1/  Bad Blood                                  (Skopelitis)                  3.34
  2/  Black Eyes                                 (Skopelitis)                  4.31
  3/  Shotgun News                               (Skopelitis)                  5.13
  4/  Altai                                      (Skopelitis)                  3.28
  5/  Ta Magika                                  (Skopelitis)                  4.32
  6/  Second Skin                                (Skopelitis)                  5.51
  7/  Omens                                      (Skopelitis)                  7.22

          Recorded at B.C. Studio and Platinum Island Studio, New York
          Engineer at B.C. Studio: Martin Bisi
          Engineer at Platinum Island: Robert Musso
          Assistant at Platinum Island: Oz Fritz
          Mixed at B.C. Studio with Martin Bisi
          Produced by Nicky Skopelitis and Bill Laswell/Material
          Mastered by Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk
Nicky Skopelitis: guitars; Ginger Baker: drums; Bill Laswell: bass; Simon Shaheen: violin, oud; Fred Frith: violin; Aiyb Dieng: percussion.

          1989 - Nation/Venture/Virgin (UK), VE 41 (Vinyl)
          1989 - Nation/Venteure/Virgin (UK), CDVE 41 (CD)


Nicky Skopelitis has worn so many hats in his work as guitarist-for-all-seasons for producer Bill Laswell that it's been impossible to tell where his own predilections might lead him. Next to Nothing, his first solo album, provides a provisional answer provisional because the album is above all an ensemble effort, with Skopelitis's less-is-more acoustic, slide and electric guitars meshing tightly with one of the most distinctive rhythm sections imaginable.

For Next to Nothing, Skopelitis and coproducer-bassist Bill Laswell have assembled a band that manages to be easy on the ear without sacrificing grit or balls. Ginger Baker is the drummer, and he's never played more subtly. His attention to detail, daring use of space and crisply delineated sound are a revelation in this airy, wide-open setting. Baker, as much as Skopelitis, is the lead player on much of the record. The drummer's thrash blends seamlessly with the swooping lope of the guitarist's slide playing. The music's sparse but compelling textures are fleshed out by the arabesques of Simon Shaheen's violin and oud and the minimalist shadings of Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng, with Fred Frith adding occasional second violin.

Though the album wouldn't be entirely out of place in a New Age bin, this is one "atmospheric" record that maintains musical interest and a quiet but effective rhythmic tension throughout. Next to Nothing would also be at home as the soundtrack of a desert adventure movie; in the meantime, it is substantial enough to spark moving images in the listener's mind. (RS 587)

4 of 5 stars

Robert Palmer (courtesy of the Rolling Stone website)