God in Three Persons and Cube E (1987–1990)
After two compilation CDs titled Heaven? and Hell!, the Residents’ first new project for Ryko was titled God in Three Persons, an hour-long poem in the form of a spoken-word rock opera. This was the first new Residents album to be released on CD, and the last Residents project to be entirely recorded on analog tape, as the group moved on to MIDI technology; their first venture into MIDI would be scoring episodes for Pee-wee’s Playhouse in 1987. Despite initially mixed critical and commercial reaction, God in Three Persons today is considered one of the group’s masterworks.
On November 18, 1987, at a party in Amsterdam for Boudisque Records, the Residents’ European label, they premiered a new work titled Buckaroo Blues, a suite of cowboy songs. After a choreographed TELE5 appearance in April 1988, this suite would be coupled with a second one titled Black Barry, a suite of “black music” (that is, blues and gospel), and form the first act of the Residents’ next touring project, Cube-E: The History of American Music in 3EZ Pieces. After the show’s debut in New York, on July 21, 1989, it was decided to add a third act consisting of covers of Elvis Presley songs, completing the equation “Cowboy music + Black music = Rock and roll.” The show took on a much more theatrical approach than the 13th Anniversary tour, with elaborate set designs, costumes, lighting and choreography. Cube-E toured from September 1989 to November 1990, and was successful, both critically and financially.
A studio version of the third act was also released and titled The King & Eye. The album was recorded at Different Fur Studios and released on Enigma Records around the time the tour began in September 1989. Further television work was also being done for MTV, with the Residents scoring and doing voice work for Liquid Television and the Henry Selick-directed pilot “Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions.”