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Week 71 | The Sacred Squall of Now (1995)

I came across the song, “The King of Stanford Hill,” during 2016, when I was posting a song-a-day tribute to Bowie.  I had never heard the song before, or even heard of it, but it turned out to be Bowie’s earliest collaboration with guitarist Reeves Gabrels.  I posted on Facebook, that I liked the song despite not being a fan of Gabrels.  What I meant is this: I mostly knew of Gabrels as a guitarist for Bowie, especially during the Tin Machine period, but didn’t really know of him beyond that.  I didn’t have any Reeves Gabrels albums and didn’t really know much about him aside from his work with Bowie.

So wouldn’t you know it, Reeves Gabrels saw my post and commented on it (and then responded to some of my subsequent posts).  Of course, I was embarrassed by my choice of words, and as kind of a penance began paying more attention to Gabrels.  My first task was to track down, “The Sacred Squall of Now,” which was the album on which “Stanford Hill” appeared.

The album is a pretty good rock album, featuring Gabrels’ distinctive guitar sound.  In addition to “Standford Hill,” the album features another song associated with Bowie, “You’ve Been Around,” which Bowie co-wrote and performed on, “Black Tie White Noise.”  It’s another pretty good song.  The astute observer will wonder how “Stanford Hill” could be the first collaboration between Bowie and Gabrels if Bowie co-wrote and recorded, “You’ve Been Around” with Gabrels two years earlier that this album was released, and had been working with him as early as 1989 with Tin Machine.  That’s because Bowie recorded the vocals used on this song for an earlier, unreleased version of “Stanford Hill” before.

Gabrels’ guitar playing sounds familiar (he performed on ten other albums with Bowie), but his voice does not.  He sounds more like Neil Young than Bowie.  On, ‘You’ve Been Around,” he omits Bowie’s mid-song, “Ch-ch-change.”

Anyway, these two songs are nice additions to an album that is pretty satisfying all together.  I probably would have never encountered it but for the Bowie connection, but I’m glad I did.  How many pretty good albums are out in the word that’s I will never hear?  Probably thousands.  Anyway, I’ve subsequently seen Gabrels perform without Bowie (as part of the set, he perfumed, “Bus Stop,” one of my favorite Tin Machine songs).  And I bought another of his albums, “Reeves Gabrels and His Imaginary Friends.”  So now I can say I’m a fan.

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