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My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts - Brian Eno + David Byrne

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    My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is the first collaborative album by Brian Eno and David Byrne, released in February 1981. It is titled after Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel of the same name. Recorded by Eno and Byrne in between their work on Talking Heads projects, the album integrates sampled vocals and found sounds, African and Middle Eastern rhythms, and electronic music techniques. While it received mixed reviews upon its release, My Life is now widely regarded as a high point in the discographies of Eno and Byrne.

    The album has since been called a "pioneering work for countless styles connected to electronics, ambience and Third World music". The extensive use of sampling on the album is widely considered ground-breaking and innovative, though its actual influence on the sample-based music genres that later emerged continues to be debated. Pitchfork listed My Life in the Bush of Ghosts as the 21st best album of the 1980s, while Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 83 on its list of the "Best Albums of 1980s"

    Eno and Byrne first worked together while collaborating on More Songs About Buildings and Food, the 1978 album by Byrne's band Talking Heads. My Life was primarily recorded during a break between touring for Fear of Music (1979) and the recording of Remain in Light (1980), subsequent Talking Heads albums also produced by Eno, but the release was delayed while legal rights were sought for the large number of samples used throughout the album. Eno described the album as a "vision of a psychedelic Africa."

    The "found objects" credited to Eno and Byrne were common objects used mostly as percussion. In the notes for the 2006 expanded edition of the album, Byrne writes that they would often use a normal drum kit, but with a cardboard box replacing the bass drum, or a frying pan replacing the snare drum; this would blend the familiar drum sound with unusual percussive noises. Rather than conventional pop or rock singing, most of the vocals are sampled from other sources, such as commercial recordings of Arabic singers, radio disc jockeys, and an exorcist. Musicians had previously used similar sampling techniques, but critic Dave Simpson declares it had never before been used "to such cataclysmic effect" as on My Life.

    In 2001, Q magazine asked Eno whether he and Byrne had invented sampling. He replied:

    “No, there was already a history of it. People such as Holger Czukay had made experiments using IBM Dictaphones and short-wave radios and so on. The difference was, I suppose, that I decided to make it the lead vocal on the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”

    The album was recorded entirely with analog technology, before the advent of digital sequencing and MIDI. The sampled voices were synchronized with the instrumental tracks via trial and error, a practice that was often frustrating, but which also produced several happy accidents.

    According to Byrne’s 2006 sleeve notes, neither he nor Eno had read Tutuola’s novel before the album was recorded, but felt the title apt:

    “At some point during this African obsession [during the recording] we became aware of Amos Tutuola’s books, and the title of one—My Life in the Bush of Ghosts—seemed to encapsulate what this record was about. We hadn’t yet read this particular book (his The Palm-Wine Drinkard was more easily available), but the title was perfect, so that became the name of the record.”

    Sample Notes below indicated the voices sampled, from the liner notes:

    "America Is Waiting" – Unidentified indignant radio host (Ray Taliaferro of KGO NEWSTALK AM 810), San Francisco, April 1980.

    "Mea Culpa" – Inflamed caller and smooth politician replying, both unidentified. Radio call-in show, New York, July 1979.

    "Regiment" – Dunya Yunis [sic], Lebanese mountain singer, from The Human Voice in the World of Islam (Tangent Records TGS131)

    "Help Me Somebody" – Reverend Paul Morton, broadcast sermon, New Orleans, June 1980.

    "The Jezebel Spirit" – Unidentified exorcist, New York, September 1980.

    "Qu'ran" – Algerian Muslims chanting the Qur'an. (same source as track 3)

    "Moonlight in Glory" – The Moving Star Hall Singers, Sea Island, Georgia. (From The Moving Star Hall Singers, Folkways FS 3841), produced by Guy Carawan.

    "The Carrier" – *Dunya Yunis. (same source as track 3)

    "A Secret Life" – Samira Tewfik, Lebanese popular singer. (from Les Plus Grandes Artistes du Monde Arabe, EMI)
    "Come with Us" – *Unidentified radio evangelist, San Francisco, April 1980

    Studios:

    RPM, New York NY August 4 & 16, 1979.
    Blue Rock, New York NY September 5, 1979.
    Eldorado, Los Angeles, CA, February & March 1980.
    Different Fur, San Francisco, CA, April 1980.
    Sigma, New York, NY, October 1980.
    Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York, NY, April 28, 2005.

    Packaging

    The original package design was created by Peter Saville.

    “Having tried a few different directions for LP cover art, we decided to incorporate the video monitor as a painting tool, as Brian and others were doing here and there. By pointing the camera at the monitor and generating video feedback a few little cutout humanoid shapes pasted on the screen would be infinitely multiplied. And by fussing with the color setting on the backs of the TV sets one could saturate and skew the color quite a bit. I also took some pictures of just skewed vortexes and whorls of color, and then we did some images where we skewed the color on pictures that had been taken of ourselves and then took polaroids of the results. Somehow, despite it being very techie, these techniques also seemed analogous to what we were doing on the record. It was funky as well as being techie. Extremely lo tech actually, and not what you were supposed to do with a TV set”

    For the 2006 reissue, new artwork was designed by Peter Buchanan-Smith, with booklet cover images and studio photography by Hugh Brown.

    Reception

    In a 1985 interview, singer Kate Bush remarked that Bush of Ghosts "left a very big mark on popular music". The album, enthused Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, "knocked me sideways when I first heard it – full of drum loops, samples and soundscapes. Stuff that we really take for granted now, but which was unheard of in all but the most progressive musical circles at the time... The way the sounds were mixed in was so fresh, it was amazing."

    25th anniversary reissue

    The album was reissued on March 27, 2006 in the UK and April 11, 2006 in the US, remastered and with seven extra tracks. To mark the reissue, two songs were made available to download online, consisting of the entire multitracks. Under the Creative Commons License, members of the public are able to download the multitracks, and use them for their own remixes.

    The track "Qu'ran" was excluded from this release without comment. However, in an interview for Pitchfork about the 2006 reissue, Byrne said:

    “Way back when the record first came out, in 1981, it might have been '82, we got a request from an Islamic organization in London, and they said, 'We consider this blasphemy that you put grooves to the chanting of the Holy Book.' And we thought, 'Okay, in deference to somebody's religion, we'll take it off.' You could probably argue for and against monkeying with something like that. But I think we were certainly feeling very cautious about this whole thing. We made a big effort to try and clear all the voices, and make sure everybody was okay with everything. Because we thought, 'We're going to get accused of all kinds of things, and so we want to cover our asses as best we can.' So I think in that sense we reacted maybe with more caution than we had to. But that's the way it was.”

    While discussing the re-release in 2006, the two began collaborating again on a new project that became the album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which was independently released in 2008. Byrne toured to promote his collaborations with Eno in 2008 and 2009, resulting in the release of the live EP Everything That Happens Will Happen on This Tour – David Byrne on Tour: Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno featuring a performance of "Help Me Somebody" in 2008.
    Track Listings:
    Side 1
    1. America Is Waiting 3:38
    2. Mea Culpa 4:57
    3. Regiment 4:11
    4. Help Me Somebody 4:17
    5. The Jezebel Spirit 4:56

    Side 2
    6. Very, Very Hungry 3:21
    7. Moonlight In Glory 4:30
    8. The Carrier 4:19
    9. A Secret Life 2:31
    10. Come With Us 2:42
    11. Mountain Of Needles 2:39

    Side 3
    12. Pitch To Voltage 2:38
    13. Two Against Three 1:55
    14. Vocal Outtakes 0:36
    15. New Feet 2:26
    16. Defiant 3:41
    17. Number 8 Mix 3:30
    18. Solo Guitar With Tin Foil 2:58

    Video
    19. Mea Culpa by Bruce Conner
    Artist Name(s):
    David Byrne and Brian Eno – guitars, bass guitars, synthesizers, drums, percussion, found objects
    John Cooksey – drums on "Help Me Somebody" and "Qu'ran"
    Chris Frantz – drums on "Regiment"
    Robert Fripp – Frippertronics on "Regiment"
    Michael "Busta Cherry" Jones – bass guitar on "Regiment"
    Dennis Keeley – bodhrán on "Mea Culpa"
    Bill Laswell – bass guitar on "America Is Waiting"
    Mingo Lewis – batá, sticks on "The Jezebel Spirit" and "The Carrier"
    Prairie Prince – can, bass drum on "The Jezebel Spirit" and "The Carrier"
    José Rossy – congas, agong-gong on "Moonlight in Glory"
    Steve Scales – congas, metals on "Help Me Somebody"
    David Van Tieghem – drums, percussion (scrap metal, found objects) on "America Is Waiting" and "Regiment"
    Tim Wright – click bass on "America Is Waiting"
    Rooks on "Help Me Somebody" courtesy of April Potts, recorded at Eglingham Hall
    Producer(s):
    Brian Eno, David Byrne
    Year:
    1981
    Style:
    Ambient, Dark, Industrial, Progressive, Ritual
    Album Type:
    Studio
    Formats:
    Cassette, Compact Disc, Digital / Download, LP 33 1/3
    Cover & Packge Design:
    Brian Eno
    Studio Name:
    See Notes
    Mastering: Greg Calbi
    Engineer(s): Engineer – Dave Jerden, Eddie Korvin, John Potoker, Neal Teeman, Stacy Baird
    Liscense:
    ASCAP, Copyright
    Label / Publishing
    Label Name:
    Sire Records
    Catalog Number(s):
    SRK 6093
    Location:
    New York City, NY USA
    Publisher:
    Warner Bros. Records Inc.
    Editions / Reissues
    1. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire SRK 6093 US 1981
    2. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) EG, Polydor 2302 100 Germany 1981
    3. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(Cass, Album, Dol) Sire XM5S-6093 Canada 1981
    4. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album, Promo) Sire SRK 6093 US 1981
    5. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire 25PP-13 Japan 1981
    6. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album, RE) EG EGLP 48 UK 1981
    7. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Polydor, Polydor, EG 2311060, 2311 060, EGLP48 Greece 1981
    8. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Virgin, EG VG 50247 Greece 1981
    9. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Polydor 23 11 060 Spain 1981
    10. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Polydor, EG 2302 100 France 1981
    11. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) EG, Polydor EGLP 48, 2302 100 UK 1981
    12. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire XSR 6093 Canada 1981
    13. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire SRK 6093 New Zealand 1981
    14. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire SRK 6093 US 1981
    15. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(Cass, Album) Sire M5S 6093 US 1981
    16. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire XSR 6093 Canada 1981
    17. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire P-6489 Japan 1981
    18. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire SRK 6093 US 1981
    19. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire XSR 6093 Canada 1981
    20. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Polydor, Editions EG 2302 100 Netherlands 1981
    21. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album, Promo) Sire 25PP-13 Japan 1981
    22. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Polydor 2302 100 Netherlands 1981
    23. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire SRK 6093 US 1981
    24. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) EG, Polydor 2302 100 Scandinavia 1981
    25. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) EG 2311 060 Italy 1981
    26. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) Sire SRK 6093 Australia 1981
    27. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album, TP, W/Lbl) Sire SRK 6093 US 1981
    28. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(Cass, Album) EG, EG, Polydor EGMC 48, EGMC48, 3100 566 UK 1981
    29. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album, RE) EG, Polydor EGLP48 UK 1982
    30. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album) EG 2311 060 Brazil 1983
    31. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(Cass, Album, RE, Whi) EG, EG EGMC 48, EGMC48 UK 1987
    32. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album) Sire SRK 6093 US 1987
    33. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(Cass, Album, RE, Bla) EG, EG EGMC 48, EGMC48 UK 1987
    34. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(LP, Album, RE) EG, Virgin, EG, Virgin 207 963-620, 207 963 Europe 1987
    35. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album) EG EGCD 48 UK 1987
    36. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, RE, Lon) Sire 6093-2 US 1989
    37. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album) Sire CD 6093 Canada 1990
    38. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, RE) Sire, Warner Bros. Records 9 45374-2 US 1993
    39. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, RE, RP) Sire CD 6093 Canada 1994
    40. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album) Sire WPCR-1182 Japan 1997
    41. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, RM, Promo) Nonesuch PRO 301705 US 2006
    42. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (Full Album Sampler) ‎(CD, Album, Promo, Smplr) Virgin, Virgin BEDBXDJ 1, 0946 3 56978 2 7 Europe 2006
    43. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, Enh, RM, Unofficial) Virgin (2), Virgin (2) 0946 331341 2 6, BEDBX 1 Russia 2006
    44. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, Enh, RE, RM) Virgin, Virgin, Virgin 0946 331341 2 6, BEDBX 1, 0946 3 31341 2 6 UK & Europe 2006
    45. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, Enh, RM) Virgin, Virgin, Virgin 0946 331341 2 6, BEDBX 1, 0946 3 31341 2 6 UK & Europe 2006
    46. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (Full Album Sampler) ‎(CD, Album, RM, Promo) EMI, EMI, Virgin, Virgin BEDBXDJ 1, 0946 3 56978 2 7 Europe 2006
    47. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, Enh, RE, RM) Nonesuch 79894-2 US 2006
    48. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, RE) EG, EG EGCD 48, 0777 786473 2 4 Europe 2009
    49. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(18xFile, MP3, Album, RE, RM, 320) Nonesuch none US 2009
    50. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(2xLP, Album, RE, RM, Gat) Nonesuch 79894-1 US 2009
    51. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts ‎(CD, Album, RE, SHM) Sire WQCP -1035 Japan 2011
    Synthesizers Used
    Album Locator
    [+] Amazon
    [+] Amoeba
    [+] Discogs
    [+] Ebay
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Jack Hertz

  • 5
  

Totally changed my view of music. I gave it a 5, one of the few that deserves it.

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