Today, though he's hardly a cult persona, Jerry Harrison has failed to be recognized as a crucial figure in the history of punk rock, a portion of the music which influenced it, and the styles which had grown out of punk more than 15 years later. Best known as the keyboard player and occasional guitarist of Talking Heads during the 1980s, Harrison had begun his career ten years before, playing with Jonathan Richman's seminal Modern Lovers during the early '70s. He recorded several solo albums while on occasional hiatus from Talking Heads in the '80s, but when the band disintegrated in the late '80s, Harrison resumed his busy production schedule, working with some hot alternative acts. .....N'Joy
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Jeremiah Griffin Harrison was born on 21 February 1949 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has a long history of playing in bands, beginning at High School in Milwaukee with a group called The Walkers. Jerry graduated and moved east to attend Harvard University. There he formed a band called Albatross, in September 1967. They were all students and did some original numbers, through mostly they relied on Steve Miller and Jimi Herdrix songs. The band, with Ernie Brooks playing bass, lasted two years, playing at parties and college dances in the Boston/Cambridge area. It folded in May 1969, when college broke up for the summer, but singer Jim Mahoney and Ernie Brooks went on to form Catfish Black with a number of other musicians. This band lasted from July '69 to July '70.
The next move was for Ernie Brooks and Jerry Harrison to re-unite, which they did in September 1970, to form a band called The Eagles. They lasted two months, finally splitting in November 1970. Still in the Boston area, Jerry and Ernie ran into a guy named Jonathan Richman at a party and Richman began a lengthy campaign for them to join a band with him. It was to be called The Modern Lovers.
In the spring of 1972, they found themselves out in Los Angeles recording a demo for Warner Brothers with John Cale producing it. After a number of legal complexities, this set of demos was released in 1976 on Beserkley records, long after Jerry had left the Modern Lovers. Towards the end of Jerry's stint with the band, he decided to pick up the guitar "because I got frustrated with Johnathan's playing". In the end, Jonathan was getting too crazy for the band and the original line-up of The Modern Lovers broke up in March 1974, having survived for exactly 3 years. Jerry returned to Boston from LA and got a job teaching at Harvard.
Upon the dissolution of The Modern Lovers, Harrison joined up with songwriter Elliott Murphy for the album Night Lights (1976) and its associated tour; brief tenures with a handful of other bands followed, but ultimately he chose to resume his study of architecture at Harvard. His schooling was soon interrupted a second time by an invitation to join Talking Heads, and after completing one more semester Harrison was lured, once and for all, into the life of a professional musician. By the time of his membership, the trio configuration of Talking Heads had already established themselves on the New York City club circuit and released the single Love Goes to a Building on Fire on Sire Records; but it was as a four-piece that the band's popularity expanded to an international scale, particularly with the release of their debut full-length Talking Heads: 77 and the single Psycho Killer.
It wasn't till April 1976 that Jerry first saw Talking Heads play at a concert in Boston. He was impressed: "I saw something in them and I knew straight away. I saw what the group needed: me !". The first time Jerry played with the band was in September 1976, at the lower Manhattan Ocean Club.
During a break from band activity in 1981, Harrison recorded his first solo effort The Red and the Black, an album which featured contributions from guitarist Adrian Belew, former P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell and vocalist Nona Hendryx (all participants in the expanded Heads line-up that had recorded Remain in Light). The release was not given as much attention as his bandmate's extra-curricular projects (David Byrne's Catherine Wheel score and his Brian Eno collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth's album as Tom Tom Club), and it would be six years before the appearance of his second solo album Casual Gods (1987).
The interim between the two was primarily filled by his work on three further studio albums and two film projects with Talking Heads, although 5 Minutes -- a one-off recording with Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins working under the name Bonzo Goes to Washington -- was issued in 1984. During this period Harrison also launched a parallel career as a record producer, helming sessions for The Blind Leading the Naked by The Violent Femmes, Milwaukee by Elliott Murphy, and producing several tracks for the Jonathan Demme film Something Wild (all three of which took place between 1985 and 1986).
After the release of the Talking Heads' final album Naked in 1988, the focus of Jerry Harrison's activities shifted to his production work (although a third solo album Walking on Water and its associated tour were realized in 1990). In the 90s his credits (and industry standing) as a producer grew to considerable proportions through involvement with platinum-selling releases by acts such as Live, Crash Test Dummies, The Verve Pipe, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. His extensive resume also included albums by Poi Dog Pondering (Volo Volo, 1991), Black 47 (Home of the Brave, 1994), Fatima Mansions (Lost in the Former West, 1995), Rusted Root (Remember, 1996) and Bijou Phillips (I'd Rather Eat Glass, 1999).
A short-lived musicial reunion with Frantz and Weymouth came about in 1996 when the three formed The Heads, a project originally intended as a Talking Heads reunion and then altered when Byrne refused to participate; consequently, the group's sole album No Talking, Just Head made use of several replacement vocalists ranging from Debbie Harry to Andy Partridge. A proper reunion of the full band did eventually take place (although only for a single evening) on the occasion of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Harrision has since continued to concentrate on his career as a producer for other artists, in addition to maintaining his role as Chairman of the Board for Garageband.com (an internet music resource he co-founded in 1999).
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While the myth has been widely propagated that David Byrne was the sole creative presence of any consequence among his Talking Heads cohorts, The Red and the Black makes perhaps the strongest case against such a claim. Jerry Harrison, no musical novice by any stretch (check out his work with the early Modern Lovers), proves his formidable talent as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter for the first time in this close-up. There's little doubt that Harrison's debut is informed most directly by the last few Talking Heads albums, particularly the genre-defining Remain in Light. The polyrhythmic exercises, spoken word interludes, and Enoesque knob twiddling are standard parts of Harrison's palette. He's also free to indulge in some impressive keyboard pyrotechnics, much of which hints at the arena funk of Stop Making Sense. Denser, more abrasive, and yet more musical than Remain in Light, The Red and the Black mines the same musical terrain, but it does so with more urgency and focus. While David Byrne sounded like a man suffocating under the weight of the modern world, Harrison takes a more sober, straightforward approach. He's able to discriminate the desirable parts from the undesirable, and to celebrate the whole.
While Byrne's persona was strictly that of an observer, Harrison isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. His baritone warble may lose pitch or escape as a helpless bark on occasion, but there's warmth and humanity to his timbre, a yearning to connect rather than to distance. This is reflected most immediately in Harrison's no-nonsense pep talks that pop up in the middle of a few songs, just when the intensifying rhythms and synth lines become almost too cacophonous to bear. "Have you ever been in a traffic jam?," he inquires in "Slink." "Have you ever needed a gram? I have, but I got over it." When Harrison shifts the focus from third person to second, the effect is jarring and surprisingly effective. On "Magic Hymie" he grows more impatient with us: "There's a way out of that corner you painted yourself into...you gotta decide you wanna do it, and then you're just gonna do it." Throughout much of the album, Harrison continues to lay heavy condemnation upon modern attitudes of helplessness and irresponsibility. Modern, particularly urban, life has its pitfalls, he seems to say, but we're all equipped to deal with them if we accept some accountability. Besides the relentless attack of fired-up synthesizers and frenzied rhythms, Harrison incorporates a cast of soulful female background vocalists, many of whom would end up on the next Talking Heads record and following tour. Not surprisingly given Harrison's brainy and self-conscious approach, the singers add little soul, but serve rather as a Greek chorus, repeating Harrison's lyrical motifs and bringing substantial drama to his already tense and paranoid compositions. Elsewhere, on "Worlds in Collision," he throws in samples of barking hounds and Hitlerian rally cries to punctuate the monotone din of the rest of the song. The Red and the Black more than holds its own against the rest of Talking Heads' oeuvre, and shows where the band could have gone, had they not opted for a more minimalistic approach later in their career. As a solo project, Harrison's debut is phenomenal. The album's complex and funky musical style has aged impressively, as have Harrison's observations on the modern condition.
Jerry Harrison - The Red And The Black (flac 254mb)
01 Things Fall Apart 4:58
02 Slink 4:17
03 The New Adventure 5:05
04 Magic Hymie 4:48
05 Fast Karma / No Questions 3:55
06 Worlds In Collision 5:03
07 The Red Nights 4:03
08 No More Reruns 4:23
09 No Warning, No Alarm 3:35
Jerry Harrison - The Red And The Black (ogg 104mb)
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With Talking Heads having split, guitarist Jerry Harrison released his second solo effort with 1987's Casual Gods. In addition to playing guitar, keyboards, and singing, Harrison also produced the release which featured players like Bernie Worrel on keyboards and Chris Spedding and Robbie McIntosh playing guitar. Harrison's vocals have a quality similar to David Byrne and the music is reminiscent of Fear of Music-era Talking Heads. "Rev It Up" was an AOR hit and deservedly so. The song lives up to its name with a funky, loose groove, snaky guitar, and throbbing bass. "Man With a Gun" is just one of many great lyrics on Casual Gods with a series of wry observations ("A pretty girl can walk anywhere/All doors open for her") over a moody rhythm punctuated by guitar twitches. Casual Gods is a pleasure for Talking Heads fans, but manages to stand on its own.
Jerry Harrison - Casual Gods (flac 343mb)
01 Rev It Up 4:10
02 Song Of Angels 3:36
03 Man With A Gun 4:39
04 Let It Come Down 4:53
05 Cherokee Chief 4:42
06 A Perfect Lie 4:29
07 Are You Running? 3:55
08 Breakdown In The Passing Lane 4:36
09 A.K.A. Love 4:23
10 We're Always Talking 4:53
11 Bobby 4:04
12 Bobby (Extended Mix) 6:58
Jerry Harrison - Casual Gods (ogg 138mb)
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Jerry Harrison was so impressed with the performance of his backup band on his 1988 tour that he brought them back around to share billing on his third album, Walk on Water. It's ironic, then, that none of his star players and partisans feature audibly on the recording. The soulful backing of vocalists Dollette McDonald and Nona Hendryx creep into the mix from time to time, as does Bernie Worrell's blistering keyboard work, but it's clear that Harrison has chosen Walk on Water, his first post-Talking Heads album, to be a stylistic departure from his earlier works. For one, the dense, syncopated textures from his previous albums have given way to a significantly more laid-back and monorhythmic feel. No doubt Harrison felt a simpler, pop-oriented approach would seem less self-conscious than his tense, meticulous early material. Tension, however, has always been an important quality in Jerry Harrison's music. Without it, his songs suffer here, as listenable but vaguely unremarkable tunes. Harrison brings his political activism to the fore, too, most notably in "I Cry for Iran" and "Cowboy's Got to Go." Unfortunately, the lyrics come across heavy-handed and lack personality, hardly benefiting from the sparser production. It's only when Harrison truly lets his guard down that Walk on Water succeeds. A handful of surprisingly tender ballads manage to buoy the album up from mediocrity. "If the Rains Return" is an affectionate ode to a lover with a lush tropical backdrop, while the exquisite lullaby "Sleep Angel" seems to channel Chris Isaak with its silvery steel guitar and husky vocal delivery.
Jerry Harrison - Walk On Water (flac 362mb)
01 Flying Under Radar 3:49
02 Cowboys Got To Go 4:52
03 Kick Start 3:51
04 I Don't Mind 3:29
05 Sleep Angel 6:05
06 I Cry For Iran 6:01
07 Confess 3:10
08 Never Let It Slip 3:18
09 Facing The Fire 4:35
10 If The Rain Returns 4:23
11 The Doctors Lie 5:39
Jerry Harrison - Walk On Water (ogg 136mb)
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