❉ This is a box set for Pink Floyd aficionados and music lovers, brimming with surprises, writes Eoghan Lyng.
“These recordings hold a very special place for me in my musical life. Fictitious Sports developed from working with Mike Mantler, Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt… Profiles and White of the Eye were an extension of working on advertising and film soundtracks, which then developed into something more”- Nick Mason.
The prog world rejoiced in April 2018 when Nick Mason announced his intention to perform and tour with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, hoping to “capture the spirit” of the pre Dark Side of The Moon era. Fronted by Gary Kemp, this was a vindication of Mason’s influence, who, despite being the only constant member of Floyd, had a tendency to be forgotten in the wall of songs Roger Waters, Richard Wright and David Gilmour wrote and sang for the band. But Mason’s always been far more than Floyd’s drummer, as Unattended Luggage attests, this upcoming box set of Mason’s solo work.
When we write solo, we mean it loosely. Of the three albums listed here, the latter two Profiles (1985) and soundtrack album White of the Eye (1987) were recorded in collaboration with 10cc guitarist Rick Fenn (who would later work with Graham Gouldman on Wax and his solo albums) and were initially released as Mason + Fenn. Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports (1981) similarly, is as much Carla Bley’s work as Mason’s, as she took the publishing and co-produced the album with Mason. Mason, however, is present throughout, his fine timing and amicable nature present with all his collaborators.
“These recordings hold a very special place for me in my musical life” Mason explains. “Fictitious Sports developed initially from working with Mike Mantler, Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt on a couple of their projects, and benefited enormously from a whole crew of great musicians that I was introduced to by them at Grog Kill Studios in Woodstock. Profiles and White of the Eye were an extension of working with Rick Fenn on some advertising and short documentary film soundtracks, which then developed into something more”.
Of the three albums, Fictitous Sports is the most esoteric, opening with the batty Zappa-like Can’t Get My Motor To Start, driven by Mason’s mercurial drumming, jazzy and rocking on a speedily delightful pop piece (Mason himself has been an avid motor racer since the eighties). Bley writes and plays with accessible cerebral flair (a 180 degree turn-around from the political nature Roger Waters dispelled at this time), Boo To You Too and Siam simply simmer with sensual tenderness, Robert Wyatt (himself a drummer by trade) takes to the mike with bohemian casuality. Wervin’ and I’m A Mineralist are exercises in free form, with only guitar-centred Hot Legs reminiscent of a Pink Floyd song.
Then there’s Profiles which couldn’t have been written in any decade but the eighties. It has the drive and thriving nature of a Michael Mann project, opener Malta enjoyably led to mountainous drums and cabalistic guitars, Mason and Fenn sharing keyboard duties with the spacious sequentialism only this decade could pull off. Synthpop song Lie for A Lie is an enjoyable duet between David Gilmour and Maggie Reilly (singing with their ethereal ease), while Biblical rocker Israel is complemented by Danny Peyronel’s anthemic ringing (don’t expect Mason to play this song in 2018!).
The rest of the album is instrumental, and Mason plays with a looseness unheard on either of Floyd’s The Final Cut or A Momentary Lapse of Reason. There’s a ramble of swinging drums on Mumbo Jumbo, Rhoda is played with polite precision and patterns, whereas Mason discards the rule book on Black Ice entirely in a manner of erratic examples of dramatic drum choreography. Fenn and Mason borrow some tropes from their respective bands, by which the ten-minute genre weaving suite Profiles (Pts.1 and 2) is among their most original and inventive collaborations.
Of the three albums displayed here, Profiles is the best, while White of The Eye is the slightest. It sounds like what it is, a soundtrack to an eighties detective thriller, difficult to ascertain the musical cues without the visual cues to aid.
There are bluesy guitars and moments of cackling moments of rocking drums, but little to merit beyond easy listening. But it too features two outstanding moments of note; the first Prelude and Ritual is an ambient and beautiful moment of cerebral sophistication, while Discovery and Recoil is a spacey upward ride of solvent keyboards and gating guitars, both written with the marvelled magnetism of a Vangelis soundtrack of its ilk. Again, Mason’s musical muse is made more maintainable on an album of his doing and command.
This is a box set for Pink Floyd aficionados and music lovers, brimming with musical guises and surprises. And with Fictitious Stories and Profiles, there are two excellent albums which show Mason at his most insightful, musical and collaborative, proving he could be inventive whether playing lunar cycles or cycling his own work.
❉ ‘Unattended Luggage’ released through Warner Music, August 31, 2018. The individual albums ‘Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports’, ‘Profiles’ and ‘White of the Eye’ will all be available as a download and through streaming platforms.
❉ Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets will be touring through Europe in September. Tickets are on sale now from www.thesaucerfulofsecrets.com.
❉ Twitter: @nickmasondrums
❉ Facebook: www.facebook.com/NickMasonDrums
❉ Eoghan Lyng is a writer, part-time English teacher and full-time lover of life.