Chris Whitley
TERRA INCOGNITA · [ 1995 ] Sony / Work

01. - Lyrics - As Flat as the Earth (exp)
02. - Lyrics - Automatic
03. - Lyrics - Clear Blue Sky
04. - Lyrics - Weightless
05. - Lyrics - Power Down
06. - Lyrics - On Cue
07. - Lyrics - Immortal Blues
08. - Lyrics - Cool Wooden Crosses
09. - Lyrics - Still Point
10. - Lyrics - Gasket
11. - Lyrics - One Long Day
12. - Lyrics - Aerial
13. - Lyrics - Alien

CD Extra

--. Weightless (live video)
--. Power Down (live video)
--. Cool Wooden Crosses (live video)
--. Automatic (live video)
--. Interviews


The Musicians and other credits:

Chris Whitley - vocals, guitars, banjo and bass
Dougie Bowne - drums, deep and wide, keyboard, bass and lime green guitar solo on "Power Down"
Steve Almaas - bass on "Automatic", "Power Down", "Weightless" and "On Cue"
Melvin Gibb - bass on "Aerial" and "Still Point"
Matt Greenberg - bass on "Alien" and "Gasket"
Daniel Lanois - guitar solo on "Weightless"
Trixie Whitley - backing vocal on "Automatic"
Patricia Place - guitar solo on "Weightless"
Alan Gevaert - bass on "Clear Blue Sky"
Jessie Lee Montague (Jake) - backing vocal on "On Cue"
Louis Lepose Rasan Mo Domingo - guitar on "Alien"
Mike Watt - bass solo on "Gasket"
Jason Frangos - cello on "Alien"
Brady Blade - drum loop on "Aerial"
John 'Heartbeat' Seymour - organ donor on "Power Down"
Produced by Chris Whitley, Toby 'to the point' Wright, Mark Howard and Dougie Bowne.
Recorded by Mark Howard, assisted by Wayne Lorenz.

/ Press Reviews /

Brett Ratner

Okay, so this album came out in '96.

I don't care, because it is slightly annoying when I ask someone if they've heard of Chris Whitley and the reply is "Who?"

Terra Incognita is actually Whitley's third album on Sony's Work label (which also introduced Fionna Apple to the world). The alarmingly few of us who are enlightened to that which is Whitley are afraid this may be his last. Thus this record review is an effort to keep the C.W. flame alive.

Terra Incognita is a melting pot of sorts, which prevents it from being classified into a single style. The collection of tunes features joyfully chaotic guitars (in the vein of various Matthew Sweet recordings), earthy-but-groovin' bass and drums, haunting vocals and a country songwriter's flair for artfully spinning a tale of lost love. The thread that holds it all together is Whitley's slide work on his trusty Dobro and Les Paul Junior.

The eclecticism that makes Whitley so sonically satisfying is perhaps his undoing. He's too redneck for pop, too poppy for country, not pretentious enough for alternative and really too cool for all of it anyhow. But being too cool is hardly a consolation for sluggish record sales.

So drop this record in your CD player, and put on some headphones. "As Flat As The Earth" is the first track, which is really more of a one-minute intro than an actual song. Use this to whet your palate, so to speak. As the opening riff to the single "Automatic" rolls in, brace yourself for pop heaven. This is one of the catchiest tunes written since the Beatles. The irony is that it has a bitingly funny, un-"P.C." theme.

The third track, "Clear Blue Sky" is simply a jam. There's no other way to describe it. After "Sky"'s five minutes of hard groove, Whitley again switches gears with "Weightless," the saddest love song this side of The Cure. Rounding out this musical onslaught is "Power Down," which really defies description beyond the term "heavy." By this point (assuming you have ears) you should be left gasping for air and reaching for the remote to cue the CD back to track two. This is what I do anyway... over and over again.

The remainder of the album is more textured and moody, similar to Whitley's previous two records. Most of the Whitley fanatics I occasionally come across seem to prefer this facet of his musical personality, specifically the material found on his second album Din of Ecstasy. It doesn't do much for me, but it's to Whitley's credit that he can simultaneously reach individuals with completely disparate tastes. Hopefully, Sony can find a way to reach the people who are Whitley fanatics... but who just don't know it yet.

 

 

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