work of F.M. his very self! the record number, AFKM1, makes it quite clear that this a homebrew from note one. However, coniossuers of microbreweries and musical rarities please note that there are times when something can be both "rare" and "well-done"! I can live with some sloppy typography in the name of fun to get some challenging , hynotically compelling music.
          Well, I promised myself I'd just report on the cuts as they went till I caught up with my thoughts, and I'm afraid that's now. I'd recommend you all scoot over to Francis' webpage, set up just to promote this CD (especially those of you in Britain and on the Continent, as it will be easier for him to get it to you), check out the soundsamples for yourself, and give to the Starving Musician's Sale (just fooling around-AFAIK, he's not really starving)! The URL is www.akfm.com. The cut I have yet to hear that sounds the most challengin based solely on the title:: The Four Guitarists of the Apocalypse!

PS: After a complete hearing of the album, I've come to the conclusion that it's exactly what the title says it is- really brings it home to 21st Century Blooz!

January 8, 1999