Jerry Harrison’s solo album Casual Gods landed in British record store racks in February 1998 – just a few weeks ahead of Talking Heads’ Naked, with whom Harrison had played keyboards and guitar since he left Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers twelve years earlier. In 2019, Talking Heads’ swansong and Harrison’s sophomore solo album are both 31 years old.
Casual Gods’ striking cover art photography comes from Sebastião Salgado, about which the sleevenotes read: “This is not a scene from a movie. These pictures were taken last year in Brazil. 50,000 men are digging for gold in a hole that was once a mountain”.
The music itself is notably less bleak, a blend of groovy art pop with supplementary guitar work from session legend Chris Spedding. Alex Weir (guitar) and the late Bernie Worrel (keyboards and synthesizers) also feature — two members of Talking Heads’ expanded (and funkier!) live line-up captured by Jonathan Demme for Stop Making Sense. Worrel was also a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic.
I’ve listened to Casual Gods every year since its release but only this year wondered why: what is it that pulls me back to this album over and over? Obviously, I like the music but it’s also the sound of this record that makes it a pleasure to listen to. It’s big, spacious and highly dynamic. The dynamic range database pegs it a VERY healthy 14. And that’s the CD!
Jerry Harrison’s Casual Gods is hardly a well-known release, especially in audiophile circles, and can be picked up at most used record stores for less than a fiver. This had me wonder what other obscure, leftfield releases might also satisfy the more discerning listener? My YouTube video sets the scene with the comments section open for suggestions on similarly dynamic releases but from the road less travelled:
Further information: Casual Gods on Apple Music