Another Green World is the third studio album by English musician Brian Eno, released by Island Records in September 1975. Produced by Eno and Rhett Davies, it featured contributions from several guest musicians including Robert Fripp, Phil Collins, and John Cale. The album marked a transition from the rock-based music of Eno's previous releases toward the minimalist sensibility of his late '70s ambient work. Employing tactics derived from his Oblique Strategies cards for guidance, the album utilized a variety of unconventional recording techniques and instrumental approaches, and made use of fewer lyrics.
Though the album failed to chart in the United States or the United Kingdom, Another Green World was initially met with high praise from critics. Contemporary reception of Another Green World has been very positive; several critics and publications have placed the album on lists of the top albums of all time.
Another Green World was recorded at Island Studios in London during the months of July and August 1975. Brian Eno originally viewed his new album as an experiment and entered the recording studio with nothing written or prepared beforehand. For the first four days in the studio, Eno failed to be productive. To look for new ideas, Eno turned to his instructional cards, the Oblique Strategies, and began coming up with new ideas as he did with his previous album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).
Some of the album credits for the instruments have fanciful names that describe the sound they make. The "Castanet Guitars" are electric guitars played with mallets and are electronically treated to sound something like castanets. The "Leslie piano" is an acoustic piano miked and fed through a Leslie speaker with a built-in revolving horn speaker. Eno described the "snake guitar" and "digital guitar" by stating "the kind of lines I was playing reminded me of the way a snake moves through the brush, a sort of speedy, forceful, liquid quality. Digital guitar is a guitar threaded through a digital delay but fed back on itself a lot so it makes this cardboard tube type of sound."
Like his previous two solo efforts, Eno had several guest musicians contributing to Another Green World. Unlike his previous albums, Eno worked on more solo material. Seven songs on the album have Eno playing all the instruments himself, including electronic and nonelectronic keyboards, guitars, and percussion. Among the guest musicians was Phil Collins, who played drums on Tiger Mountain and got along with Eno, which led to calling him and fellow Brand X bandmate Percy Jones to play on Another Green World. On recording the album, Collins recalled:
[Eno] gave us all a bit of paper, and we made lists from one to 15. Eno said 'No. 2, we all play a G; No. 7 we all play a C sharp'; an so on. So it was like painting by numbers...[Eno] used to love me and Percy; we'd go in and run through our dictionary licks and he'd record them and make a loop of them.
Robert Fripp, who worked with Eno on (No Pussyfooting) and Here Come the Warm Jets, performed the solo on "St. Elmo's Fire". Eno asked Fripp to improvise a lightning-fast guitar solo that would imitate an electrical charge between two poles on a Wimshurst high voltage generator. This was the basis for Eno crediting Fripp's solo on this track as "Wimshurst Guitar".
Another Green World represents a turning point in Eno's musical career. While his previous albums contained quirky rock songs, only five of the fourteen tracks on the album have lyrics. Music critic Jim DeRogatis called it an "ambient/art-pop" album. According to eMusic's Richard Gehr, the album's music veers from the guitar-oriented experimental rock of Eno's 1974 albums Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) to the synth-oriented ambient minimalism of his subsequent work. Its minimalist instrumentals are scattered among more structured art-rock songs. According to AllMusic's Steve Huey, most of the album has "paced instrumentals that, while often closer to ambient music than pop, are both melodic and rhythmic", and are accompanied by few pop songs, including "St. Elmo's Fire", "I'll Come Running", and "Golden Hours". The instrumental tracks explore a new kind of sound that is more quiet and restful, marking the change between Eno's earlier rock songs and his later instrumental works in which texture and timbre are the most important musical elements. Dave Simpson described the album as creating a "largely song-based electronic pop."
"Sky Saw" opens the album with the instruments constantly changing structure, except for one of the two bass parts which plays the same pattern throughout. Eno has re-used differently mixed instrumentations of "Sky Saw" for a track for Music for Films and a song for Ultravox's debut album which he would later produce. "Over Fire Island" has a jazz influence on the bass and drumming style. "In Dark Trees" and "The Big Ship" are two songs on which Eno plays all the instruments, namely the synthesiser, synthetic percussion and treated rhythm generator. The pulse of these songs is provided by the repeated rhythm coming from the rhythm box. These instrumental pieces and others like "Little Fishes" have been described as "highly imagistic, like paintings done in sound that actually resemble their titles".
To create the lyrics, Eno would later play the backing tracks singing nonsense syllables to himself, then taking them and forming them into actual words, phrases and meaning. This lyric-writing method was used for all his vocal-based recordings of the 1970s. The tracks that do feature lyrics are in the same free-associative style as Eno's previous albums. The humour in the lyrics has been described as "less bizarre than gently whimsical and addled".
Another Green World was released in September 1975 and did not chart in either the United Kingdom or the United States. The album's reception was for the most part very favourable. Henry Edwards of High Fidelity wrote positively of the album, claiming it to be Eno's "most accessible to date". Tom Hull of The Village Voice felt that, although it "wouldn't be fair to say that Another Green World is Eno's best album," the album is definitely "his easiest to love." Charley Walters of Rolling Stone found it a "major triumph" that Eno's creative risks "so consistently pan out", and said that it is "indeed an important record—and also a brilliant one". Negative reviews of the album focused on the lack of the rock songs from Eno's previous albums. Jon Pareles, writing in Crawdaddy!, found its electronic excursions less challenging than Eno's previous progressive rock songs and remarked, "This ain't no Eno record. I don't care what the credits say. It doesn't even get on my nerves." Lester Bangs of The Village Voice was lulled by much of the music and said that "those little pools of sound on the outskirts of silence seemed to me the logical consequence of letting the processes and technology share your conceptual burden". Robert Christgau, who originally gave the album an "A–" in his review for The Village Voice, admitted that he resisted the album at first, but ultimately grew to "love every minute of this arty little collection of static (i.e., non-swinging) synthesizer pieces (with vocals, percussion, and guitar)." He felt that its 13 pieces can be appreciated both individually and as a whole, and called the album "the aural equivalent of a park on the moon — oneness with nature under conditions of artificial gravity." In 1977, Another Green World was voted the 11th best album of 1976 in the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it second on his own list for the poll.
In 2004, Virgin Records began reissuing Eno's albums in remastered digipaks. Modern reception of Another Green World has been more unanimously positive. Steve Huey of AllMusic called the album "a universally acknowledged masterpiece" and "the perfect introduction to his achievements even for those who find ambient music difficult to enjoy." Chris Ott of Pitchfork hailed it as one of Eno's most important albums, and Q magazine wrote that it was "breathtakingly ahead of its time". J. D. Considine, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), said that Eno used the recording studio for the album "as an instrument, molding directed improvisations, electronic effects, and old-fashioned songcraft into perfectly balanced aural ecosystems". In his review for Blender, Douglas Wolk said that the audio clarity of the remastered edition "makes it easier to pay attention to every [song's] subtle complexities."
The album has made several top albums lists. Pitchfork placed the album at number ten on its list of greatest albums of the 1970s. In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album number 429 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2003, Blender placed the album on its list of "500 CDs You Must Own: Alternative Rock", stating that the album is "Experimental yet accessible, it’s exactly the kind of album that Eno devotees long for from him today".
The title track was used as the theme music for BBC Two television's arts series Arena.
The information regarding lists including Another Green World is adapted from Acclaimed Music, except where otherwise noted.
All songs written by Brian Eno.Side A
- "Sky Saw" – 3:25
- "Over Fire Island" – 1:49
- "St. Elmo's Fire" – 3:02
- "In Dark Trees" – 2:29
- "The Big Ship" – 3:01
- "I'll Come Running" – 3:48
- "Another Green World" – 1:38
- "Sombre Reptiles" – 2:26
- "Little Fishes" – 1:30
- "Golden Hours" – 4:01
- "Becalmed" – 3:56
- "Zawinul/Lava" – 3:00
- "Everything Merges with the Night" – 3:59
- "Spirits Drifting" – 2:36
Credits adapted from Another Green World back cover.