Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Eleventh House Feat. Larry Coryell - 1975 [2012] "Level One"

Level One is The Eleventh House's second album released 1975 for the Arista label. The album reached 1975 number 23 on Billboard magazine's Jazz album chart and number 163 on the Billboard 200 chart.

This was the follow-up to the legendary Introducing the Eleventh House recording. While it never achieved the classic status of its predecessor, it is an excellent follow-up that captures the band at their creative and technical peak. From the whimsical "Diedra" to the intense "Nyctophobia," Coryell leads his group with an understated refrain. He has always been at his best when acting as an equal within a group's space rather than as the centerpiece. His one indulgence here is the pretty, acoustic guitar solo "Eyes of Love." Of particular interest on this recording is the ferocious drumming of Alponse Mouzon, who displays a style of speed and power that rivals that of Billy Cobham. This is a forgotten gem from the fusion era.

You really have to hand it to reissue labels like Wounded Bird, who do a fantastic job of unearthing gems from the vaults as well as getting vintage in-demand, previously out of print releases by popular artists back in circulation. Jazz-fusion fanatics have long been clamoring for Level One from The Eleventh House to be reissued on CD, and now here it is. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this band, it featured guitarist Larry Coryell, drummer Alphonse Mouzon, Mike Mandel on keyboards, bassist John Lee, and horn player Michael Lawrence (Randy Brecker and Danny Trifan were in an earlier incarnation of the band). Level One was originally released in 1975, and is a seminal recording from the fusion era that also spawned such acts as Return to Forever, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, The Brecker Brothers, The Tony Williams Lifetime, Brand X, and so many other groundbreaking bands.
Level One was the bands third release, and last before they disbanded for the first time (The Eleventh House would reunite several times with various line-up over the next few decades), but it is an extremely solid effort that rivals their debut Introducing the Eleventh House from 1973. Led by the sizzling guitar of Coryell and Mouzon's dynamic drum work, Level One contains many standout tracks of scorching fusion, like the killer opening title cut and "Some Greasy Stuff". Coryell's licks and solos have a certain John McLaughlin feel to them, as he also favored distorted, rapid fire passages that mixed rock and funk styles, zig-zagging through arrangements also colored with trumpet, flugelhorn, and keyboards. "Nyclaphobia" is an aggressive fusion monster, with Mouzon's acrobatic drum fills blazing underneath furious riffs from Mandel & Coryell, easily a song that will appeal to fans of Return to Forever and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. If you love the sound of the Fender Rhodes, Mandel puts on a show here. The majestic 3-part "Suite" is simply lovely, as the band combines jazz and progressive rock, while "Eyes of Love" shows Coryell's deft touch on the acoustic guitar. Another highlight on Level One is the surging funk rocker "Struttin' With Sunshine", a real barnburner with fat bass riffs from Lee and a wealth of horns, ethereal keyboards, and Coryell's nasty licks. Closer "That the Joint" is a bombastic, rockin' slice of fusion, with all the players delivering scorching passages within the catchy, can't miss melody.
Top to bottom, Level One is scorching, mandatory listening for any fan of '70s jazz-fusion. It's a shame this band basically burned out so quickly,as they had just as much to offer the scene back in the day as any of the groups mentioned above. Kudos once again to Wounded Bird for unleashing this beast on CD.

Someone finally had the decency to release this music on CD. Larry Coryell and company were at the top of their game when they put this title out. As several reviewers have already said; this ranks right up there at the top of so-called classic fusion recordings. I'm talking about being in the same league as Billy Cobham's Spectrum, any one of Return To Forever's recordings, Tony Williams Lifetime and other such dearly beloved fusion classics. I was fortunate enough to see Larry Coryell and the Eleventh House when they played at the University of Florida not long after this recording was made. Let me tell you, at the time, Larry was considered the shredmeister of the day. He was so revered (not just because of his technical ability and pure speed but also his musicality) that he was given a regular column in Guitar Player magazine. Do yourself a great favor; purchase this CD now while it's available. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) who currently cherishes their copy of this title in it's original vinyl form will be purchasing this CD! Buy this CD and while you are at it, buy his book "Improvising". Listen to this recording while reading his book. Then do a Google search on his name and read every article you can find. Believe me, there are plenty of stories and information not included in his book because there was not enough room, he forgot or he was trying to be modest and not come off as a braggart.

I was glad to see this fusion classic finally released on cd. this really is one of the fusion classics from the '70s and has always been a favorite eleventh house album for me. without a doubt, it is coryell's best album for hot, rocking electric guitar. coryell, who has always been a jazz guitar god, is one of the pioneers in fusion, with the first eleventh house album making its debut in '68, when fusion was still practically unheard of. as you can tell by the geeky cover photos (not the brightest move), level one was released in '75 during the funk-jazz era just before the dawn of disco popularity. and some of the music reflects the updated funk-jazz-pre-disco trends of the time, although this music is so much more palatable than disco for a number of reasons: it's very powerful instrumental fusion driven by coryell's hot and very rocking electric guitar work. although some tunes aim their powerful melodies in a funk-jazz-pre-disco era direction, they are well-delivered and memorable songs (even for people like me who never liked disco). and there are a good number of tunes with a stronger sense of jazz fusion composition that are quite impressive for people who want to see inventive jazz/rock fusion composition on an album like this. the mix of tunes with haunting melodies and tunes with intricate compositions was well chosen and executed. although EH's original trumpet man (randy brecker) had been replaced by michael lawrence by the time they did this album, music quality did not suffer. although he doesn't look like much, lawrence did a wonderful job belting out his trumpet parts.....whether in hard-driving melodies or smoking jams, lawrence delivers on the horn! and EH standard personnel alphonse mouzon (drums) and mike mandel (keyboards) deliver in fine style, as expected. the other newcomer on this album, john lee is also a very worthy and respectable man on bass. the main reason i'm only giving this album 4 stars is because the album and all the songs in it are a little shorter than they should be (with the exception of coryell's acoustic solo piece, which is perfectly fine even in its brevity). if the jams were all longer on all tunes, the songs and the overall album would have been a more respectable length. still, despite being shorter than it should have been, this is a very pleasing album for fans of jazz fusion, and i'm glad i finally get to have it on cd! it's about time! 

 I had this album in vinyl when it first came out...This is my favorite fusion album from the jazz side...HANDS DOWN! This
album rocks! This goes very well with Jeff Beck's Wired album that is fusion from the rock side. The sum of the two are
synergistic in nature, and will fuse your mind with an energy field that does not wear off when the last track is played!
Level One is one of my greatest albums I've ever owned. Kudos to the bright individual who brought this great work back
to life without changing the mix! Just like the vinyl........................IT'S ALIVE!!!

Tracks Listing

1. Level One (3:21)
2. The Other Side (4:35)
3. Diedra (3:56)
4. Some Greasy Stuff (3:30)
5. Nyctaphobia (4:03)
6. Suite (5:32) :
- a) Entrance
- b) Repose
- c) Exit
7. Eyes Of Love (2:35)
8. Struttin' With Sunshine (3:20)
9. That's The Joint (4:03)

Total Time: 34:40

Line-up / Musicians

- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Mike Lawrence / trumpet, flugelhorn
- Mike Mandel / keyboards
- John Lee / bass
- Alphonse Mouzon / percussion

- Steve Khan / 12-string guitar (1)



  2. Thank you very much=this one is hard to come by!

  3. Thank you, so very much. Like previous says; it is really hard to get hold of. Much appreciated.

  4. Thank you; another excellent post.

  5. Thanks for another excellent post

  6. excellent album, thank you very much. It was not available to me at this quality. I am very happy.

  7. Thanks so much for this. Out of circulation for a long time. Larry was a true jazz pioneer. Glad I was able to see him live before he passed on.