Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
For his second solo record, Eno devised a concept record about China – the title comes from a Chinese propaganda film. While his other records dip into glam, funk and ambient, Taking Tiger Mountain is restricted mostly to sluggish mid-tempo rockers. There’s a consistent band playing throughout, and the dynamic contributions of guests like Robert Fripp are missed. The core group includes Manzanera (who is also credited with arranging and production) and Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt on percussion and backing vocals. Phil Collins plays on ‘Mother Whale Eyeless’ while the Portsmouth Sinfonia, a notoriously inept classical ensemble whom Eno produced, guest on ‘Put A Straw Under Baby’. There are also guest choruses of backing vocals, giving some of the tracks an off kilter, sing-along feel. Highlights include the dynamic ‘Third Uncle’, based around some impressive bass work from Brian Turrington, and the slow trippy ‘The Fat Lady of Limbourg’, where Andy Mackay contributes some oddly eerie horn lines. The tunes that vary most from the formula are the oddly lullaby like ‘Put A Straw Under Baby’ and the title track, which starts as a soothing piano instrumental before opening out into another perverted sing-along. Manzanera spits some nasty leads in ‘The True Wheel’, which provides the name for Manzanera and Eno’s side project (“we are the 801s”). If it wasn’t overshadowed by the exceptional albums that surround it, it’d possibly score more highly.