Ken Scott, producer and engineer of Spectrum, on recording Cobham's drums: "Bill Cobham's drums were treated in exactly the same way as I recorded every other drummer. I just used more mics: Neumann U67s on toms, D20s or RE20s (at Electric Lady) on the bass drums, Neumann KM54 or 56 on snare, and either STC 4038s or Beyer M160 ribbon mics for the overheads. One other thing: in order to dampen the snare, Bill just laid his wallet on the top head."
Leland Sklar, bassist on Spectrum: "Spectrum is such a benchmark for so many people. There was a sort of fire in it. It was new ground and it wasn't very analytical. It was more flying by the seat of your pants. That's where great accidents happen, which seems impossible these days. We never did more than a couple of takes on any of it. It was more or less a two-day record. It went by so fast."
Tommy Bolin, who would go on to join the hard rock band Deep Purple two years later, plays lead guitar.
The song "Stratus" appears in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV of the radio station "Fusion FM", as well as being the main sample in the Massive Attack hit "Safe from Harm".
When former Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham released the extraordinary Spectrum album in 1973 it had the immediate and profound effect of moving the burgeoning jazz-rock fusion movement into the mainstream. Jazz had started to move away from its traditional foundations with recordings such as Miles Davis’ 1969 album Bitches Brew with John McLaughlin on guitar. McLaughlin then started making waves with Cobham on drums and Jan Hammer on keyboards in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. At the same time, rock music was maturing and becoming more sophisticated.Spectrum was the album that presented jazz and funk in a form that young rock record buyers could immediately relate to. The door was thrown open for other fusion acts such as Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, as well as Alphonse Mouzon and Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House. On the rock side, after hearing Spectrum guitar superstar Jeff Beck almost immediately went into an intense fusion foray that lasted for many years. Today, as then, Spectrum looms over the rest with it’s incredible blend of chops, power and hooks.
A large part of why Spectrum works so well has to do with Cobham’s choice of Tommy Bolin for the guitar spot. John McLaughlin is rightfully considered to be one of the best guitarists in history, but Tommy’s electric tone was consistently superior, dripping with danger, sex and gut-level impact. Although not as much of a technically studied player as McLaughlin, Tommy still had immense and authoritative technical ability and hung tight to and charged ahead of everything that Cobham’s band of seasoned professionals could throw at him.
Here's an album that I could easily recommend to any fan of jazz-rock and to anyone who doesn't like jazz-rock, actually. Many people bought a set of drums because of this album. Many drummers sold their drums after hearing this album.
This album is technical perfection, with emphasis on drums - but how many drum-oriented albums that deserve a masterpiece status do you know?
This is not only a masterpiece, this is a desert island album. It will continue to grow on you every time you are listening to it- it's one of those damn albums where you can discover something new every time you are listening to it, even if you are familiar with it for ten years or more.
I prefer to call this one rock-jazz rather than jazz-rock; my impression is that this is a full-blooded jazz album and it rocks. It's a perfect balance of freshness & youth and maturity & musicianship.
The drums are incredible, astonishing and that is all I'm going to say about it. I do not like drum solos - but William Cecil Cobham is undoubtedly a genius, capable to balance everything in a song perfectly.
Most of the songs are interplays between keyboards and guitar with incredibly complex drumming and incredibly simple bass in a background. This formula is applied to almost all songs in the album - plus, there's usually a drum solo as an intro to the song (note the (a) and (b) parts in the track listing).
So, if the album is following some rules so strictly, what is so good about it?
Everything else. Controlled monstrosity, rock mannerism on a jazz background, brief and effective solos. Excellent musicianship. This album is pleasant, furious, focused, groundbreaking. Anything you want.
This albums is highly recommended to anyone on this planet who have some credibility as a fan of serious and intelligent music. Especially recommended to people who are not the fans of jazz-rock/fusion.
This is one of the masterpieces for the centuries to come.
A rock album with jazz sensibilities?; Get in and be amazed at the skill of that drummer!!. Billy Cobham has brought some of the Mahavishnu spirit for this album, with some drum interludes. In fact two song are introduced by two drum spots: "Searching for the Right Door" serves as an introduction for the title track and Anxiety opens for "Taurian Matador". The sax and the flute, unfortunately, serve mainly as accompaniment instruments (with only few solo spots), so the instruments that stand out the most are electric piano/guitar and Moog synthetizer.
The album sets sail with an explosive guitar/drum duo (I believe the guitarist is Tommy Bolin, as it fits his approach to guitar technique and fireworks); a speedy rock n' roll/blues song. Then Spectrum with it's great reed/woodwind arrangements and exquisite electric piano improvisation and the one crazed sax bridge. How about the Moog/guitar duo on "Taurian Matador"?... simply fireworks; amazing interplay!!!. "Stratus" is the longest track on the album andit takes about 3 minutes between studio tricks and drum display, then it builds up as a slow rocking jam. The insightful "To The Women In My Life" (a piano prelude) serves as opening for the latin-injected "Le Lis" and we get to the finale with a wicked "studio trick" track called "Snoopy's Search" which is followed by the legendary "Red Baron", one of my favourites tracks of the album.
A real treat for rock and jazz fans alike, and one of the most memorable fusion albums of the 70's. A 5 star!!
I listened to this album in 1985. It is a very good album, with very good compositions by Cobham who also is a brillant drummer. It is an album in the very "Fusion" style, and maybe it is one of the best examples of this style of music. Cobham selected very good collaborators for the recording of this album. In particular, guitarist Tommy Bolin (who died in 1976) and keyboard player Jan Hammer shine on this album, with Bolin playing very good lead & rhythm guitars on most of the songs (John Tropea also played guitar in one or two songs). Bolin`s playing is particularly good in the song "Quadrant 4". In my opinion, his style was more adequate for the Jazz-Rock music, so I don`t know why he played with Deep Purple years later, as his style wasn`t very similar to Ritchie Blackmore`s and Deep Purple`s. Hammer also plays very good synth solos in his very own style, and also other keyboards. Hammer plays piano in the brief and beautiful song called "To the Women in my Life", which sounds more like an introduction for the next song called "Le Lys", which has the same melody from "To the Women of my Life", but played with drums,congas, electric piano, synth, bass, guitar and wind instruments. In conclusion, is a very recommendable album.
Released in 1973 by Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham, this sensational jazz/rock drumming album breaks boundaries. The album opens with the best drumming track on the album, the groundbreaking "Quadrant 4". With it's near impossible drum rhythm and sensational stamina, whether you're a drummer or nor you will be blown away by this performance. After a complex two minute drum solo called "Anxiety" is the jazzy "Spectrum", which opens suavely with some excellent flute and bass playing from Joe Farrel and Ron Carter. Another track that is really worth mentioning on this album is the funky latin "Taurian Matador", which also has a very proggy feel to it. and my personal favourite track from the album, "Stratus". The track opens with another blinding two minute drum solo from Cobham, then eventually breaks into a fantastic jazz riff, making this my personal favourite jazz song of all time. Even if you aren't a drummer, this album is a must have for any jazz collection. 5 stars.
All songs written and composed by Billy Cobham.
1. Quadrant 4 (4:20)
2. Searching For The Right Door / Spectrum (6:33)
- a. Searching For The Right Door (1:24)
- b. Spectrum (5:09)
3. Anxiety / Taurian Matador (4:44)
- a. Anxiety (1:41)
- b. Taurian Matador (3:03)
4. Stratus (9:50)
5. To The Women In My Life / Le Lis (5:11)
- a. To The Women In My Life (0:51)
- b. Le Lis (3:20)
6. Snoopy's Search / Red Baron (6:39)
- a. Snoopy's Search (1:02)
- b. Red Baron (6:37)
Total Time: 37:20
Billy Cobham - Drums (1-6) & Drums, Electronics (solos on '3.a')
Tommy Bolin - Guitar (1, 3.b, 4, 6.b)
Jan Hammer - Electric piano, Moog synthesizer, Acoustic piano (not on 2.b) (1, 2.b, 3.b, 4, 5.b, 6.b)
Lee Sklar - Bass guitar (1, 3.b, 4, 6.b)
Joe Farrell - Soprano sax (2.b) & Alto sax (5.b)
Jimmy Owens - Flugelhorn (2.b, 5.b) & Trumpet (5.b)
John Tropea - Guitar (5.b)
Ron Carter - Acoustic bass (2.b, 5.b)
Ray Barretto - Congas (2.b, 5.b)