Hidden Land [DualDisc]

The Hidden Land [DualDisc]

by Béla Fleck
     
 

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Banjo maestro Béla Fleck and his band have spent much of the last few years exploring "bigger is better" territory, piling on overdubs and calling in a posse of like-minded guests. They pull off that highway on The Hidden Land -- which is a decidedly more dirt-road-styled jaunt, filled with high with organic, live-in-the-studio performances of stripped-down

Overview

Banjo maestro Béla Fleck and his band have spent much of the last few years exploring "bigger is better" territory, piling on overdubs and calling in a posse of like-minded guests. They pull off that highway on The Hidden Land -- which is a decidedly more dirt-road-styled jaunt, filled with high with organic, live-in-the-studio performances of stripped-down songs. Fleck flexes his muscle more robustly here than he has in a while, conjuring up images of Appalachian hill country on the good-timey "Couch Potato," as well as sonic snapshots of more far-flung lands, as he does on "Chennai," which suggests the streets of Calcutta. As ever, the quartet evince bountiful good humor, which is both a blessing and a curse -- on "Subterfuge (Bond)," for instance, they trot out some all-too-obvious 007 riffs. Still, there's no disputing how instinctively these musicians intertwine -- the ensemble work on the Bach fugue that opens the disc is both pitch-perfect and persuasively emotive. And unlike ghosts of prog-rock past, the Flecktones don't rub listeners' noses in the fact that they're being cultured -- they simply set up a sonic buffet and invite 'em to graze to their hearts' content.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Nearly three years since the outrageous exercise in self-indulgence that was the three-disc Little Worlds, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones come back to the marketplace with The Hidden Land. The former outing was so excessive that Sony issued a single-disc sampler from the set hoping it would sell. Thankfully, the new set is a single disc, and for fans of the band there is plenty here to delight. The fusion of instrumental musics here -- jazz, bluegrass, funk, classical, and some global sounds is called by Fleck "serious Flecktones." It feels serious. For starters, the quartet dig into Bach's "Preludes and Fugues (No. 20 in A Minor") to kick things off. It's a classic piece of the Flecktones wearing the original enough to make it their own. It's entertaining only for the sound of Fleck's 1937 Gibson Mastertone banjo. Much more compelling is "Labyrinth," a winding, knotty journey through jazz and improvisation -- the funk undertones of the piece are carried by Victor Wooten's gnarly bass line. But even here, Future Man's "Synth-Axe Drumitar" and his vocals -- poorly aping Naná Vasconcelos' glorious wordless singing from Pat Metheny's earlier recordings -- are more than what's really necessary. What moves this cut is Jeff Coffin's wondrous tenor playing. "Kaleidoscope"'s knotty blend of bluegrass riffing between Fleck and Coffin is stomping and beautiful, though it gets bogged down in fusiony nonsense on the choruses. But the moving playing in the bridge between the aforementioned pair over the skittering acoustic drums and programmed Drumitar keeps it grounded even when the piece becomes more abstract toward the end. The lyrical abstraction on the ballad "Who's Got Three" is amorphous but eerie and beautiful. It slips directly into the nearly straight-ahead swinging jazz of the horribly titled "Weed Whacker." The musical ideas here are, as usual, endless, which doesn't make it a great record. There are simply so many things vying for attention, seeking to make themselves known here, that a few less would have made individual compositions stand out more. The wandering, perhaps meandering, minor-key Middle Eastern flavor of "Chennai" works well because it's not cluttered and has distinctly different phases. The funky "Subterfuge" is just plain boring, and "Misunderstood" is just a mess, a mishmash of half-baked ideas couched in a ballad. As the "Whistle Tune," closes the album with Fleck just wrangling his Celtic-styled banjo playing transcendentally with Coffin's whistles and Wooten's pared bassing atop a simple drum track, we are rooted once more into the basis of the Flecktones' musical universes, not their metaverse. It's not that complexity and a multiplicity of ideas is a bad thing; quite the opposite, but knowing when to reign them in and make the music sing is another thing. This record sings only in a couple of places. The rest is "serious Flecktones." Perhaps this determination is simply not for most of us. It's easy to accept that, especially when those serious Flecktones fans will be debating individual musical passages until the next album is released. [This DualDisc edition features the entire album in 5.1 Surround and PCM stereo, the short film Bring It Home, behind-the-scenes interviews and rehersal performances, a Q&A workshop with music students, and two live performances.]

Product Details

Release Date:
02/14/2006
Label:
Sony
UPC:
0828767730127
catalogNumber:
77301

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Béla Fleck   Primary Artist,Synthesizer,Banjo,Guitar,Electric Banjo
Jeff Coffin   Synthesizer,Clarinet,Flute,Keyboards,Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Human Whistle,Whistle (Instrument),Bells,sleigh bells,Singing Bowls,Conch Shell,Throat Singing
Victor Wooten   Synthesizer,Electric Bass,5-string Banjo
Future Man   Drums,Vocals,Synthaxe,Throat Singing,Drumitar,Zendrum

Technical Credits

David Bennett   Management
Béla Fleck   Arranger,Producer,Writer,Filmmaker
Victor Wooten   Arranger
Christopher Austopchuk   Art Direction
Richard Battaglia   Engineer
Robert Battaglia   Engineer
Sascha Paladino   Producer,Filmmaker

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