(All Album Reviews by Hal...)
Earthworks' 2nd album, Dig? continues where the debut left off, with the change of Tim Harries on basses (both acoustic and electric fretless), and starts off with “Stromboli Kicks” and Bill’s new Simmons SDX chordal drums (they’re called "chordal" because when the drum pad is struck, it triggers a keyboard pitch). This is a pretty good song with lots of Bates' Eb tenor horn.
“Gentle Persuasion” follows, and as the title suggests, is gentle… a little too, if you know what I mean, with some annoying themes and not much growth. Not sure what happened to the boys, here.
“Downtown”, the standard originally recorded by Petula Clark, is given a good "going over" by Earthworks. It starts out quite slow and builds in tempo as it lumbers along until around the 2 minute mark, where the tempo picks up some more, as Harries, on fretless, suddenly starts getting seriously funky. Soon, the whole band has picked up the banner and is "going for it" with Ballamy soloing through this whole section. Eventually, they return to the slow, opening section before fading out. Cool song!
“Pilgrim’s Way” is a track you’re probably not going to get immediately, unless you’re in the right mood. This is a slow, haunting ballad written by Bruford & Ballamy and made all the more beautifully poignant by Ballamy’s melody and Bill’s polyrhythms on continuum keyboards (similar to a piano in look & layout, but played like a vibraphone). Bates’ keyboard solo fits nicely with the mood of the song. This is definitely one of Earthworks' best… a masterpiece.
After “Pilgrim’s Way”, “Dancing On Frith Street” will awaken you from your dreamy melancholy with a jolt of Django Bates' unnerving keys. The interesting thing about it is that in the middle of his run of 32nd (?) notes he quits as Iain Ballamy continues without missing the slightest beat. Impressive! Unfortunately, it’s about the only thing that is, save for Ballamy’s reintroduction around the 3:40 mark. This song has never been one I’ve consistently listened to, though, as background music, it’s more than acceptable. Your perceptions may be more forgiving… or less so.
“A Stone’s Throw” is a ballad that isn’t a bad one, as such. “Libreville” starts off with a Caribbean feel that lasts for quite some time. If your lack of patience gets the better of you and you skip to the next track, you’re going to miss out on one of Earthworks' finest moments, which is exactly what happened to me for more than a few months after I first got this CD. But, then one day I heard something while this CD was playing in the background. "What the hell was that?" I thought to myself. I played it again. "Wow!" It was like finding a $100 bill when you’re a kid. I crank the stereo and play it again. "Kick ass!" I crank the stereo even louder and play it again. "This is fucking awesome! How the hell did I ever miss this?????" Just listen for yourself. By the way, as I’ve mentioned a dozen times or more, this song gets my vote for Best Keyboard Solo. Django Bates tears it up!
Dig? closes with “Corroboree”, which, according to the liner notes, is "a festive gathering of aboriginal elders." It’s an apt title for the intro. Unfortunately, I find the rest of the song leaves much to be desired.
Dig?, for the most part, is uneven. After listening to it again, it seems I’ve overrated it in the past. However, two of Earthworks' best tracks are on it, so for that reason alone, I’d recommend it.
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