Monday, October 30, 2017

Weather Report - 1972 [2004] "I Sing The Body Electric"

I Sing the Body Electric is the second album released by Weather Report from 1972. The album includes two new members of the band: percussionist Dom Um Romão and drummer Eric Gravatt. The last three tracks were recorded live in concert in Tokyo, Japan on January 13, 1972. These tracks have been edited for this album and can be heard in their entirety on Weather Report's 1972 import album Live in Tokyo.
The album takes its title from an 1855 poem by Walt Whitman, also a 1969 short story by Ray Bradbury.

Like the weather itself, this band would assume a new shape with virtually every release -- and this album, half recorded in the studio and half live in Tokyo, set the pattern of change. Exit Airto Moreira and Alphonse Mouzon; enter percussionist Dom Um Romao, drummer Eric Gravatt, and a slew of cameo guests like guitarist Ralph Towner, flutist Hubert Laws, and others. The studio tracks are more biting, more ethnically diverse in influence, and more laden with electronic effects and grandiose structural complexities than before. The live material (heard in full on the import Live in Tokyo) is even fiercer and showcases for the first time some of the tremendous drive WR was capable of, though it doesn't give you much of an idea of its stream of consciousness nature.

I Sing The Body Electric is a very obscure collection of music. It almost completely ignores the ambient sound that was explored by its predecessor. The Weather Report's eponymous debut experimented with an atmospheric approach to Jazz music, expanding on the musical concepts found in albums like Miles Davis' In A Silent Way. But I Sing The Body Electric follows a very different objective, the music seems to have more in common with the experimental nature of Progressive rock than Jazz. This time drawing influence from albums like Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, as the compositions seem to question all rules of musical convention, while leaving us to roam through various musical landscapes.

The opening song, "The Unknown Soldier", completely diverts itself away from the traditional etiquettes of Jazz orchestration. It is a voyage through the abstract, expressing an enigmatic philosophy for us to decipher. Eric Gravatt establishes a rhythmic landscape with his drumming, and from there, the other instruments begin to erupt with sounds that tend to project contrasting moods- from inducing an ominous environment to expressing a more calming sensation. Even Eric Gravatt's drumming, who often provides a delicate percussive rhythm, also has his moments of intensive of solos. "The Unknown Soldier" is a very interesting piece because we have absolutely no idea where the musicians are taking us in this musical voyage. And before we even get the chance to fully grasp the concept behind this song, it fades into silence.

"The Moors", on the other hand, follows a more conventional approach. It opens with a solo performance on an acoustic guitar. The orchestral arrangement is very spastic, following its own pace while remaining loyal to the album's esoteric plot. But this guitar solo exists for a purpose, it's our passage into a mesmerizing jam. This is actually a very gentle performance, Wayne Shorter's saxophone asserts itself as the centerpiece and his deliveries convey a very soothing tone. "Crystal" and "Second Sunday In August" follow a similar musical style, as they return to the atmospheric textures explored in the previous album, while at times even transcending into psychedelia.

The final section of the album contains an assortment of live recordings from a performance in Japan, yet another connection to the compositional structure of Ummagumma. It opens with "Medley: Vertical Invader, T.H., Dr. Honorius Causa" and ends with "Directions", and right from the beginning, without any hesitation, the musicians deliver a set filled with relentless Jazz Fusion. I mean, this performance explores every aspect of the genre- releases of musical spontaneity, long instrumental voyages that transcend the boundaries of Progressive rock and Psychedelia, and of course, eruptions of dextrous solos from each musician. In the end, I Sing The Body Electricintroduces itself as an album written by a band that is still trying to decide what kind of music it is that they want to produce. It's going to be a very interesting experience for the listener to discover how much this band has evolved since the release of their debut the previous year, as The Weather Report are still exploring musical possibilities and expanding their sound. This is a very experimental album and one that requires a commitment from the listener to understand its plot. My advice is to open all of your senses to the piece at hand. Try and experience all it has to offer, meditate on every sound, and the music itself will reveal its meaning.

Tracks Listing

1. Unknown Soldier (7:57)
2. The Moors (4:40)
3. Crystal (7:16)
4. Second Sunday in August (4:09)
5. Medley: T.H./Dr. Honoris Causa (10:10)
6. Surucucus (7:41)
7. Directions (4:35)

Total Time: 46:28

Line-up / Musicians

- Eric Gravatt / drums
- Don Um Romao / percussion
- Wayne Shorter / soprano & tenor saxophones
- Miroslav Vitous / bass
- Joe Zawinul / acoustic & electric pianos, ARP 2600 synthesizers

Special Guests

    Andrew White - English horn ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Hubert Laws, Jr. - Flute ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Wilmer Wise - D and piccolo trumpets ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Yolande Bavan - Voice ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Joshie Armstrong - Voice ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Chapman Roberts - Voice ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Roger Powell - Consultant (synthesizer programming) ("Unknown Soldier" only)
    Dom Um Romão - Percussion ("The Moors" only)
    Ralph Towner - 12-string guitar ("The Moors" only)