Following April’s box set devoted to The Mole Trilogy, Cherry Red and Ralph Records have released yet another entry in the Residents’ pREServed Edition series. Instead of following the group’s discography chronologically, the decision was made to reissue the group’s 1988 album God In Three Persons. This reissue is different from the other entries, considering it’s being release on its own whereas the other entries were released alongside another album or two. Nevertheless, God In Three Persons is one of the group’s most unique albums and this pREServed edition certainly does it justice.
A little history
The 1980s were a weird time for the Residents. They had released the Commercial Album and the first two Mole albums but the ones that followed were released somewhat sporadically:
Title in Limbo (1983- a collaborative effort with Renaldo and the Loaf)
The American Composers Series albums (George & James in 1984 and Stars & Hank Forever in 1986)
Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats? (1984- a soundtrack to their incomplete movie from the 1970s)
The Census Taker (1985- a soundtrack to the movie of the same name, which stared SNL alum Garrett Morris)
The Big Bubble (1985- the “fourth” part of the Mole Trilogy)
As mentioned in the Mole Box review, fans usually say that everything released from the Mole Trilogy and onward is when they began to lose interest in the group. As to why this is, the sporadic nature of the releases above might have something to do with it. With the albums from the 1970s, those were albums that were planned out and released at the right time. Perhaps some felt the group were running out of ideas. Whatever the case was, this is how the mid 1980s played out for the Residents. In 1987, the group mourned the loss of their friend Phil Lithman- aka Snakefinger- who died in July of that year from a sudden heart attack. At the time of Snakefinger’s passing, the group were at work on their next album. As a result, God in Three Persons was dedicated to their late friend and collaborator.
Much like most of the group’s work, God in Three Persons is a concept album. Similar to the Mole albums (mostly Mark of the Mole), this album plays out like a rock opera. However, this wasn’t a rock opera like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or even Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime (the latter released the same year as God In Three Persons). If anything, God In Three Persons was more like the Who’s Tommy except exceedingly more bizarre. The album tells the story of Mr. X, a Colonel Tom Parker-type character named who meets Siamese twins that are capable of miracles. He becomes their manager, as the three begin to tour around and perform miracles.
The album is unique not only because of it’s story but also because of its approach. The lyrics to the songs are deliver in a “talking blues” way, almost as if it were a poem. Musically, the album relies on several different motifs taken from other songs- most notably “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” by the Swingin’ Medallions. Given how the Residents albums all have themes and concepts, it’s hard to pick the songs as individuals. If I had to pick a favorite, I would say my favorite song on here is “The Touch”- which describes the services held by Mr. X and the twins. The sounds of fluttering synths give the song a holy sound, making it feel like a church service. In fact, the album’s title is a lyric taken from the Protestant hymn “Holy Holy Holy”- which is another motif used throughout the album.
I might like this album more than most of the Mole albums: with those albums, the story was only told on the first album and it was a simple story about the conflict between the Moles and the Chubs. The other two albums in the trilogy were more like standalone stories and not sequels. With God In Three Persons, the story is told within one hour long album. However, the story is more complex here and is left open to different interpretations.
The bonus material
Unlike previous entries in the series (excluding the Mole Box), God In Three Persons comes with another two discs. The second disc is another album- God In Three Persons: Original Soundtrack. As the title would suggest, this is an entirely instrumental version of the album (aside from a few background vocals). It’s neat to hear an alternate version of the album as some of these songs do sound great as instrumentals.
The third disc acts as the Ephemera disc, consisting of 12 tracks. The first seven are all demo recordings for the album, with the late Hardy Fox providing the narration. Listening to the album in its primal stages is really interesting. It does sound very skeletal but you can hear how these songs developed and made it on the final album. According to the liner notes, these demos have never been released. The remaining tracks consist of single and extended mixes, along with live tracks. There aren’t too many live tracks given that the group has rarely performed any of the songs from the album.
Overall, this pREServed Edition of God In Three Persons is really strong. I enjoyed exploring this album as it really is one of group’s most creative pieces of work. As for the future of the pREServed Edition series, it looks like there’s more to come from 2019 and beyond. For now, fans can enjoy this release.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.