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The Sole Inhabitant

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Album Review

Thomas Dolby issued this live recording, made at Martyrs in Chicago, Illinois in May of 2006, just as there was some stirrings of a revival of interest in his work; ironically, EMI would re-release his Golden Age of Wireless album in all of its permutations, augmented with his early-'80s concert Live Wireless as a DVD, just a couple of years later. But this 21st century presentation of Dolby's work is not to be ignored: vocally, the man has not only seemingly failed to age a day, but he has become more expressive with age, so that end of the performance is spot-on for anyone with fond memories of pieces such as "Flying North," "One of Our Submarines," "Europa and the Pirate Twins," and "She Blinded Me with Science," all represented here. There isn't a lot of live ambience, in terms of audience response or interaction, but the audio is excellent and the performance ultimately bracing and thoroughly satisfying; the tempos are sometimes pulled back a bit, but the instrumentation is more complex and involved, and rewarding. And "The Flat Earth" is so finely sung and played as to be one of the finest things that Dolby has ever done, at any time in his career, and worth the price of the disc by itself. Indeed, if you're splitting philosophical and aesthetic hairs, this release could easily qualify as a live "best of" for the man's work, while the EMI versions just as easily come off as works-in-progress. The Sole Inhabitant has been released as a CD, and as a CD/DVD combination, and the latter constitutes a very different animal from this single-disc version.

Customer Reviews

An Innovator Returns

"The Sole Inhabitant" marks the return of Thomas Dolby, too long away from a music scene that could desperately use his talents. Stripped of the hype surrounding his "hits", Dolby was always in his best form with the scintillating arrangements and quiet lyrical thoughtfulness of the music that didn't make it into airplay rotation. This CD re-presents a portion of his catalog as a one-man show. By the necessity of the performances, all entirely live and solo, anything remotely considered fluff is stripped away. The result is a thoroughly refreshing review of a musical path not capable of being trod by many. Mr. Dolby is quite earnestly about re-connecting with his core audience, and the CD succeeds quite well in that regard. Of particular value are his podcasts. They make his intentention clear. The "Leipzig Is Calling" podcast presentation in particular, the music portion of which is a different take than the one appearing on the CD, is a masterwork performance. If you have any concerns that Dolby is just another 80's rock star looking to cash out, that will be quickly stripped away by the podcasts. He's a real human being trying to connect in a personal way with his fans. This is not the last we'll see or hear of Thomas Dolby. This CD is a review of where we've been with him. He wants all of us onboard for the journey ahead. Be there.

A True Innovator

Now with a lot of concerts high on style and low on substance, here comes a live album from Thomas Dolby showing the best of both. I was at the show this was recorded at, and the album certainly does not disappoint. Mr. Dolby not only plays everthything himself, on a combination of new cutting edge and vintage gear, but some of the tracks he "builds up" and sequences as he goes along. The sound is fantastic, and truly shows one of the original innovators of electronic music does not disappoint. I can't wait to see the companion DVD from another stop on the tour with the fantastic visuals as well.

Thomas Dolby is back!

I have followed Thomas' whole career and this new album is fantastic. And it includes a remake of his classic hit "She Blinded Me with Science" the memories that brings back. I don't normally do this, but I recommend buying the whole album so you can enjoy the entire journey.


Born: October 14, 1958 in Cairo, Egypt

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Though he never had many hits, Thomas Dolby became one of the most recognizable figures of the synth pop movement of early-'80s new wave. This was largely due to his skillful marketing. Dolby promoted himself as a kind of mad scientist, an egghead who had successfully harnessed the power of synthesizers and samplers and used them to make catchy pop and light electro-funk. Before he launched a solo career, Dolby had worked as a studio musician, technician, and songwriter; his most notable work as...
Full Bio