Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stanley Clarke - 1973 [2007] "Children Of Forever"

Children of Forever is the debut album of the fusion jazz bassist Stanley Clarke.

Recorded eleven months after Chick Corea's astounding "Return to Forever" and three months after his groundbreaking "Light as a Feather", band mate Stan (aka Stanley) Clarke recorded this equally classic gem "Children of Forever" in December of 1972 with a slightly different supporting cast. Stanley played upright bass throughout with Chick on keys, Lenny White on drums, Joe Farell on winds, Pat Martino playing guitar with the jazzy and soulful duo of Dee Dee Bridgewater and the incomparable Andy Bey handling the vocals. It is an outstanding journey from the title track to the epic "Sea Journeys" that concludes the work. Of note are the incredible compositions "Children of Forever", "Unexpected Days", and "Butterfly Dreams."

"Children of Forever" starts as a soul-infused mid tempo vocal that quickly explodes into a hefty upright bass and keyboard workout with Dee Dee on the left channel and Andy on the right. Beautifully sung and played it sounds as though this was a recording of a live performance of a band just starting to define its identity. Well executed, swinging with an eye towards gospel and soul sounds.

"Unexpected Days" contains a strikingly beautiful and uplifting melody that at two moments reaches a crescendo with an incredible harmony from the team of Bridgewater and Bey. Clarke simply rips, Corea is excellent as always and Pat Martino's fills are heavenly. Lenny White was a tasteful compliment to Clarke & Corea and Joe Farrell provided an excellent solo to match Chick. The lyrics, melody and the climactic harmonies are what carry this beautiful composition, the line "vibrations loves vibrations are so strong now clear and strong now!..." and the harmony between Bridgewater and Bey are unforgettable and very much define the jazz-soul-fusion sound of the early 1970s.

"Butterfly Dreams" is absolutely like being shot into heaven with BOSE headphones over both ears! Achingly beautiful lyrics about the magic of being a child and how we lose that magic with every year we age sincerely conveyed by Andy Bey's incredibly warm and brilliant phrasings. White, Clarke, and Corea lay a precise foundation for Farrell's flute, Martino's guitar solo and Bey's vocals. The piece concludes with Clarke's still impressive and stellar upright bass conversation.

"Bass Folk Song" and "Sea Journey" are both wonderful pieces. The latter is a prototypical Return to Forever workout with the addition of Bridgewater's fluid vocal stylings, Corea's lyrical keys and aggressive solos from most of the band typical of what this mega-group would produce in a more amplified and even more aggressive fashion throughout the 1970s. This is fusion-soul-jazz from one of the most influential American bands of the last 40 years with absolutely stunning vocals from internationally respected and admired vocalists Andy Bey and DeeDee Bridgewater who helped usher in the year of "Forever" which was 1972! Led by Stanley Clarke but very much one of the first three Return to Forever albums, this one is a more than worthwhile addition to your jazz collection, excellent for seasoned aficionados yet safe for "newbies" who want to expand their jazz palate!

Still very much an intragal part of Return To Forever "Stan" Clarke (as Stanley is credited here) decided to take a turn at....well at any rate a recording credited to his own name. But basically this recording ends up being like another lineup of RTF including Chick Corea,Lenny White,Dee Dee Bridgewater and the vocals of Andy Bey. Now even though this album features plenty of Corea's electric piano playing this is really a very improvisational,very latin inflected insturmental jazz album. Stanley Clarke is featured on electric bass on "Bass Folk Song" but even on that his style is more vamping and subdued;there are none of the rockier and funkier elements found on theStanley Clarke album the following year. The strongest track here is the title track-Bey's vocals are the best part really. If there is flaw in this album is that in 1973 Stanley Clarke had not yet forged an individual identity outside of RTF-he was tending to use the same musicians and forged a very similar sound. So most of the time this album can just as much be considered an extention of Return to Forever and Light as a Feather as it is a solo debut. My personal opinion is that musical individuality is important and while this is a wonderful,five star album it is not ammong this particular artists most distintive. While Stanley's devotion to Chick Corea at the time was admirable,as most musicians leave their old band leaders rather thanklessly,he just wasn't able to focus enough on his skill and style as a bass player. But that again by no means is an indication this is weak music and no reason not to pick it up.  

This music is exciting and deep! point blank!,anyone who cant dig this music does'nt follow the entire Stanley Clarke catalog and may only be interested in the mid 70's Bass Funk sound and cant get past anything else.This release captures the spirit of the early Return To Forever with ease. Dee Dee Bridgewater showcases impressive vocals on the set,and Pat Martino(oddly one contributor wrote that he was upset with Martino's addition on this album)performs with smooth "coolness" and pours out the Philly sound with Brotherly accuracy. Many people seemed to be stuck on Al DiMeola because he was such a young and thrilling guitarist,but once more anyone who knows the entire Return To Forever experience will know that Al was'nt the original guitarist! and theirs always room for alternate improvisations!..in other words to borrow the words of George Clinton "Free Your Mind and Your Ass will Follow' This session jams!!!

Track listing

All tracks composed by Stanley Clarke and lyrics written by Neville Potter; except where indicated

1.    "Children of Forever" – 10:42
2.    "Unexpected Days" – 5:53
3.    "Bass Folk Song" (Clarke) – 7:59
4.    "Butterfly Dreams" – 6:52
5.    "Sea Journey" (Chick Corea, Neville Potter)– 16:26

Personnel

    Stanley Clarke - Bass fiddle, electric bass
    Chick Corea - Electric piano, acoustic piano, clavinette
    Lenny White - Drums, tambourine
    Pat Martino - Electric Guitar, 12 string guitar
    Dee Dee Bridgewater - Vocal
    Andy Bey - Vocal
    Arthur Webb - Flute

3 comments:

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  2. Chiquilicuatre y ZappaSeptember 27, 2015 at 1:42 AM

    many thanks

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