[Review] Adrian Belew: Desire of the Rhino King (1991)

A mishmash of Adrian’s first three albums masquerading as a greatest hits compilation.

Kronomyth 5.5: Odd save, the Rhino King.

This is a strange beast: a digitally remastered compilation/sampler from Adrian Belew’s three Island records. Despite a generous selection that reprises nearly half of each of those albums, the choices (selected by Adrian himself) are sometimes baffling. Surely “Stop It,” “Another Time” and “I Wonder” belong with his best work, right? The track order is equally confusing, beginning with “The Final Rhino,” an interesting but wholly directionless instrumental. “Swingline” would have kicked things off on a brighter, bouncier note.

Dividing Desire of the Rhino King into three sections (eight tracks each from the first two albums, five from the Tail sessions) doesn’t help. Honestly, the songs and instrumentals from those albums are interchangeable (excepting that the third album was more about ethnic sounds and altered pitch than animal emulators). If you own the Island albums (and I do), Desire of the Rhino King is completely unnecessary. The lone addition of “Joan Miro etc.” is just three more minutes of weirdness you can live without and the digital remastering doesn’t make that much of a difference. If you haven’t heard the Island years, better to spend your money on the twofer repackage of Lone Rhino and Twang Bar King (Beat Goes On, 2009).

Again, I have to wonder what kind of relationship Adrian and Island had to allow yet another commercially challenged animal to slip into the mainstream market. For all I know, they’re working on a compilation of instrumental outtakes from his first three albums right now. I never saw his early albums as “difficult,” but Desire of the Rhino King takes pains to make them seem that way. Oh well, maybe Atlantic will do a better job of it someday with Inner Pink Daddy or whatever.

The Songs

1. The Final Rhino (1:24)
2. The Lone Rhinoceros (3:57)
3. Big Electric Cat (4:51)
4. The Momur (3:45)
5. Hot Sun (1:29)
6. The Man In The Moon (3:45)
7. Swingline (3:25)
8. Adidas In Heat (2:44)
9. Fish Head (4:30)
10. The Ideal Woman (4:08)
11. Sexy Rhino (0:37)
12. Twang Bar King (1:26)
13. Paint The Road (Adrian Belew/Bill Janssen) (3:19)
14. She Is Not Dead (4:41)
15. The Rail Song (5:39)
16. Ballet For A Blue Whale (4:44)
17. The Gypsy Zurna (3:03)
18. Joan Miro’s Procession Through The Insides of a Purple Antelope Across A Sea of Tuna Fish (3:03)
19. Portrait of Margaret (4:00)
20. Laughing Man (5:28)
21. Guernica (2:00)

All songs written by Adrian Belew unless noted.

The Players

Adrian Belew (guitars, lead vocals, drums, percussion), Christy Bley (keyboards, vocals), Bill Janssen (sax, vocals), Clif Mayhugh (bass, vocals) with Audie Belew (piano on 1), Larrie Londin (drums). Produced by Adrian Belew; engineered by Rich Denhart, Gary Platt; executive produced by Stan Hertzman.

The Pictures

Cover concept by Adrian Belew. Photography by Stan Hertzman, Chris Covatta, Christine Rodin. Typesetting by Cindy Johnston.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc and cassette on November 5, 1991 in the US (Island, 510 518-2/I4-10518).

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