In 1976, Phil Manzanera, of the temporarily disbanded Roxy Music, got together with his ex-bandmate Brian Eno (then still going just by Eno) to form a new band for a series of live shows. Dubbed 801, from an Eno lyric, the group included several members of the prog scene and young drummer Simon Phillips who would go on to be one of the premier session players in rock and jazz. The material came primarily from Eno and Manzanera's solo work as well as containing a pair of classic covers, cleverly reworked. Most of the live set (and resulting album) alternates between instrumental and vocal tracks with Eno singing lead. With everything Eno has accomplished in the years since, and with the reputation that has grown up around him, this album seems like an oddity to look back on. This is primarily a prog/fusion group and it may seem like heresy to some to hear a few of Eno's classic songs performed in such a fashion. But at the time, they were all part of the same scene and it's great to hear this excellent material performed by a highly talented group of musicians, even if Eno claimed to be a "non-musician."
801 Live may not be the first record that comes to mind when discussing the long and varied careers of Eno and Manzanera. It is somewhat of a relic from the time when prog and glam were fading but punk had yet to assert itself. It's essential listening not just for Roxy/Eno/Manzanera fans, but fans of prog, fusion and art rock.
- Adam Reshotko