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January 15, 1970 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-01-15

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ay, January 15, l9


An Iris

Bell Adventure -recorded

The Iris Bell Adventure is
somewhat of a legend in its own
time. The trio has been playing
at the Rubaiyat continuously
since June, 1968 and in the last ,
18 months many people have
come to know the Adventure-
Iris Bell, Derek Pierson a n d
Butch Miles - very well. In
fact, I think part of Ann Arbor
regards the group as very pri-
vate property and t a k e s the
trio's achievements a n d hap-
penings as its own.
At roughly 10 p.m. in the Ru-
baiyat, Dec. 18, one such hap-
peningoccurred - the group's
first album arrived. The Music
Is the Message, recorded live at
the Rubaiyat. For M is s Bell,
Miles and Pierson it was the
culmination of many hours of
recording, rehearsing, editing,
and waiting.,
FhorIris .Bell Adventure en-
thusiasts it was a chance to be
part of the trio's achievement
- some had been in the au-
dience during recording ses-
sions -. and a chance to take
the Iris Bell Adventure home
with them every night.;
The record is eclectic - two
blues, three ballads, three rock
songs and five other numbers
I'll classify as belonging to the
Iris Bell Adventure syndrome.
And the record is original. Six
of the songs were w r i t t e n
by Miss Bell, Miles and Pierson.
One of the most remarkable
things about the Adventure is
the powerful sound the three
produce from a.piano, a bass
and the drums. Much of this
results from the trio's extensive
technical abilities, but I think
a larger part comes from Pier-
spn's 'very elaborate and finely
controlled sound system which
maximizes the potential of each
instrument. The impact of some
songs at the Rubaiyat is over-
whelming; the sound goes right
through your body and vibrates
the table, the glasses, the lights
and your blood.
The major drawback of the
record is that it fails to repro-
duce this tremendous sound. I
can only think to put it one
way - the record is like hors
d'oeuvres before t h e main
course. It gives you a taste of
what the Iris Bell Adventure
can do, but the honest-to-good-
ness meal is still live at the
One of the strengths of the
album, however, is that it al-
lows the listener to catch the
real talent of Miss Bell, Pierson
and Miles. At the Rubaiyat you
really have time to hear only
the total sound of any one song,
but on the record you can pick
out what each of the three is
doing and how it blends togeth-
- er.
Miss Bell begins the record
with a piercing vocal glissando
that slides into the first word of
the opening song, Drown in my
Own Tears, and from then on
she settles into some really
good, earthy blues.
When you hear the song at
the Rubaiyat you get engrossed
in Miss Bell's voice a n d the
song's overall effect, and con-
sequently, you miss the details
of the arrangement. But on the
record you can pick them up,
like Pierson's very clean bass
supplementing Miss Bell's p1-
ano. As she rests on a particular
note, for example, Pierson inter-
jects onq or two rapid figures
and then joins her at the next
I must stop here to talk abouz
something I think stands out
on'this song'and the entire re
cord but which too few people
realize. Nearly everyone is ex-
cited by Miles' virtuoso drums,
Pierson's intricate bass and
Miss Bell's fine voice. B u t I
don't think enough people no-
tice her piano playing.
(As a very frustrated, at-
tempted piano player I have a

sniall appreciation of what one's
10 fingers must do to play like
Miss Bell. Hence, my com-
Sometimes her piano is elus-
ive. You have to strain to hear
it, and sometimes it smacks you
in the ear whether you realize
it or not. What strikes me most
about her playing, though, is
the clarity and relaxedness of
all the moves she executes, be
they thick, heavy chords or
whispering t r i11 s. Whatever,
each note sounds at any tempo;
there is no muddiness, no half-
sounded notes and rarely a
Whatshername, the second
song on the album, is a quiet,
nostalgic number about a pro-
fessor happily married man try-
ing to remember "Whatsher-
name" who he thought he would
never forget. Miles talks and
sings the number (like the Rich-
ard Burton style in "Camelot,")

all polished and their hair is up
in curls . ..
The song, featuring Pierson
on guitar with Miles doing the
singing and drum accompani-
ment, continues along half-ser-
iously until the end when Miles
slows down and asks, "... vhen
us people overthrow the system
won't we be the next in line?"
Despite the somewhat omin-
ous ending, Ann Arbor Riot is
fun. The melody isn't corpli-
cated ;it grows on you and as
you pick up the lyrics the whole
song seems to improve.
The last number on the:first
side is all .Miles - his Evil
Woman. It's a fast moving,
exuberant song with lots of
Miles' exciting drum work and
compelling way of talk-singing
as he mulls over problems with
his woman.
Miles has an uncanny abil-
ity to arose tension by combin-
ing a seductive voice with tick-

ing drums. Maintaining a con-
stant beat in the background,
he asks in part of the song, "Do
you know what she says?"-
pause-"Do you know what she
does??"-pause-"Do you know
what she is???" You can find
the answer when you get the
The second side is the better
of the two, I think, because in
many spots it more accurately
captures the richness of t h e
group's sound. Miles' tune, Satis-
fied, which begins the side,
seems most like a rook song.
The song has the same en-
thusiastic Miles' beat and en-
ergy of Evil Woman plus two
or three nice jazz-like passages
from Miss Bell. The song goes
at a pretty rapid pace and oc-
casionally some of her moves
seem a little athletic, but every
note sounds clearly - enough
so that you.could reconstruct
the passage key if you have the
time and patience.
Miss Bell wrote the next song
-a ballad and I think one of
the loveliest numbers on the
record, Summer and Grass. The
extensive technical ability of
the trio is evident here and their
integration of sound is excel-
lent. Miss Bell plays a v e r y
delicate piano, often like the
soft chirping birds on a sum-
mer day. Miles seems to mas-
sage his cymbals and sustain a
gentle shimmering and as Pier-
son coibines lethargic bass
notes and quick runs, he meshes
perfectly with Miss Bell's piano.
The lyrics are like a poem
that tells a story -- a very poig-
nant story of the important ex-
periences of one woman's life.
In Turn Me On a quieter num-
ber in the rock idiom, her voice
shifts again. Now it seems sweet,
clear and happy. The t r i o's
harmony is pretty and well-bal-
anced, no one sticks out.
The last minute of the song


with great sensitivity, and near
the end of his reminiscing, I
think you can hear an honest
tear in his voice.
The song doesn't really have
much of a melody but as Miles
keeps a steady, faint drum go-
ing, Miss Bell and Pierson put
in some very flowing passages.
One of the weaker numbers on
the album is Jim Webb's Didn't
We. Miss Bell's voice come a
through clearly (though I have
heard her sing it better), pen-
sive and quiet this time rather
than tough and bluesy as it
had been earlier. Pierson's bass
playing, as well, provides an in-
teresting supplement to the
main melody, but I think the
whole song is more effective at
the Rubaiyat.'
Over Thirty, written pri-
marily by Miss Bell with help
from Miles and Pierson, seems
to be the least successful nun-
ber on the album and this is
extremely unfortunate. It is a
good, good song in its lyrics -
aimed, as the title says, at those
people over 30 who are sacrific-
ing instead of living their lives.
And it is exciting in its musical
arrangement. F o r example at
the 'Rubaiyat when Miles blaz-
es up, down, over and around
his drums, when the-three join
together in escalating harmony
and when Pierson's bass sounds
like a gigantic power mower,
the song rips through you and
everything shakes.
On the record, however, the
song is flat. All I can suggest, I
guess, is to hurry down to the
Rubaiyat and hear it live.
The first rock song on the al-
bum, Ann Arbor Riot, is anoth-
er Adventure original and was
written on the street during the
South University troubles last
June. Characterizing the early
jovial nature of last June's
events, the first line says "Hey
come along to the riot we just
might meet some girls/The
motorcycle gangs got their bikes

Montgomery Clift plays the 'son of a ruthless cattle
baron, John Wayne. The legend of the west as only
Hawks can portray it.
"John Wayne's all right, but why did they give it that name?"
--J. McCarthy
662-8871 75C AUDITORIUM
Hill Auditorium
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 21 at 8:30
Elements) ; TENT
TICKETS: $6.00, $5.50, $5.00, $4.00, $3.00
Tues., Jan. 20 at 8:30- $1 .00
Musical Society Office in Burton Tower-Ph. 665-3717


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