The Friday Morning Listen: Thomas Dolby – The Flat Earth (1984)

I like this idea: that on any given evening there’s a decent chance that there’s a man on the eastern coast of England, sitting in the wheelhouse of his refurbished 1930′s era lifeboat, creating works of art in the studio that he’s had installed there. Part of me is attracted to this notion just because of the sheer coolness of the boat — I’m not a boat person myself, but I’ve always had a dream of buying an old railroad car and fixing it up for use as a writing studio. No, it’s more than that. Comfort can be drawn from becoming aware that you’re not alone, that there are others out there who care about something other than the latest sports scores, political stupidity, and the tragedy of Scarlett Johansson’s nude photos.

Of course, I got to thinking on this because of recent Something Else! interviews with musicians Bill Frisell and Thomas Dolby. Here we have two people who really care about music. But don’t all musicians care about music? Sometimes that’s hard to figure, what with images and egos and the like. Couple that with what seems like society’s disinterest in new music — raise your hand if you know more than one person who’s broadened their listening horizons past their 21st birthday — and it can feel like music has been relegated to history’s waiting room.

But then Frisell and Dolby show up and shine a light on a different view, one that lives outside of the mainstream and isn’t drained of color and shape by the events of the day. Well OK, they didn’t really just show up. I’ve been listening to Frisell for decades (going all the way back to the first Lyle Mays solo record and Frisell’s Lookout For Hope) and I definitely had my copy of The Golden Age Of Wireless back in the day. While Wireless had Dolby’s breakthrough hit, it was The Flat Earth that resonated.

It’s great to see that Dolby is still trying to break new ground. That he’s conjuring up these ideas in that boat/studio makes them all the more interesting. Hmmm … maybe it’s not too late for that railroad car …

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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