Whereas Steve Nieve's work with Elvis Costello and the Attractions is often ornate, Keyboard Jungle exhibits the man and his piano. The album is not so much produced as it is miked (although there is a producer credited), which emphasizes the quality of musical resonance and multi-dimensionality of Nieve's work.
The best way to approach this album is the same way a child is taught to appreciate classical music — by lying back and letting images emerge as you listen. This is obviously what Chris Difford (late of Squeeze) did as he composed his brief, often seemingly off-the-wall liner explanations. Difford's outlook is to turn the whole album into a series of visual (movie) shorts and explain what he is "seeing." But equally interesting is to put in one's own experiences using Difford's scenes and Nieve's very cryptic titles as starting points.
Many of the pieces, particularly those toward the end of the album, are reminiscent of silent movie scores. "Couch Potato Rag," with a roaring '20s motif, "Page One Of A Dead Girl's Diary", a villain/helpless woman/hero melodrama, and "End Of An Era," as the credits emerge..., all sound as if they would be at home there.
Particularly effective are "Al Green," a slow dance with passing nods to Fats Domino, "Pink Flamingos On Coffee Pot Boulevard," with a cantering beat that suggests cowboys riding the range, and a stunning passage that seems to invoke the solemnity and poignancy of a young person's death, "The Mystery And The Majesty (Of A Banyan Tree)." This latter piece is dedicated to the memory of Mirelle Cervanka, sister of X's Exene (who wrote her own feelings on their last album).
Witnesses of Elvis Costello's New York New Year's Eve show a few years back would have experienced the extraordinary creative ability of Nieve when left on his own. Others will gain a new insight into the power behind the much more publicized intellectual voice. (28 The Butts, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8, 8BL, England)