If you claim to know anything about Progressive Rock then you really should know Eddie Jobson. For all the music he’s been involved in and made significant contributions towards, he still seems to be the man in the shadows, a name on the back of other people’s album covers, if mentioned at all – Curved Air, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Phil Manzanera to name just a few.
After forming, releasing three albums, then disbanding U.K. (1977 – 1980) due to artistic disagreements, Eddie Jobson joined Jethro Tull for an album and tour before recording his first solo project – The Green Album (1983). By the way, U.K. were probably the last of the great Progressive Rock bands of the 70’s and their album Danger Money (1979) is to me the final swan-song of the original Prog era.
All the songs on The Green Album were written by Eddie Jobson and he plays all the keyboards, the electric violin (a green translucent perspex one, visible on the back cover) and sings the vocals. The other instruments were played by a combination of session musicians who appear under the band name of Zinc (including Gary Green of Gentle Giant – was he picked because of his name, I’m not sure!).
I have included this album in my blog because it is something a little special, a little haunting and wholly under-rated. The mood of the album is generally downbeat but it’s full of great melodies – a trend which seems to run through all of Eddie’s compositions and maybe why I find them so appealing. This darker mood would later have full expression on his second and quite different album – The Theme Of Secrets (1985).
Whereas The Theme Of Secrets would be an ambient and completely electronic instrumental album (composed and recorded on the digital Synclavier workstation – a rival to the Fairlight CMI), The Green Album is definitely a rock album. It’s sound reminds me of a combination of Saga’s Worlds Apart album and Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army. It is a strange synth-pop/prog-rock hybrid and although there were singles it never really took off – maybe if it had been released a few years earlier it would have made more of an impact.
In classic prog rock style it is supposed to be a concept album, although it is very difficult to define exactly what the story is. My reading of it is to do with a heavily polluted and therefore green-smog filled dystopian world, there is some sort of revolt and the character (if you can call the point of view of the album a character) either finds, or mentally retreats, into a gleaming utopian ‘mirror world’ – a reflection of past ideals, the world as it should have been. If you have any other interpretations I’d love to hear them…
There are a number of standout tracks which regularly pop into my mind – these include Resident, Easy For You To Say, Green Face, Listen To Reason and the main single, Turn It Over, which was released with a video that could not have been recorded in any other decade than the 1980’s! Easy For You To Say has a wonderfully melancholic synth lead, which is lifted by a rising bass line half way through and emphasised with great effect right near the end when the drums kick in.
It is not a perfect album, other reviews criticize the limited range and quality of the vocal, which I can understand, Eddie Jobson is not a great singer in the usual sense, but it is one of those albums where it’s limitations work to its advantage – it actually feels dystopian. The range of melodies and overall musicianship more than make up for any possible deficiencies. I find it incredible that in our age of accessibility to all forms of music, no matter how obscure, that this album is not available on CD or as a download (there was a release of the album on CD in the early 90’s, which now commands high prices). It deserves to be more widely available and certainly better known than it currently is.
On the album’s inner sleeve it states that ‘Green – the first Zinc album – completed in March 1983′. This coupled with a line in Listen To Reason that says “Green is now the pink is next” prompted speculation that there would be a follow-up called The Pink Album. It never materialised and there has been much speculation about whether any songs were written or recorded – there was a Jobson/Zinc Info news letter which tantalizingly states that ‘Eddie is writing material for the next Zinc album’! It also states that future news letters will include ‘Green album lyrics for those of you who bought the cassette, complete with an explination by Eddie of the concept of the album…and more!’ It would be very intetresting to see that second newsletter if it was ever published!
If Eddie Jobson is listening – maybe 2013 (30 years after the release of The Green Album) it’s about time The Pink Album materialised…