Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Billy Cobham - 1998 "Magic" & "Simplicity of Expression"

This is a bargain priced CD reissue of two of drummer Billy Cobham's harder to find recordings from the later '70s. Of the two, Magic is far superior and is generally regarded as one of his most interesting recordings in his extensive discography. Magic alone is worth the upgrade to CD; however, the inclusion of Simplicity of Expression: Depth of Thought amounts to nothing more than a throw in. Cobham recorded some embarrassing disco during the late '70s and this is a prime example. The two for one is too good to pass up and makes the CD highly recommended for fusion collectors.

Contains Two Classic Fusion Albums on One CD ('Magic' (1977) and 'Depth of Thought' (1978) ). Featuring Sidemen Such as : Mark Soskin (Piano), Pete Maunu (Guitar), Randy Jackson (Bass) and Sheila E. (Percussion). Includes the Songs : 'On a Magic Carpet Ride', 'Ac/Dc', 'Magic', 'Bolinas', 'Pocket Change', 'Indigo' and 'Early Libra'.

Is there one word which defines this double compilation CD from drummer extraordinaire Billy Cobham? Sure.....it's "ethereal". Here, Cobham transcends his contemporaries, such as Jack de Johnette and Omar Hakim to display not only a surreal understanding of rhythm, but an "ethereal" display of melody, nuance and structure. Check out "Leaward Winds" from the "Magic" album, or "Bolinas" from "Simplicity of Expression, Depth of Thought". The title song from the latter CD goes boldly where many a jazz drummer wish to tread, but cannot successfully navigate. This applies to "La Guernica" from the same CD. No overstatement here....merely the weight of Cobham's drumming flowing effortlessly over an air tight melodic wave of creativity and purpose. A masterpiece.

Billy Cobham - 1977 "Magic" 

 Of all Billy Cobham's Columbia fusion sessions, time has been the most unkind to Magic. Despite some inspired and at times awe-inspiring performances, the album is too much a product of its era, suffering from sickly sweet production, awkward vocal contributions, and ill-fitting clarinet contributions from an out of place Alvin Batiste. Strip away the viscous layers of gloss and indulgence, and Magic begins to live up to its title. Cobham's rhythmic interplay with bassist Randy Jackson and percussionists Pete Escovedo and Sheila E. is nothing short of astounding, as fierce and funky as anything in the drummer's catalog. But the songs are tepid and the arrangements overbaked, not to mention that Pete Maunu's guitar wankery verging on the point of absurdity. All in all, too much of a good thing, yet still not enough.

Line-up / Musicians

- Billy Cobham / drums, hand-claps, vocals
- Joachim Kuhn / electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini Moog synthesizer
- Mark Soskin / acoustic piano, acoustic tack piano, electric piano, Oberheim synthesizer
- Pete Maunu / guitars
- Randy Jackson / bass
- Alvin Baptiste / clarinet
- Pete Escovedo / timbales, vocals
- Sheila Escovedo / congas
- Kathleen Kaan / vocals
- Hojo / hand-claps
- Dennis / hand-claps


Billy Cobham - 1978 "Simplicity of Expression"

 Along with the little known B.C., this is Billy Cobham's most disappointing recordings of the '70s. Like fellow fusion/drumming legends Alphonse Mouzon and Lenny White, Cobham gradually migrated toward disco/funk. His brand of this music sounds worse than most because he continues the propulsive drum style, making for an unbalanced approach. "Bolinas" and "Pocket Change" are embarrassing, but all is not lost as "La Guernica" is a burner. As the so-called death of fusion was fast approaching, Cobham was at a crossroads in his career.

Line-up / Musicians

- Billy Cobham / drums, percussion, background vocals (3,5)
- Randy Jackson / bass, background vocals (3,5)
- Mark Soskin / keyboards (1-3,5)
- Joachim Kühn / Moog (4), keyboards (6)
- Mike Mainieri / vibraphone (4)
- Ray Mouton / guitar (1,2,5)
- Charles Singleton / guitar (1,2,5), lead vocals (3,5), background vocals (3,5)
- Steve Khan / acoustic 12-string & 6-string guitar (2)
- Pete Mannu / guitar (4)
- Alvin Batiste / clarinet (2), woodwinds (3,5)
- Eddie Daniels / woodwinds (3,5), tenor sax (1)
- Kamal / lead vocals (1,6)
- Marvin Stamm / trumpet (1,2,6), flugelhorn (1,2,6)
- Mike Lawrence / trumpet (1,2,6), flugelhorn (1,2,6)
- Wayne Andre / trombone (1,2,6)
- Alan Ralph / trombone (1,2,6)
- George Quinn / trombone (1,2,6)
- Brooks Tillotson / french horn (1,2,6)
- Don Corrado / fench horn (1,2,6)
- David Nadien / concert master of the string section (1,2,6)
- Matthew Raimondi / string section (1,2,6)
- Richard Hendrickson / string section (1,2,6)
- Alfred V.Brown / string section (1,2,6)
- Peter Dimitriades / string section (1,2,6)
- Anahid Aiemian / string section (1,2,6)
- Louis Shulman / string section (1,2,6)
- Jonathan Abramowitz / string section (1,2,6)

Track Listings

  1. On A Magic Carpet Ride
  2. AC/DC
  3. Leaward Winds
  4. Puffnstugg
  5. "anteres" The Star
  6. Magic
  7. Reflections In The Coulds
  8. Magic-Recapitulation
  9. Bolinas
  10. La Guernica
  11. Pocket Change
  12. Indigo
  13. Opelousas
  14. Early Libra

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