studio album by French Jazz-Fusion artist Jean-Luc Ponty. It was released in 1976 on Atlantic Records.
As of 1976, Jean-Luc Ponty's variations on the Mahavishnu Orchestra theme were still fresh and imaginative, cast in a distinctively different, more lyrical, more controlled framework. For Imaginary Voyage, Ponty's instrumental lineup is identical to that of Mahavishnu
-- electric violin, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums -- but he turns the
emphasis on its head, with all commands coming directly from the violin
(his) and less competitive crossplay emanating from his colleagues. For
starters, "New Country" is a lively jazz-rock hoedown, one of those
periodic C&W side trips that some fusioneers attempt for a lark, and
"The Gardens of Babylon" is a wonderfully memorable tune, the
beginnings of which grow out of "New Country." The last half of the LP
is taken up by the title composition, a strong four-part suite that
hangs together with barely a snag in interest over its 20-minute span.
If you are a considering buying a Luc Ponty CD and you're not sure where
to begin....well the answer is, Imaginary Voyage. I own most of his
music and this one stands out as being the most musical and beautiful
compostion. (I might add that Egnimatic Ocean is another gem). Listen
on all you progressive Jazz lovers :)
Back in the 70's, I bought this album - the second ponty Album I got
after Cosmic Messenger. the music was PERFECT for the time period and
for things going through me back then. Like Cosmic messenger, it takes
you on that achetypical "trip" that some of us discovered later can be
experienced without "medical assistance." ;-) This will do it for
you! in fact, this is the sort of music that you put headphones on for
and sit it out on your most comfortable chair ... close your eyes and
"travel." The music is compelling and extrememly well orchestrated.
The melodies are extremely unique keeping in mind when it came out
(that is if you heard similar, you probably heard copy cats from later
periods.) This is a highly recommended piece of the Ponty Collection
which I will keep updating at every improvement of technology (Album to
Tape to CD to DVD, whatever ...) This album was part of the "fusion"
music that took my out of my high brow classical phase into the "modern
Imaginary Voyage is awesome. Jean Luc Ponty shows that there is such a
thing as violin jazz, but his sound is one that can't be pigeonholed.
Just listen to county and western influenced 'New Gardens' and it will
have you bobbing your head and tapping your feet. The slower paced 'The
Gardens of Babylon' is just as powerful. I think that every cut is a
winner. Imaginary Voyage Parts I through IV just flows from one cut to
the next. You can hear the instruments talk to one another. This is one
of my favorite CD's. Try listening to it through earphones. Awesome!
For his second album of 1976 Jean Luc Ponty finaly realized the
combination of musical ideas that would offer him his distinctive sound.
While his previous two albums were certainly nothing to skimp on,they
were actually part of a process which would lead up to a string of late
70's musical triumphs for him. Beginning with this album. After a period
of seeing which,where and how of his own musical ideas fit his sound
best,it seemed that everything was building to what happened here. And I
can honestly say it's one of his very best musical achievements.
"New Country" is likely one of the most unique compositions ever. It
sounds rather like some combination of a country/western howdown and a
firey jazz rocker. Very inventive. "The Gardens Of Babylon" and "Once
Upon A Dream" showcase the best aspect of his "new sound" very well:
sleek,glossy and streamlined fusion with a good emphasis on melody and
rhythmically powerful as well. "Tarantula" goes an excellent job at
blending the pounding jazz rock with more rhythmic jazz funk. Not as
simple to do as one might think but it works here. The title track,a
four part rhythmic extravaganza ending with an intense eight minute jazz
funk groove again allows for some exciting soloing from Ponty.
Jean Luc Ponty's musical journey was always as ongoing one. I suppose
if you followed his musical progression from his earliest days to his
latest release the progression would be more obvious. But even taken in
scattered bits it's not difficult to hear. This basic format of one half
of seperate compositions and another of several parts of the title song
would be something he'd stay with for a little while. And it was quite a
good concept really. It gave him the chance to lead into his main
theme. That way nothing could come off as underwelming. Any way you look
at it,in this case it definitely worked on every level.
Long ago, I got the LP "Imaginary Voyage," and played it until it was
worn out. Then I got the cassette tape and played that until it was
worn out. Right now, I'm working on the CD version of the album, and am
far from tired of listening to it. This is, in my opinion, the best
album that Jean-Luc Ponty has recorded: the best variety of music and
the best that he has written. Starting with "New Country" and moving
into the dreamy "Gardens of Babylon" and "Wandering On The Milky Way,"
into the urgencies of "Once Upon A Dream" and then into the sharp
"Tarantula," Ponty displays a variety of emotions with his mastery of
the electric violin. He then tops that with the epic 4-part "Imaginary
Voyage," which culminates in the wonderful eight-minute "Part IV."
Jean-Luc Ponty has been around a long time and has a lot of recordings,
and if you haven't heard this album before, get it. It's definitely
(As an aside, I had heard about this album from
watching "Soundstage," an old PBS show from long ago, when they had an
episode called "Fiddlers Three," featuring Doug Kershaw, Itzahk Perlman
and Jean-Luc Ponty. A wonderful show, showing three different types of
violin performances: Ponty, so smooth and even in using the bow, even in
fast songs, it seemed like he wouldn't break a sweat. Perlman played
classical music, his movements so precise, sharp and clean, carefully
and exacting in his bow work. Kershaw played Cajun country music, all
elbows and movement, the strings on his bow breaking from his sawing
motions on the violin, it appeared so sloppy compared to the other two
but sounded so good. At the end, all three combined on one song,
playing various parts in their own style. A great show with great
talent using the same instrument but playing diverse ways.)
1. New Country (3:07)
2. The Gardens Of Babylon (5:06)
3. Wandering On The Milky Way (Violin Solo) (1:50)
4. Once Upon A Dream (4:08)
5. Tarantula (4:04)
6. Imaginary Voyage
Part I (2:22)
Part II (4:05)
Part III (5:28)
Part IV (8:00)
Total Time 38:10
Line-up / Musicians
- Jean-Luc Ponty / Electric and acoustic violins, organ and background synthesizers
- Marc Craney / Percussion
- Tom Fowler / Electric bass
- Daryl Steurmer / Electric and acoustic guitars
- Allan Zavod / Electric keyboards and acoustic piano
This power trio has famous roots, and they've brought it all together masterfully. First cut "The Sun Road" starts off like a tune off of David Gilmour's first solo album and then vanishes into a driving, power-chorded surge of soulful rock. Next, "Dark Corners" is a massive rocker that pulls you under its powerful whirlpool of guitar/bass/drum frenzy. Stevens tortures the guitar into absolute submission without any predictable riffs. Levin looms everywhere, and Bozzio flows in a polyrhythmic jungle. Fine interactive tension and execution everywhere. This goes way beyond King Crimson's Red days.
"Duende" opens with flamenco guitar firebursts, and
slowly builds into a decent Spanish-flavored piece. Not my favorite, but
well done. The title cut, "Black Light Syndrome," is obviously a play
on "Bozzio Levin Stevens." It is a slower-paced dirge and filled to the
brim with a variety of well-executed riffs, basslines, and drum tech.
"Falling in Circles" is an early Floydscape dotted with Ronnie Montrose leads, a ballad of driving determination and resolve. Floods of Satriani, Wishbone Ash, Alvin Lee, Fripp, Buck Dharma, and even that Duane Allman tone.
"Book of Hours" took me right back to Wheels of
Fire's "Pressed Rat and Warthog," rainy-day dreamy afternoons with a
fresh pot of designer coffee. Levin, Bozzio, and Stevens play off of one another precisely as one mind.
On the last cut, "Chaos/Control," you hear that "E7
breakdown" from Hendrix's "Midnight" on War Heroes, and then a jazzy
boogie in classic Frank Marino style is laid down. Stevens is a guitarist with a wide range of dynamics.
Terry Bozzio, drummer for Frank Zappa and Jeff Beck. Tony Levin, bassist for King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. Steve Stevens, guitarist for Billy Idol and Michael Jackson. To the typical prog fan, Stevens may seem the odd man out in this trio, but guitar aficionados know that he is a well-respected guitarist and composer of Grammy Award-winning movie soundtracks. Initially conceived as a "names" project (like the Players session with Jeff Berlin, Scott Henderson, T Lavitz and Steve Smith), the endeavor evolved into a very special recording session.
Initiated by Bozzio, only he and Stevens had met before the recording session for a few jams, just to make sure the potential was present. Otherwise, none of the musicians had previously played together. The trio entered the recording studio for four days and spontaneously composed and played the seven songs on this disc.
The opening track, "The Sun Road," was the result of the first studio jam and the version here is the second take. In fact, each song was recorded live in only the first or second take, with no punch-ins to erase bum notes, etc. Before leaving the studio, Levin dubbed in a few extra bass lines with the Chapman Stick, bowed upright bass and so forth, for added tonal coloring. Stevens then took the tapes for five days to overdub some effects and a few extra guitar, guitar-synth and electric sitar lines.
For the most part, though, Black Light Syndrome is a live in the studio jam session with three excellent musicians. The songs were composed in one of two ways: the trio worked out some guideposts and improvised their way from one to the next, or simply let the creative juices flow as they may. Two songs fall into the latter category and, interestingly, they feature Stevens on Flamenco guitar on "Duente" and a jazzy acoustic guitar on "Book of Hours." His chordal work on "Book of Hours" reminded me of John McLaughlin from his Que Alegria album.
The remaining songs are generally oriented to the electric guitar. I do not know if the songs are presented in the order they were recorded, but certainly the chemistry among the three musicians seems to improve as the disc proceeds. The high point, for me, was "Falling in Circles." All three musicians click into a ferocious groove. Stevens' killer chops run the range from bluesy riffs to swirling "the UFOs are landing" metal licks. Bozzio is an outstanding drummer and I particularly liked his cymbal work. Levin simply demonstrates why he is one of the most respected and in-demand session bassists in the business today.
Regardless of whether you classify Black Light Syndrome as instrumental rock or progressive rock, I think you'll find it hard to deny that something wonderful happened when these three musicians entered the studio together."
This is another example of the musicians going into the studio with very little rehearsing and very little time. Four days to be truthful,but we'll let the product speak for itself.
The project started as an idea between Bozzio and Magna Carta's Pete Morticelli. Steve Stevens was suggested by Terry's wife and, as usual, Tony Levin was first choice but was never really considered an option due to his busy schedule.
Terry Bozzio was a name that I had heard of in the music scene but had never heard any of his work. I didn't know what I was missing! He is able to play the fastest and freakest fills / solos I ever heard on any album. Check out the fills in "Chaos/Control" or "Dark Corners"! He has jumped from just a name to one of my favorite drummers. He is up there with the likes of Steve Gadd, Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart, Tim Alexander, etc. This whole album is a highlight of his talent and ability to play many types of musical styles. Also I would like to point out the greatest symbol sound I have heard,I'm not sure if it's the recording or the symbols themselves but I love it!
Tony Levin. What can be said of this guy that hasn't been said a hundred times already? He is the most innovative and diverse bass player I can think of. His master of the instrument has put him on everybody's favorite bass player list. On this album he uses both the bass and the chapman stick,which adds to the diversity of sound on the album. He even uses some distorted bass on "Dark Corners"! I guess the only thing to say he has once again been able to lay a solid foundation will doing some of the coolest lines in the world.
Steve Stevens was the only name that I had doubts about. I was only aware of his playing with Billy Idol and Michael Jackson, which disturbed me a little. I never thought of Steve as an experimental or progressive guitar player but once again I have been pleasently surprised by this album and found that Steve was a good choice for the album. His guitar was quite subdued at times just playing a melody that was perfect to the song, for example "The Sun Road." On the other side I find his use of effects and the whammy bar to be a bit extreme. My highlight of his playing is the acoustic guitar on such tracks as "Duende."
Overall this album has no problems becoming one of my favorite of the Magna Carta label. It gives each instrument / player their own space to explore. I would have no reservations recommending this album to any progressive fan.
...essentially it is a perfect melding of jazz, progressive rock, ambient and just plain jamming that has anovertly '90s feel. This is best exemplified in the stunning, near 15-minute opener "The Sun Road," which highlights all the band's strengths as it begins a melodic fusion-like number and builds in intensity with thunderous percussion and brilliant guitar work that includes some eerie electric leads and fluid flamenco acoustic fills. "Duende" finds each band member playing off the other in this exotic and melodic piece.
Stevens again shines with his flowing acoustic playing. Better still is the brilliant title cut with its tougher textures and slightly Hendrix-like soloing. This really is an exceptional and original album by three musicians who seem to have a good musical empathy and may prove to be the power trio of the decade.
All songs written and composed by Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens.
No. Title Length
1. "The Sun Road" 14:39
2. "Dark Corners" 8:32
3. "Duende" 7:26
4. "Black Light Syndrome" 8:45
5. "Falling in Circles" 9:08
6. "Book of Hours" 9:42
7. "Chaos/Control" 8:48
Steve Stevens – guitar, production
Tony Levin – Chapman stick, bass, production
Terry Bozzio – drums, production