Label: Ralph Records – RR1174
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: Oct 1978
This record was recorded in 1974, released 1978 of Ralph Records and
The Cryptic Corp.
The Cryptic Corp.
Artwork [Cover Art, Based On A Drawing By A Resident] – Pore-Know Graphics
Composed By, Arranged By, Recorded By, Producer – The Residents
Copyright (c) – Cryptic Corporation
Published By – Pale Pachyderm Publishing
First pressing with purple labels (5000 copies)
A1 - Part One: Edweena ................................................................ 9:29
A2 - Part Two: The Making Of A Soul ............................................ 9:59
B1 - Part Three: Ship's A' Going Down .......................................... 6:32
B2 - Part Four: Never Known Questions ........................................ 7:00
B3 - Epilogue .................................................................................. 2:20
This record is issued at the discretion of Ralph Records and The Cryptic Corp. The characters and events portrayed are fictional and do not represent either The Residents or other persons, living or dead.
This is one of the strangest and most interesting recordings in rock history, which speaks volumes coming from one of the strangest and more interesting bands in rock history. While the Residents have experimented within the confines of rock throughout their entire careers, with the exceptions of Eskimo, The Commercial Album, and God in Three Persons, this album achieves like no other. A surreal rock opera resulting in an incredibly weird circus of sound, it is one that simply must be heard to be believed.
_1 In 1978, the “official” word was that The Residents had stated NOT AVAILABLE could never be released. The group claimed that they had recorded their musical film noir masterpiece in secrecy as a way of exercising their “theory of obscurity” to its fullest, and, In strict accordance with the theory, the work could never be released until its creators no longer recalled its existence.
But those steeped in the lore of The Residents’ milieu have long known that the recording of the album was in reality an exercise in group therapy. The real reason that the band wished to deny its existence was the fact that they felt that the work was too personally revealing.
What is not generally known, though, is that, as part of their therapeutic process, The Residents actually considered the idea of creating an operetta based on NOT AVAILABLE. Casting the primary roles with the actual inhabitants of the group’s internal drama, they then began a series of loosely structured “rehearsals” with those players enacting the principal roles of Edweena, The Porcupine, The Catbird, Uncle Remus and Enigmatic Foe.
By enacting this pseudo drama within a psycho drama, the internal conflict, still not completely understood by all of the participants, became much more clear, as the player/characters instinctively acted out their roles. The love triangle between Edweena, Porcupine and Catbird became obvious (“Can two be more than three?”) as well as Remus’s role as the distant and objective commentator (“The aching and the breaking are the making of a soul.”). The purpose of the Enigmatic Foe was of course still unclea ´r when the rehearsals began, but once the Porcupine’s breakdown was known (“He thought the end was overdue, but day broke him instead...”), the role of the noble Foe, as Porcupine’s stand-in for the operetta’s climatic duel scene, became clear.
As the faux piece reached its peak, the trio - two holding pistols while the third hid in a bush - came to the realization that the lovely young Edweena had eloped with the independently wealthy and no longer uninvolved Uncle Remus. At this point, the tension, previously thicker than frozen mayonnaise, was shattered by the Porcupine, emerging from the shrubbery to paraphrase Shakespeare (“To show or to be shown...”).
With illusions of love shattered, the three were then able to forgive, embrace and even welcome the traitorous Remus back to the fold, once he had returned from his unexpected honeymoon.
_2 This, the second album recorded by the Residents, is perhaps the most hauntingly beautiful of all their albums. Its was bounded by the “Theory of Obscurity” and “could only be released when the creators themselves had completely forgotten about its existence.”
For whatever reasons, the album was eventually released four years later. Some have complained that this release was blasphemous and that the theory should have been respected. Let me assure you that no crime was committed. The lyrics are heavily veiled in an acoustic and linguistic gauze. Sometimes there is rhyme, and sometimes there is reason. There are times at which we catch glimpses of these lyrics through the veil, however their meaning tends to speak more directly to the soul, and for the most part are not available to the analytical mind. When listening to this album, one realizes that its obscurity remains fully intact.
The music is full of many rich and varied themes. Its juxtaposition of the sad, the beautiful, and the unusual, creates deep emotional currents that with proper navigation will lead you to interesting places. There is an innocence about this album that lays aside all pretense and bears open their soul.
We hear a hypnotic mesh of percussion, strings, horns, and voices. We find ourselves carried upon waves of unfamiliarity which lead us to seductive places where female voices and pianos sweetly wonder about the blooming of posies. There are also places of loneliness as felt in these words:
The sentence existing inside of a rhyme, is only just a token left spoken in time.
In “The Making of a Soul” there exists a most beautiful and delicately played piano passage. It sounds as though they were playing on their grandmother’s seldom used piano in the basement while she was away. Later, lamenting strings join in with the piano, and a peculiar person shows up with some questions that are guaranteed to shake you up.
We make our way through the turbulent “Ship’s A’Going Down”, spiraling ever downward, descending into the whimpering depths from which there appears to be no return, until at last we find ourselves with “Never Known Questions”. A lush resting place.
When you look into the emotions contained in the music on this album, they speak clearly, and there is no question of obscurity. This album is simultaneously sad, happy, and beautiful. Particularly as found in its climactic conclusion. Grandma’s sad and innocent piano reappears and after a valiant attempt at trying to communicate the passage of calling cards and winking bards and falling guards, there is a certain feeling of resignation as we find ourselves, along with The Residents, throwing up our hands and saying “OK”.
An angelic farewell march fades in and takes over while the singing continues in time with the new music. “OK, OK”. There is a sense of finality and acceptance. As the march continues to play, another refrain emerges.
To exist to show, or to be shown? Is a question never, never known.
As the music slowly fades out, so do the lyrics. They leave us, receding faintly, with the words “to exist ... to exist”. The music is sad because it is time to say farewell, as we all must do someday. It is happy, for having had the chance to exist. And it is beautiful, because it is.
The Residents' Art Director Homer Flynn
The eventual publication of Not Available came about as the result of a problem with the band. In 1978, The Residents were working on Eskimo, a much-touted major release. However, after a disagreement with The Cryptic Corporation, the band disappeared to England with the Eskimo master tapes. Needing something to release, the Cryptics pulled "some old tapes" off the shelves and released them as Not Available, complete with ads in the UK music press announcing "Now It Can Be Sold." The Residents weren't bothered much by this deviation from their plan, however, since the 1978 decision by someone else to release the album couldn't affect the philosophical conditions under which it was recorded in 1974.
If you find it, buy this album!