Brian Eno exists in the space of his own creation. The former Roxy Music man has done it all. Not many people can boast such an impressive CV as Eno. He started his musical career in 1971 as the synthesiser maestro in glam-rock heroes Roxy music. However, he would leave the band two years and two albums later due to creative tensions with the band’s frontman Bryan Ferry.
It was after this departure that Eno would start to realise his true self. In 1974, he released his first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets. His debut carried on in the arty, glam rock vein of his former band. However, from the mid-’70s onwards, Eno would delineate his interest in minimalism. Discreet Music (1975) and Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) are two of the standouts from this era. More significantly, the latter coined the term “ambient music” and marked the true birth of the modernistic genre. Music for Airports was a highly pioneering album and is thus hailed as one, if not the quintessential Brian Eno work.
Parallel to his cutting-edge solo work, Eno has made an indelible mark on other musicians careers. As a ubiquitous collaborator in the ’70s, he coloured the works of Robert Fripp, Harmonia, Cluster, Harold Budd and David Bowie. In the process, he established himself as the producer du jour and worked on albums by pioneers such as John Cale, Jon Hassell, Ultravox, Devo and embarked on an iconic three-album run with Talking Heads. Topping this prolific decade off, he curated a no-wave compilation in 1978 titled No New York.
Eno continued on a vast output of solo records in the following years whilst simultaneously hoovering up production credits. He has worked with some of the world’s largest artists, such as U2 and Coldplay. His influence courses throughout the channels of the former’s 1984 masterpiece The Unforgettable Fire. The title track is an atmospheric classic that started the Dublin band’s flirtation with ambient sounds and started them on their path to worldwide success, culminating in their 1987 magnum opus, The Joshua Tree (1987), which he would also co-produce.
He has also worked with a whole host of more left-field modern sonic influencers. These included Daniel Lanois, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Slowdive, Karl Hyde, James, Kevin Shields and Damon Albarn. A former student of Winchester School of Art, Eno has worked in other media. These included sound installations, film and authorship. In the mid-’70s, he developed his classic Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards featuring aphorisms intended to inspire creativity.
It makes us wonder, what are the greatest examples of his massive impact on music? Join us as we list the five albums that confirm Brian Eno’s genius.
Brian Eno’s five greatest works:
Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972)
The debut album by the influential glam rockers Roxy Music was significant in launching both the band and Eno’s career. Featuring the modernist classics’ Re-make/Re-Model’, ‘Ladytron’ and ‘2HB’, everything about the album was pioneering. The album is an eclectic mesh of all the band’s influences and features the esoteric essence of Roxy Music.
Asked to “sound like the moon” on ‘Ladytron’ by frontman Bryan Ferry, Eno delivered. It broke down the barriers of possibility within music and sent the members of Roxy Music on their paths to greatness. It is the first hint of the Brian Eno that was to come.
Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)
The sixth studio album by Eno is one of his most significant. The album consists of four compositions. They are the highly minimal ‘1/1’ ‘1/2’ ‘2/1’ ‘2/2’. The four pieces were created by layering tape loops of varying lengths on top of each other. The album was first intended to be looped as a sound installation to diffuse the anxious atmosphere of airports.
Music for Airports was the first of four albums that Eno released as his Ambient series. He coined the term to describe music that is “as ignorable as it is interesting.” He hoped for it to “induce calm and a space to think.” Although it was not the first album released in the ambient genre, it was the first to be explicitly labelled “ambient music”.
Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
One of the most influential albums of all time Remain in Light, was the last of a trio of albums between Talking Heads and Eno. The other two were More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), Fear of Music (1979), which also rank highly among the canon of his work.
All three albums are respected and loved, but Remain in Light is regarded as the New Yorker’s masterpiece. The album was composed of groundbreaking recording techniques that really augment the pioneering gravity of the Heads/Eno relationship—featuring classics such as ‘Once in a Lifetime‘, ‘Houses in Motion’ and ‘The Great Curve’, the 1980 classic packs one hell of a punch.
The album sees the band interpret polyrhythms inspired by afrobeat and Fela Kuti. Oblique Strategies also had a significant role to play for ‘Once in a Lifetime’, the band all recorded their parts in isolation. This sonically blindfolded the band. Consequently, Eno mixed these “blind overdubs” back over the original track giving it its trademark glitchy feel.
Brian Eno – Another Green World – (1975)
Eno’s third album, Another Green World, features contributions from a small corps of iconic musicians. These include Robert Fripp (guitar), Phil Collins (drums), Percy Jones (fretless bass), and Rod Melvin (piano). John Cale of The Velvet Underground plays the viola on two tracks.
The album is the sonic midway point between Eno’s earlier rock-oriented work and his future minimalist leanings. Only five of the fourteen tracks feature vocals. Eno employed Oblique Strategies in its recording and instrumentation, which can be reflected in its unusual credits such as “snake guitar” and “uncertain piano”.
Another Green World stands out as a display of all of Eno’s varying strengths. The groove of the opener ‘Sky Saw’ is classic.
U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)
Love or loathe them, U2’s 1987 classic is one of the best-selling albums of all time. A significant factor is Eno’s production. Teaming up with Canadian producer Daniel Lanois, Eno catapulted U2 to megastardom. He found a disciple in U2’s guitarist, The Edge.
Real name David Evans, The U2 guitarist plays a wide range of layered textures on The Joshua Tree. This minimalistic approach characterises the band’s most successful LP. The iconic tracks ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ and ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ capture this best.
Bono’s lyrics and powerful vocals perfectly top off this huge album. However, it is safe to say; the album or band would not have been the same without Eno’s cerebral input.