News

Sounds


Reviews - Mark Eitzel

Uncovered: 22 musical gems

Everyone has a favourite song that no one else seems to have heard of. A selection of modern music luminaries reveal theirs:

Pete Paphides, chief Rock Critic for 'The Times'

Mark Eitzel - 'Love's Humming' (from ' The Ugly American')

This is the last song on an album Eitzel made with a group of Greek folk musicians. It's an English version of a song by Manolis Famellos about the capacity of love to throw life off course. The recording has a lovely, surging quality about it – a rapture in its purest sense. Eitzel sounds outside himself in a way he rarely does elsewhere in his work. Of 8,000 songs on my iTunes this is the most played.

THE INDEPENDENT – 11/01/2008

 

MARK EITZEL

" The Ugly American "

The Ugly American is the result of the collaboration of Mark Eitzel, the composer and arranger Manolis Famellos, and a group of Greek traditional musicians. Together they revisit some of Mark and American Music Club's most acclaimed songs. This might have been a dangerous business, given the extremities of passion felt for much of that canon; though the bottom line has to be, they are his songs and he can do what he likes with them. As it is, it turns out to be an inspired move; a meeting made made in heaven (or possibly Mount Olympus). The settings are absolutely perfect. Mark's voice, always on the edge of emotional overload, is complemented perfectly by the richness and intensity of the traditional instruments. The strings haunt on the opening " Western Sky ". The urgent pipes and perhaps reeds on " Here They Roll Down " remind us of Cale's viola on " The Black Angel's Death Song ", and then later they drift and slide beautifully into " Nightwatchman ". Other songs happily revived are " Last Harbor ", " Will You Find Me " and " Jenny ". There's also one new song, " What Good Is Love " and as a closer a cover of Famellos's " Love's Humming (Black Love) ". All quite,gorgeous.

NICK WEST

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

****

GANGLY, balding and gloomy, Mark Eitzel was never star material. His awkwardness doesn’t even place him in the charismatic misfit niche occasionally filled by a Jarvis Cocker or a Morrissey. He is, however, one of America’s finest songwriters, which is why we find him, many years after the demise of his great band American Music Club, still making music for a faithful core audience who don’t care about looks. The Ugly American - a typically self-deprecating Eitzel title - is unlikely to win him new fans, but its a good introduction to his work, being a selection of his best-loved songs beautifully re-recorded with a group of Greek musicians. The arrangements do wonders for what were once Eitzel’s most heart-wrenching tales; Will You Find Me and Last Harbor sound almost jaunty. Jenny, though, would break your heart even if played on a kazoo.

SCOTSMAN - Andrew Eaton

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

4/5

The Ugly American could be one of the year’s most surprising little treats although on paper, it shouldn’t work. Towards the end of 2001, Eitzel was invited to lend his superb vocals to a re-recording of some of the finest songs from his solo and American Music Club albums. Nothing noteworthy thus far, until you learn that the sessions were to be with Greek traditional musicians in their sunny homeland! For months, I have been anticipating some kind of freak, a novelty, a party piece but to my amazement, fragile revered classics such as Jenny, Last Harbour and Western Sky stretch and yawn themselves into renewed animation and really benefit from the fresh attention lavished upon them. Only one song, Will You Find Me, seems to have lost its way but for the rest, the original pathos remains but with the addition of a warm optimism supplied by uplifting but dignified arrangements. A marriage made on Mount Olympus? Very likely.

BIG ISSUE – Jane Oriel

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

***

The former American Music Club leader has reworked some of the best songs from his 15-year career -with added sunshine. The old miserablist has decamped to sunny Greece, hooked up with some local musicians and, under the guidance of Greek composer and producer Manolis Famellos, delved into his back catalogue and put songs such as Jenny, Last Harbour and Western Sky in a new light. Bouzoukis, flutes and other traditional instruments flicker through the arrangements, adding a Mediterranean melancholy to Eitzel's songs, and conjuring up quiet, reflective sunsets outside a lonely taverna. A good album for knocking back the ouzo after you've been dumped for a Greek waiter."

IRISH TIMES – Kevin Courtney

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

Acropolis Now: Greek-American versions of eight old Eitzel songs, plus one new one and a cover version.

In November 2001, Eitzel accepted an invitation to make an EP with composer-arranger Manolis Famellos and an orchestra's-worth of local musicians. Mark Eitzel and the birthplace of tragedy: it makes sense. By the end, they'd produced this ten-song album, mostly reworkings of old Eitzel songs. As Leonard Cohen discovered years before, there's nothing - aside from Jewish music and Scott Walker - as melodramatically yet elusively tragic as traditional Greek music. The trembling, stuttering bouzouki, like a socially dysfunctional mandolin; the dark piercing pipes; the grandiose, almost pompous strings. Naturally it suits songs like Western Sky (swooping serenade of strings; rich low voice), Jenny (rich textures; acoustic guitar) and Last Harbor (lushly sad) perfectly. The new Eitzel song What Good Is Love, with mainly Greek strings and furious percussion, is nice; the Famellos cover, Love's Humming, with traditional British folk feel and crucifixion images, slightly less so.

MOJO – Sylvie Simmons

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

For the love-weary, self-deprecating Mark Eitzel, commitment has never been easy. Since the break-up of his band 12 years ago, the ex-American Music Club frontman has been purging his broken soul to anyone who’ll listen, but sonically he just can’t settle down. His last proper album, 2001’s excellent " The Invisible Man ", found the formerly technophobic singer-songwriter flirting skilfully with samples and beats. With " The Ugly American " – which features nine reworked classic Eitzel songs from both his AMC days and solo albums plus a newie – belief in his new partnership requires a larger leap of faith. Eitzel’s shagging an entire traditional Greek orchestra – bouzouki player and all. Metaphorically speaking, of course. This is not the most obvious coupling, but it works. Traditional Greek music is, in a sense, like Eitzel’s: dense, lovelorn and dramatic. But there’s nothing maudlin about these songs. In fact, the glorious melancholic shimmer of the orchestra’s lush Eastern European instrumentation brings a strange, juxtaposed, bittersweet warmth and radiance to Eitzel’s heartache. Twinkling mandolins, strings and floating flutes colour Eitzel’s half-spoken phrases while " Deliverance "-style bouzoukis add brightness and urgency to his sombre words. On stand-out track, " Here They Roll Down ", clawing clarinets squawk exotically over electronic beats, while relentless, quavering rhythms fill " Nightwatchman ", and electric guitars and cellos cry on the emotion-drenched "What Good Is Love ". Like all of Eitzel’s loves, this one probably won’t last. But it’s beautiful affair nonetheless.

TIME OUT - Alexia Loundras

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

8/10

Mark Eitzel is best known as that miserable bloke from American Music Club, or, as the press release for this album has it, " one of the greatest living songwriters today". " The Ugly American " might not be quite good enough to justify such hyperbole, but it certainly blows the first cliché out of the water. As befits an album recorded amidst the bouzoukis and throat-burning booze of Greece, it oozes warmth and charming melancholia rather than a chilly despair. Greek arranger Manolis Famellos has brought new depth to old Eitzel compositions like " Western Sky " and " Nightwatchman ", giving them the kind of old world class that similarly Europhile Scott Walker always loved. Mark’s voice is deep and rich and the traditional instruments are used sparingly to create beautiful textures – without sounding like a cheap Greek restaurant.

ROCK SOUND – Tom Baker

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

* * *

Former American Music Club miserablist goes Greek.

The latest episode in Mark Eitzel’s long musical odyssey took him to Greece to make this odd, engaging, bouzouki best of. Abandoning his recent parched, lo-fi approach to misanthropic music, Eitzel allows local musicians and traditional instruments to add shafts of unexpected sunlight to baleful old favourites like Western Sky and Jenny.

Q – David Roberts

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

* * *

American Music Club fans are going to love the latest Mark Eitzel album, but it’s possible that Mark, who’s been bumping along at the same (consistently low) level of success for years now, could even pick up some new fans. Most of the songs here are very familiar to anyone who’s followed his career from AMC onwards (" Western Sky ", "Jenny ", " Last Harbour "," Nightwatchman " etc) but they’ve been re-recorded in Greece and arranged by a Greek composer Manolis Famellos. If that sounds a little self-indulgent then don’t worry. Their new cloak of traditional instruments and lush strings fits them well, and Mark’s voice (a broken down Scott Walker with a touch of Leonard Cohen) is just as impressive as ever. Despite working in the classic singer-singwriter tradition Mark Eitzel still doesn’t sound like anyone else.

WHAT’S ON IN LONDON – Trevor Baker

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

8/10

The premise is intriguing: singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel decides to re-record a chunk of his catalogue with a load of obscure Greek musicians. The results are not as odd as you might expect; The Ugly American is far more substantial than mere novelty. Will You Find Me and Take Courage aside, these might not all be Eitzel’s best songs, but Manolis Famellos’ delicious, sympathetic scoring sure make them sound like they are.

TNT – Will Fulford-Jones

 

Mark Eitzel

" The Ugly American "

7/10

THE VIEW FROM ABROAD

Songwriter’s songwriter, cult artist, unsung genius – there have been many attempts over the years to explain why Mark Eitzel has never really set the commercial world alight, either solo or with the critically lauded American Music Club. The plain facts are, however, that Eitzel has never really sold that many records, all of which means that, while he isn’t playing four nights at Madison Square Gardens, he continues to make albums as intriguing as The Ugly American. Decamping to Greece at the end of 2001 to work with some local musicians, Eitzel’s initial intention to record a few tracks soon turned into a full blown album, one of the best of his career, a career he in fact visits throughout this album, with the likes of " Western Sky ", " Take Courage " and " Last Harbor " given stunning new arrangements. The background of traditional Greek instruments suits both the singer and his songs perfectly, and while the excitement levels never particularly peak, there is a grace and beauty here that few can match. A happy accident it may have been, but The Ugly American is undoubtedly set to be one of the unsung cult albums of the year.

HOT PRESS –– Phil Udell

 

 

2001-2010 Tongue Master Records. All rights reserved