Mark Hollis: The More You Love
I had just met Steve. We sat across from one another at a table full of hi-fi enthusiasts, salesmen, writers, and family, where we enjoyed fine wine, pizza, and conversation. Steve struck me as a funny dude. He talked and talked and talked, meandering in circles and zig-zags, while I listened and wondered, Where the hell is he going with this?
Before too long, almost before I was ready, Steve would tie together all of his strings with one graceful, fluid thought, and everything would snap into sharp and lovely focus. The guy made a lot of sense.
We shared a love for Robert Wyatt“Anyone who likes Robert Wyatt has great taste in music,” I remember Steve sayingand I mentioned Stereophile’s plans for the new column. “The Entry Level” was just an idea at that point, and Steve offered tons of encouragement, support, and advice, which I greatly appreciated.
Just days later, I saw Steve again at Other Music. I was walking in as he was making his way out. He greeted me warmly, introduced me to the store manager, and suggested that Stereophile and Other Music work together in some way. (It’s no coincidence that Other Music now carries Stereophile on its newsstand.)
Before Steve walked over to the cash register, he reached into the CD racks, selected a specific disc, and asked me if I’d heard it. It was the Mark Hollis album.
Steve gave a concerned look. I went back to the LP racks while Steve turned to pay for his records. A few moments later, when Steve came over to say goodbye, he handed me the Hollis CD.
“This is for you. I think you’ll enjoy it.”
I was going to enjoy it, anyway, simply because it was such a thoughtful and unexpected gift, but I wasn’t ready for the power and beauty of the music. Listening to it is like eavesdropping on someone’s most personal and sacred thoughts. The music is tortured, conflicted, and sad, but also hopeful, irreverent, defiant. Most of all, it rings with honesty and passion. Mark Hollis whispers, mumbles, allows long lines of words to fade into nothing before crying out with everything that makes him human. There’s an eerie realism to all of the instruments, in fact. Guitar, percussion, harmonica, trumpet, piano, clarinet, flute, bassoonthey all sound honest and urgent, at times haunting in the background, at others leaping through the speakers and into the listening room. Phill Brown was the engineer. (JA has let me borrow Brown’s memoir, Are We Still Rolling?, and I’m eager to get to the sections on Talk Talk.)
I decided to use Hollis’s record as a reference in my review of the Emotiva ERC-2 CD player because it is such a beautiful piece of work, but also because I thought it was only available on CD. I'm committed to music, not formats.
I was very happily surprised, then, when just days after submitting my copy for the December issue, I walked into Other Music and saw on the New Releases wall a vinyl copy of Talk Talk’s last album, Laughing Stock, and right beside it, Hollis’s eponymous solo record. For the first time ever, these special albums are available on vinyl: Another gift, this time from the universeand Ba Da Bing Records. I, of course, snatched both records, and I’m now looking forward to hearing them on vinyl.
Before I can do that, however, I’ll fly to Denver for the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. And although Jason Victor Serinus's preview urges attendees to bring a USB stick to the show, I think I’ll bring the Mark Hollis CD.