Donovan's Brain : Eclipse and Debris

Album Cover

As referred to in the review of Carelessly Restored Art, here we have Ron Sanchez's latest release from the band primarily driven by his good self and an assortment of other musicians. To remind those who haven't been paying attention, Ron was the producer behind Man's 1995 release Call Down The Moon, and was a big promoter of the band back in the seventies through his radio shows out of California.

Donovan's Brain are a fairly loose collective of musicians, and those found on Art are here again. But what will (or at least should) excite Man fans even more is the inclusion on the album of contributions from Ken Whaley and Richard Treece. This pair have clambered around the branches of the Man family tree, previously finding themselves in Man, Iceberg and Help Yourself; they currently make up the better part of Green Ray, as and when time permits.

Cymbal Stand is a longer workout of what appeared on the first album, a melancholy wail which includes some beautiful piano amongst the angst ridden guitars. Joey's In The Pouch is the first track to feature the Treece/Whaley, and the guitars, though a bit low in the mix to my ears, are insistent and hard to ignore. Two White Spiders is one of my favourites - heavier than much of the album, a great hook, and some good guitar - from Ron himself in this case.

There is something of a throwback to the sixties style in Pollyanna Disillusioned, which surprised me as it as another Treece/Whaley collaboration. It wouldn't have sounded out of place on Art. The same can't be said of Perky Pat, synth heavy and topped off with whispers and Hammond; perhaps the most experimental track on the album, it has echoes of Devo. As an experiment, it works. There is more experimentation on Still Waiting, Still Dreaming, but there is less confidence here - somehow it sounds not quite finished, a studio jam that got on to the album in error. There's further hesitancy about Central Services - the idea's there, but it needs some more work on it.

Whaley and Treece are back on Moon Shines. It's generally OK, but I can't help thinking a better mix would have helped. On Underdose, it sounds like it's Keith Richard and Charlie Watts that's Ron's got in the band - all dirty stoccato riffs and cowbell, it could have been an out take from Exile On Main Street. The final track, Tell Me, again features Whaley and Treece; there's a whole multitude of thrashing guitars here, and the track only really works for me in the quieter sections.

There's also a few synth based instrumentals on the album. These range from OK to excellent, Put The Bag Of Money sounding the most complete.

Carelessly Restored Art was an album firmly rooted in the sixties, with an added vaguely garage band sound. Eclipse and Debris moves out of that distant decade, but at times the rough edges are still there, but this doesn't detract from the album's overall quality; it enhances, rather than clashes with the more moody, synth driven pieces. While different from its predecessor, it is recognisable as coming from the same source. Ron has to be applauded for one thing if nothing else - at a stroke he's doubled the recorded output of Treece and Whaley compared to the last twenty years. I still thing the vocals are the weak link (sorry, Ron), but the musicianship can't be faulted. A good album.


Originally issued in 1999.

Available on Get Hip Recordings, GH-1080CD

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