"Tell me how I fear it, I buy prejudice for my health. Is it worth so much when you taste it?"
The Colour of Spring and it's resulting world tour provided Talk Talk with their first significant taste of international success, and as a result, EMI, assuming the band was poised for an even more lucrative step into the mainstream, awarded them with an enormous budget and a generous deadline for the recording of their next album, Spirit of Eden. However, there were indications early on that Talk Talk were chasing a vastly different muse. During The Colour of Spring tour, Mark Hollis had become increasingly disillusioned and withdrawn (partly due to heroin addiction); then, following the tour, he moved to rural Suffolk, taking up a hermetic lifestyle that was to greatly influence the direction the band would take on their final two albums. For the recording of Spirit of Eden, the band reportedly occupied a former Church for eleven months, thus avoiding all contact with outsiders, a practice which included Hollis' refusal to provide any advanced tapes for their handlers at EMI. According to Producer Phil Brown, recording often took place in the dark and was comprised entirely of improvised overdubs (there were no band takes recorded). Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene then meticulously edited down the massive amount of recorded material into the suite of six songs comprising the finished album. The music itself is nothing less than an incandescent mix of Jazz, Blues, Classical, Ambient, and deconstructed pop, and from the opening measures of "The Rainbow" with its Miles meets DeBussy feel, it's hard not to imagine the reaction at EMI when they finally received the advanced tape of the completed album. While the arc of Talk Talk's artistic evolution had often been quite dramatic from album to album, it is clear, as the ambient prelude of "The Rainbow" is pierced-through with bluesy guitar and an over-amped harmonica and Hollis' meditative vocals glimmer-forth, that Spirit of Eden is both unprecedented and musically important. EMI's response was predictable: the album wasn't commercial enough, so Hollis was asked to re-record and replace some material, something he steadfastly refused to do, and while he was at it, he also notified EMI that there would be no single, video or tour to promote the album. Eventually, Hollis relented on the first two, and "I Believe in You" was chosen to be edited down for release as a single complete with promotional video. The fact that this song is Hollis' paean to losing himself while in the throes of heroin addiction adds just one more ironic layer to EMI's handling of the album. The song itself is a Jazz-inflected slow burner that grows darker by the measure, and contains an absolutely gorgeous and unforgettable vocal turn by Hollis. Simply put, Spirit of Eden inhabits the same visionary, transcendent, and artistically uncompromising sphere as Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Albums like these are the rarest of gems because they are untethered from convention and expectation and unmediated by the interests of the marketplace. Hear this.
Spirit of Eden (2003 SACD Re-Issue)
1. The Rainbow (8:02)
2. Eden (7:40)
3. Desire (7:17)
4. Inheritance (5:24)
5. I Believe in You (6:16)
6. Wealth (6:44)