Herb Heinz

(Is Too)

A versatile guitar player - he's also a singer and a multi instrumentalist - Herb Heinz is mostly known for having been a member of The Men, the agile line-up that for a long time accompanied Amy X Neuburg in concert and on record. Their beautiful work is well represented by inventive albums such as Utechma (1995) and Sports! Chips! Booty! (1999): complex albums that hid/never flaunted their complexity. Those who saw the group live (this writer managed to catch a January 2000 live webcast) easily remember their cultivated nonchalance.

The self-produced Failure (1998) was his first solo effort. Heinz demonstrated that he had the right stuff for a solo album - solo in the most literal sense, since with the exception of some vocals by Amy X and some percussions by Joel Davel he played and sang everything. It would be easy to say that Failure was an album of songs, but things are more complex, given the variety of materials he made reference to. It could be argued that the organizational logic of the album was "American"; however, it was not too difficult to discern - for instance, on False Images - traces of the "new waver", post '75 Peter Hammill; while one was reminded of Gentle Giant by some knottiness that showed up here and there. It was not that difficult to imagine some of the melodies as sung by Robert Wyatt - but not that easy, either, Heinz's voice being quite different. Plus a pinch of Zappa. The album was "easy on the ears", sure - and never "difficult", anyway - but its materials had been assembled according to a highly sophisticated compositional logic. Hence, an open-ended work - I won't even begin to mention its self-referentialism. Just listen to Beautiful Thing or Fame.

A few years later, Heinz released a joint CD with Mark Briggs under the name Hmmm... ®. Titled I Only Want Love, it was an album with ideas, and not devoid of merits, but which (to this writer, at least) did not sound entirely convincing. Two years ago, This Is... An Is Production Sampler presented two new, unreleased tracks by Herb Heinz: Pot Of Gold and Attitude made me curious about his new work in progress.

Another is another nice surprise - better said, a confirmation of his talent. Also a good answer to the question "Aren't there beautiful albums of songs anymore?". Of course, if "beautiful albums of songs" equals "albums of beautiful songs" depends on each listener's concept of beauty. The same goes for Heinz's voice: it's not conventionally "beautiful", but it's intelligent and versatile - a "musician's voice", if you know what I mean.

The new work confirms many of the positive qualities of Failure. But where the previous album put one voice to the foreground and showcased the electric guitar, Another works by multiple connections of keyboards and vocals. So more than its predecessor it needs many listening sessions to fully come into focus (it needs the lyrics, too; they're not included here, but luckily one can find them on Herb Heinz's website). Shawn King and Joel Davel are on percussions, Amy X on vocals. Suggesting a particular song is not easy, Another being the kind of album that invites the listener to invent his/her own personal route. But I'll mention the calypso-flavoured title-track; the strange mixture of Egoboy, where some "prog" timbres match an "incompatible" sing-along air; and the long Pot Of Gold, in many ways a good summary of the whole work.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004

CloudsandClocks.net | April 14, 2004