Hugh Hopper/Julian Whitfield
In A Dubious Manner

(Burning Shed)

About one year after listening to Hugh Hopper's first "DIY" album, Jazzloops, I have in front of me another CD that follows the same basic criteria, i.e. the CD is burnt on demand: you pay, they burn, you get the record. Again, the CD cover shows the (bare) essential informations, but this time there's another musician, Julian Whitfield - a name that's totally unknown to me - that's listed as the co-leader of the project. In A Dubious Manner offers some nice contributions from a few guests - I'm sure that at least some of their names (Jan Ponsford, Pierre-Olivier Govin, Andy Ward, Robert Jarvis) will be familiar to those who follow these matters. It has to be said, however, that though the record offers a certain timbral variety (there are also saxophones and trombones) the biggest weight falls on the guitars, the keyboards and the loops of the two leaders.

Since I have respect for the dictum "Truth In Advertising", it has to be said that Whitfield's name here should definitely precede Hopper's: if three tracks (Lost At Sea, Time Ago and Wannabe) could have been featured on Jazzloops, there's a certain kinda-sixties, kinda-bluesy air that prevails here, the result sometimes not too far away from certain songs featured on Frank Zappa's Freak Out, thanks also to Whitfield's voice, which at times reminded me of Victor Brox-Cornopeon (do you remember him?). Bogey Man is a good opener, with geometric bass, filtered vocals, fake Hammond and real saxes; I Have A Load, Me sports a strange vocoder; the brief Quagmire seems to come from the recent almost-techno Jeff Beck CD, but without the lead guitar; Old Chrome Moon has some nice winds instruments; and Got Something features a nice harmonica by Alan Clarke.

There's nothing really wrong with In A Dubious Manner. But I wonder about the commercial sense of such a low profile album in times when downloading and burning "for close friends" are practices nowadays so common that they are not perceived to be illicit by most music listeners. And if the "user value" is indifferent to the "added value" of most CDs being downloaded, what will be of such a Spartan production?

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2004 | Feb. 17, 2004