Julian Schnabel (b. 1951)

Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud (1995)

  1. She's Dancing, He's Dreaming

  2. I Tried

  3. The Night We Met

  4. If You Leave, Don't Come Back

  5. Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud

  6. When I Was Young

  7. Juan Belmonte

  8. Gary's Song

  9. Immigration Song

  10. Carey Came Back

  11. I Want To Take You Home

  12. It's Great To Be Nine

  13. Apartment #9

Shut Up and Paint
Even trendy artists like Julian Schnabel should think twice about making music

By Nicky Baxter

Julian Schnabel has certainly got a lot of nerve. With no track record as a singer or songwriter, he still managed to convince a reputable record label to sign him up. It helps to be a trendy world-famous painter who jet-sets with New York City's rock and jazz denizens; his buddies include the likes of Lou Reed and John Cale. And he cites Billie Holiday and Donny Hathaway as his musical favorites. Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud (Island), however, has nothing to do with that stuff.

Silver Lining, Schnabel confides on his bio sheet, is about love, loss and anger. The songs range from a lament for a predatory aging bullfighter with a habit of picking up pretty young things to a tune dedicated to a film star. In between are love songs for his new bride. Still, the nagging question is, Why? Why couldn't Schnabel paint his problems out? Because, truth be known, Schnabel is a disaster as a singer, and his tunesmithing is something short of revelatory.

What he has going for him is a stellar cast of supporting musicians. Avant-jazz/rockers Buckethead and Nicky Skopelitis (guitars), Anton Fier (drums), funkmeister Bernie Worrell (keyboards) and improvisational-music giant Henry Threadgill (strings and brass arrangements) team up to add musical substance to Schnabel's conceits. Was it the money or the prestige of working with an artiste? Whatever their reasons, these musicians help make Sliver Lining an interesting--and sometimes even palatable--listening experience.

Say this for Schnabel: For a man whose ego is purportedly larger than life, he knows how to bow down to love. On songs like "She's Dancing, He's Dreaming" and "Immigration Song," he is a "neurotic mess," a lovelorn loser whose only salvation is an estranged lover, an idealized goddess whose mere touch brings ecstasy. Neither his friends or the splendors of the world can soothe his empty heart. Treacly stuff? Yes, but you've gotta give it to him--no matter how flat and tuneless, Schnabel does come off as sincere. Vulnerable, even. Strangely, his tremulous, unsteady monotone gives the impression of a private confession caught on tape; you feel almost guilty listening in.

The musicians relieve that guilt though, providing a polished but sympathetic sheen to Schnabel's rough mix of impressionistic lyrics and doomy singing. Producer and bassist Bill Laswell forgoes his trademark experimental flourish for a more understated approach. Buckethead, another guy known to go for the gusto, weaves delicate webs of somber guitar around Laswell's steady syncopation. Threadgill's orchestrations, meanwhile, are spare, applying the occasional stringed accompaniment with restraint.

This may have been just another gig to these musicians, but you wouldn't know it by their extra-sensitive work. As for Julian Schnabel, let's just say he got lucky his first time around.

Web exclusive to the Nov. 2-Nov. 8, 1995 issue of Metro


Julian Schnabel is the successor to Andy Warhol as a Manhattan painter turned celebrity, and he has used that media clout to secure a recording contract even though he has no discernible talent for making music. He could be described as a cross between Michael Bolton and Leonard Cohen, but unfortunately he writes songs like Bolton and sings like Cohen instead of the other way around. The combination of his treacly sentiment, pretentious poesy, tuneless croaking, and minimalist melodies is comic for a short time but soon turns annoying. Typical of the album is "I Tried," which finds a self-pitying Schnabel nasally whining over folk-rock guitars: "I know I drive you crazy with all the love that I have, but if you remember, there was some good times." Schnabel's debut recording actually boasts terrific backing tracks, thanks to the all-star band assembled by his co-producer and bassist Bill Laswell. Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, Golden Palomino drummer Anton Fier, and jazz arranger Henry Threadgill create a glittering frame for Schnabel's musical canvas, but the songs themselves belong in the bottom of a bird cage. --Geoffrey Himes