Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tomasz Stanko Quintet - 1973 [2006] "Purple Sun"

Tomasz Stańko (born July 11, 1942) is a Polish trumpeter, composer and improviser. Often recording for ECM Records, Stańko is strongly associated with free jazz and the avant-garde.
Coming to prominence in the early 1960s alongside pianist Adam Makowicz in the Jazz Darings, Stańko later collaborated with pianist Krzysztof Komeda, notably on Komeda's pivotal 1966 album Astigmatic. In 1968, Stańko formed an acclaimed quintet that included Zbigniew Seifert on violin and alto saxophone, and in 1975 he formed the Tomasz Stańko-Adam Makowicz Unit.
Stańko has since established a reputation as a leading figure not only in Polish jazz, but on the world stage as well, working with many notable musicians, including Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Reggie Workman, Rufus Reid, Lester Bowie, David Murray, Manu Katche and Chico Freeman. In 1984 he was a member of Cecil Taylor's big band.
Stańko lost his natural teeth in the 1990s, although over time he developed a new embouchure with the help of a skilled dentist and monotonous practice. He would spend long hours playing what he deemed to be "boring" long tones which helped to strengthen his lip, in spite of playing with the disadvantage of false teeth.

In 1968, alto saxophonist Zbigniew Seifert joined the newly formed Stanko Quintet, soon switched from ax to electric violin, and the next chapter of European Jazz history began. Beside Stanko and Seifert, the line-up of the Quintet included Janusz Muniak on the saxophones and flute, Jan Gonciarczyk / Bronislaw Suchanek on the bass and Janusz Stefanski on the drums. The Quintet made three records: "Music for K" (1970), "Jazz Message from Poland" (1972) and "Purple Sun" (1973) but the albums could not compare to the magic of Quintet's life performances. The music of Quintet escaped easy definitions. Sophisticated, collective improvisations and breath taking instrumental solos were bands' trademarks; hypnotic cosmic-like interactions between members of the band, and between the band and the life public, complemented the whole experience. Stanko Quintet disbanded in 1973 on the pick of its creative potential and after achieving cult-like following in Europe.

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is most probably country's best known jazz musician for some decades and prestigious ECM label in-house artist. Better known (especially outside of his homeland) from his ECM-sound recordings, in his early ears Stanko played quite different music. Started his career still at late 60s, Tomasz played with in Polish legend Komeda band, starting his career as leader in early 70s.

"Purple Sun" is Stanko quintet third album recorded live in empty hall of Music School in Munich,Germany. All-Polish quartet is completed with German bassist Hans Hartmann here. Album contains four originals (twolong and two shorter pieces). Confusingly enough, "Purple Sun" is often classified in music media (partially Polish) as early example of Polish avant-garde jazz which it isn't.

In reality bass-drums-trumpet-sax quartet with violinist Zbigniew Seifert on board plays high energy fusion strongly influenced by Davis' "Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew". Representing contrast difference from popular Stanko ECM albums of contemporary (chamber) jazz, "Purple Sun" with its raw energy and quite free structure possibly sounds as avant-garde piece for traditional Stanko listeners but everyone familiar with early Miles fusion will confirm their musical similarity.

Stanko's fusion is more European comparing with Miles - there are less American jazz roots (no groove) but lot of German krautrock influence in a form of straight power flow and rock-psychedelia. And yeh - the level of musicians virtuosity is far not as in Davis fusion bands.

Still music sounds really fresh and inspired and common "rockish" aesthetics could be attractive for fans of jazz-rock. In all cases, this album (reissued in Poland on CD at least twice so quite accessible) is not for numerous fans of ECM-period Stanko. Lovers of early Miles fusion will probably find here a nice example of similar music recorded by one of the best Polish jazz musician ever.

 Purple Sun was in fact recorded in Munich in March 1973, but retained a heavyweight Polish lineup (save for a top-notch Swiss bassist), of particular note being the legendary violinist Zbigniew Seifert who gives proceedings a slight Mahavishnu flavour in places.  Overall, though, this album is just a fantastic slice of post-Bitches Brew groove with the unique slant of being rooted in Eastern European free jazz.

Track listing:

1 Boratka & Flute's Ballad 14:04
2 My Night, My Day 5:26
3 Flair 13:21
4 Purple Sun 6:09


Trumpet – Tomasz Stańko
Bass – Hans Hartmann
Drums, Percussion – Janusz Stefański
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Janusz Muniak
Violin, Alto Saxophone – Zbigniew Seifert

Friday, November 24, 2017

Pink Floyd - 1969 [1987] "More" (Soundtrack)

More is the first full-length soundtrack album, and third studio album, by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released on 13 June 1969 in the United Kingdom by EMI Columbia and on 9 August 1969 by Tower Records a subsidiary label of Capitol Records in the United States as Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from the film More. It is the first album by the band to be released by Capitol internationally. The film More was primarily filmed on location on Ibiza where most of the story takes place. It was the directorial debut for Barbet Schroeder.

More is a psychedelic rock soundtrack album that contains some acoustic folk ballads, a genre that appeared sparsely on Pink Floyd's later works. It also contains some of the band's "heaviest" recordings, such as "The Nile Song" and "Ibiza Bar", as well as several instrumental tracks, featuring their experimental and avant-garde approach.

This is Pink Floyd's first full album without founding member Syd Barrett, who was ousted from the group in early 1968 during the recording of A Saucerful of Secrets. It is one of the three Pink Floyd albums to feature David Gilmour as the sole lead vocalist, the others being 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason and 2014's The Endless River, and it is also the first album to be produced by Pink Floyd without assistance from Norman Smith. More was recorded at Pye Studios, Marble Arch, London and engineered by Brian Humphries. It is the only album in the band's discography not to have a lead vocal from Roger Waters during his tenure in the band.

Two songs can be heard in the film that were not included on the album: "Seabirds" and "Hollywood".

More reached number 9 in the UK and, upon re-release in 1973, number 153 in the US. In 1987, the album was issued on CD. A digitally remastered CD was released in 1995 in the UK and 1996 in the US.

Since 1995, the new edition changed the title to just Music from the Film More (US title: Music from the Motion Picture More). This was the last of three Pink Floyd albums to be released in the United States by the Tower Records division of Capitol Records. The 1973 US reissue was released on Harvest Records. Although the CD restores the original United Kingdom title in all countries, it is represented differently on the spine (Music from the Film More) and label More. For the Pink Floyd Records 2016 re-issue, the name reverted to Soundtrack from the film More which was released 3 June 2016.

More received mostly negative reviews from critics. The Daily Telegraph was favorable towards the album, while AllMusic provided a mixed response. MusicHound and Rolling Stone, however, were less positive, with the former giving the album a rating of one out of five.

For their third album, Pink Floyd were commissioned to provide the score to More, a film by Barbet Schroeder that dealt heavily with drugs. Ultimately, his movie became nothing more than a footnote, but the mesmerizing soundtrack – released on Aug. 9, 1969 – stands on its own as a true Pink Floyd album.
At this point, the group was still trying to find a new path following the departure of Syd Barrett. Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, had featured a hybrid five-man lineup that still included their erratic founding frontman. With Barrett officially gone, certain tracks on More made their path more clear.
Opening with "Cirrus Minor," the soon-to-be-signature Floyd sound swims through, following some introductory nature sounds which create a dream-like feel. That hazy state is soon harshly disrupted by what is probably Floyd's loudest and most aggressive track, "The Nile Song." As brutal and powerful as anyone else of the era, they bludgeon our ears with some fine neanderthal, proto-metal rock. This could easily be held up as one of this group's great lost songs.

"The Crying Song" settles things back to mellow mode. Written by Roger Waters, who had a hand in all the songs here, this beautiful number perfectly captures the mood of his lyric. "We cry and cry, sadness passes in a while," David Gilmour sings over a bed of acoustic guitars, vibes and minimal drums, creating an atmosphere that is more haunting than psychedelic. He'd handle all of the vocals on More.
"Green Is the Colour" is a pretty little ditty dressed up with piano, acoustic guitars and recorder, while "Cymbaline" is another forgotten gem. The song could have easily fit on any given Pink Floyd album up to, and including, Wish You Were Here. Gilmour's vocal gives it a timeless quality, and was covered by Hawkwind for inclusion on their 1970 debut, though it remained unreleased until the '90s. "Ibiza Bar" is cut from the same cloth as "The Nile Song," with Nick Mason thundering away on drums.
The rest of the album, including tracks like "Up the Khyber," "Party Sequence," "Quicksilver" and "Main Theme," supplies a variety of moods and styles to fit in with the film – and, though written for that purpose, stand on their own as interesting slices of Pink Floyd from this period. That helped More sail into the U.K. Top 10, though it failed to make a dent stateside, where the album finished at just No. 153 by year's end.
For some, the soundtrack work – including More, Zabriskie Point, and Obscured by Clouds – is held apart from their regular catalog. They're considered sidesteps, and are not judged as "standard" Pink Floyd albums. More, however, makes its own argument for a place in the larger scheme of things. Listen in, and you will hear a whole world of great sounds from this always-exceptional band.

Commissioned as a soundtrack to the seldom-seen French hippie movie of the same name, More was a Pink Floyd album in its own right, reaching the Top Ten in Britain. The group's atmospheric music was a natural for movies, but when assembled for record, these pieces were unavoidably a bit patchwork, ranging from folky ballads to fierce electronic instrumentals to incidental mood music. Several of the tracks are pleasantly inconsequential, but this record does include some strong compositions, especially "Cymbaline," "Green Is the Colour," and "The Nile Song." All of these developed into stronger pieces in live performances, and better, high-quality versions are available on numerous bootlegs.

Track listing:

01. "Cirrus Minor" Waters 5:18
02. "The Nile Song" Waters 3:26
03. "Crying Song" Waters 3:33
04. "Up the Khyber" (instrumental) Mason, Wright 2:12
05. "Green Is the Colour" Waters 2:58
06. "Cymbaline" Waters 4:50
07. "Party Sequence" (instrumental) Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason 1:07
08. "Main Theme" (instrumental) Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason 5:27
09. "Ibiza Bar" Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason 3:19
10. "More Blues" (instrumental) Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason 2:12
11. "Quicksilver" (instrumental) Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason 7:13
12. "A Spanish Piece" Gilmour 1:05
13. "Dramatic Theme" (instrumental) Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason 2:15

Total length: 44:56


Roger Waters – bass guitar, tape effects, percussion
Nick Mason – drums, percussion
Richard Wright – Farfisa Combo Compact Duo organ, Hammond M-102 spinet organ, piano, vibraphone, backing vocals
David Gilmour – acoustic, electric, slide, and flamenco guitars, percussion, lead vocals

Additional personnel:

Lindy Mason – tin whistle on "Green Is the Colour" and "Party Sequence"

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Brecker Brothers - 1978 [2007] "Heavy Metal Be-Bop"

Heavy Metal Be-Bop is a live album by the American jazz fusion group, the Brecker Brothers that was released by Arista Records in 1978. The album also includes the studio track "East River", which reached number 34# in the UK singles chart in November 1978.

Recorded live in New York, this explosive set of jazz, funk, and rock material was without question ahead of its time. Michael and Randy's use of electronically altered saxophone and trumpet sounds is amazing.

This is just an absolute JEWEL. Zappa fans will recognize Terry Bozzio in addition to the Brecker brothers themselves, and MAN, what a combo! Michael Brecker just shreds on every solo, and Randy finds nuances with the "electric trumpet" that have never been heard before or since. Some will want this for the novelty of the electric tenor sax and trumpet, but there are FINE examples of modern BeBop solos here, over a high-powered rhythm section that kicks and jumps all over everything the soloists lay down. This is the kind of rhythm section that can make ANYBODY sound good, but the Brecker brothers talent is unmatched; a combination that presents an order of magnitude. Bass players NEED to hear Neil Jason, and guitar players NEED to hear Barry Finnerty on this. Blistering tight unison lines will prove once again why Zappa saved his most intricate horn passages for these guys, and why you won't hear them at tempo with anybody else. I sincerely hope for more of this largely unexplored flavor of jazz. I haven't found anything else that quite measures up to this.

"Heavy Metal Be-Bop" is a land mark fusion recording. The first tune is from the studio and the rest are recorded from a smoking live set. "East River" is the studio tune and is vocal. The song has a funky bassline and is fun but compared to the rest of the disc it is out of place. The rest of the disc is unreal. The band consists of Neal Jason on bass, Barry Finnerty on guitar, Terry Bozzio on drums, Michael Brecker on Sax, and Randy Brecker on trumpet. "Inside Out" is a Randy Brecker tune and Randy, Michael and Barry all have some fun with it. The tune is basic (For the Brecker Brothers) and they all play over the groove set by Bozzio/Jason. "Some Skunk Funk" is another Randy Brecker composition and a classic. This is one of the funkiest tunes that I have ever heard and the brothers play some of the greatest horn lines that you will ever hear. There are also some unison lines and the power of the band is on par with metal. "Sponge" is another funky piece and it features the explosive drumming of Bozzio. The band trades fours throughout Bozzio's rhythmic wizardry. "Funky sea, Funky Dew' is a Michael Brecker extravaganza. He takes the studio version and improves on it. Not only is his playing during the song great but there is a solo at the end that is amazing and then he is joined by just the bass of Jason which elevates him to a level that is beyond words. "Squids" is the closer to this set and has the brothers ,once again, playing over some serious funk. This disc is one of the greatest I've ever heard and is the greatest Horn orientated fusion disc ever. I only wish that there were more than five live songs but those five are worth any price. As highly recommended as anything can be.

This is the most incredible music ever, no BB album has surpassed this. A live album with Terry Bozzio having just joined the band after leaving Frank Zappa. The version of Some Skunk Funk is worth the whole price. Phenomenal! Will leave you out of breath and panting for more. One studio track kind of ok, an attempt at top 40, but the rest is - wow! Line up is guitar, bass, drums and Breckers. Randy plays some organ and uses a harmonizer to add 5ths and 4ths to his trumpet, so it sounds like more than just 2 horn players. Just hard to imagine what this would have been like to see live. Too bad it wasn't a double album when it was released in the late 70's. I want more of this!

While artists more often than not look for an album title that in some way reflects the music contained within, few have come up with a name that, in three simple words, says it all as much as today's Rediscovery: The Brecker Brothers' Heavy Metal Bebop. A positively incendiary live recording (barring bassist Neil Jason's funkified, studio-recorded, set-opening vocal anthem, "East River"), it sports a completely revamped lineup from the group's Don't Stop the Music (Arista), released the previous year. While this album was reviewed as part of Legacy Recordings' 2012 box set, The Complete Arista Albums Collection, its sheer power and raw energy demanded inclusion as a Rediscovery.

And, as expected, it sounds absolutely tremendous through my Tetra Speaker rig. This is an album that—featuring a core quintet where saxophonist Michael Brecker and trumpeter Randy Brecker are joined, in addition to Jason, by guitarist Barry Finnerty and drummer Terry Bozzio, with additional percussion and overdubs added in post-production—rips through some of the best material from the group's earlier albums, including a light speed version of "Some Skunk Funk" and slightly faster, even more nuclear-infused take on "Sponge," both from the group's 1975 Arista debut, The Brecker Bros.

A slight breather comes with Don't Stop the Music's generally mellower "Funky Sea, Funky Dew," Michael's only compositional contribution to the set. Still, an extended a cappella and heavily processed saxophone outro is both an album highlight and demonstration of why Michael was already one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation...and would go on to become even more so in the decades leading to his untimely passing in 2007 at the too-young age of 57. A closing "Squids," from the same record, also feels less wholly unfettered than the album's first three live tracks, but still possessed more attitude and energy per square inch at a time when fusion was, in general, slowly morphing its way into the easier-on- the-ears predecessor to what would ultimately become smooth jazz. The album's only previously unheard live track is also its first live one: Randy's potently altered blues, "Inside Out," played with a greasy shuffle from Jason and Bozzio that, quite simply, means it.

Throughout this 42-minute set—all but three of them recorded live at My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY—the entire band plays as if its life depended on it. Michael Brecker soars, while older brother Randy (similarly processing his horn with a harmonizer, envelope filter and more) matches his younger sibling's energy note for searing note, the pair seemingly unable to play anything but the right note at the right time—except, occasionally, when they played the wrong note at precisely the right time...because with music this unshackled, there are no wrong notes, just ones that drive the player(s) in unexpected directions. While rarely featured, Jason and Bozzio keep the pulse at a fever pitch throughout, thundering where necessary—especially on the high octane "Sponge" where, with a new solo section, a three-way trade-off between the two Breckers and Finnerty represents the album at its most reckless, raw and relentless—but laying back as required with equal aplomb.

The surprise of the set is, however, Finnerty. Having first heard the guitarist on a live radio broadcast of the Crusaders, playing a solo to the title track of keyboardist Joe Sample's Rainbow Seeker (ABC, 1978) that remains memorable to this day, it was clear that he may have had big shoes to fill in replacing Larry Carlton in that group but—clearly imbued with similar chops and linguistic command—the guitarist brought an edgier New York vibe and completely different kind of lyricism to the successful Texan-centric West Coast group.

So, when finally hearing Heavy Metal Bebop for the first time—a little late to the game, a couple years after it was first released—I already knew he had all he needed to not just match the two Breckers, but to actually up the ante. While the Breckers take the lion's share of the solo space, every time Finnerty is featured it's a revelation...and all the more a crime that, despite remaining active in the ensuing years, the guitarist has never managed to garner the broader acclaim he deserves—if nothing else based on his contribution to Heavy Metal Bebop but, with Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Hubert Laws and Eliane Elias also in his résumé, clearly possessing even more.

Tracks Listing

1.East River (3:38)
2.Inside Out (9:32)
3.Some Skunk Funk (7:01 )
4.Sponge (6:24)
5.Funky Sea,Funky Dew (8:03)
6.Squids (7:57 )

Total Time 41:55


- Randy Brecker / electric trumpet, keyboards
- Michael Brecker / electric tenor sax
- Barry Finnerty / guitars, GuitarGanizer, background vocals
- Terry Bozzio / drums, background vocals
- Neil Jason / bass, lead vocals

Additional Musicians

- Sammy Figueroa / percussion
- Rafael Cruz / percussion
- Kask Monet / handclaps, percussion, background vocals
- Jeff Schoen / background vocals
- Roy Herring / background vocals
- Paul Schaeffer / fender rhodes
- Victoria / tambourine
- Alan Schwartzberg / drums
- Bob Clearmountain & friends / handclaps

Various Artists - 1997 "Jazz Fusion Volume 2"

The second of two Rhino CDs mostly covers the 1975-1984 period (with Miles Davis' "Mr. Pastorius" dating from 1989). One of the most interesting aspects to this reissue is that it not only has examples of jazz musicians playing rock, but rock musicians coming closer to performing jazz. The second volume has one selection apiece from the Brecker Brothers ("Some Skunk Funk"), Brand X, Jean-Luc Ponty, Bruford, Ronnie Montrose, Dixie Dregs, Larry Carlton, John McLaughlin ("Belo Horizonte"), Steve Khan, Miles Davis, Allan Holdsworth, and Steve Morse. Most of the performances are quite fiery and the instrumental music is consistently exciting. Although the two Rhino volumes are not quite definitive (some groups are missing and the selections are not strictly in chronological order), they do offer listeners an excellent overview of the much-maligned music.

Here's a refreshingly varied collection of some of the best jazz-rock fusion music from Rhino, who are really masters at digging up little-known gems to put beside the more famous ones in their compilations. This collection is much better than Jazz Fusion Volume 1 at displaying the true hormonal magic and utterly unique musical plane that can result when, rare enough though it is, all the elements come together in a virtuoso jazz-fusion group. Where else can you find hard-to-find stuff like Steve Khan's Casa Loco, to go along with Miles Davis's brilliant late-period "Mr. Pastorious," Jean-Luc Ponty's classic Enigmatic Ocean, parts I to IV, Bill Bruford's Hell's Bells, Ronnie Montrose, The Brecker Bros. and the Dixie Dregs' "Take it Off the Top" on the same CD? And if all that still doesn't kick your mule sore, turbo-charge you hormones and make you macho, here's something even more gaucho: just play "Nuclear Burn" by Phil Collins' monster '70s fusion group Brand X with the volume knob at 11, and call me if your brain isn't an omelette after you're done. Rounding out the diverse appearnces are the legendary "Point It Up" guitar solo from Larry Carlton, and, as a sort of breather from all the fire-breathing, John Mclaughlin's gorgeous and ultra-sophisticated flamenco-jazz-Brazilian-fusion acoustic piece "Belo Horizonte." So, if you can put your envy aside and just accept the fact that you'll probably never be able to play your instrument half as good as any of these guys (the skin-flute excluded), there is some extremely good music to be discovered in the much despised and ignored "Jazz Fusion" genre. This disc is a great place to start.

Track Listing:

  01. Some Skunk Funk - The Brecker Bros.
  02. Nuclear Burn - Brand X
  03. Enigmatic Ocean, Parts I-IV - Jean-Luc Ponty
  04. Hell's Bells - Bruford
  05. Town Without Pity - Ronnie Montrose
  06. Take It Off The Top - Dixie Dregs
  07. Point It Up - Larry Carlton
  08. Belo Horizonte - John Mc Laughlin
  09. Casa Loco - Steve Khan
  10. Mr. Pastorius - Miles Davis
  11. Three Sheets To The Wind - Allan Holdsworth
  12. The Introduction - Steve Morse Band


Guitar - Bob Mann, John Goodsall, Ronnie Montrose, Steve Morse, Larry Carlton, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Khan, John McLaughlin, Daryl Stuermer
Drums - Harvey Mason, Sr., Jeff Porcaro, Rick Shlosser, Steve Jordan, Chad Wackerman, Tommy Campbell, Al Foster, Bill Bruford, Phil Collins, Steve Smith
Bass - Marcus Miller, Jerry Peek, Andy West, Jeff Berlin, Ralphe Armstrong, Jean Paul Celea, Alan Fitzgerald, Anthony Jackson, Percy Jones, Abraham Laboriel, Will Lee
Keyboards - Mark Parrish, Allan Zavod, Dave Stewart, Francois Couturier, Robin Lumley, Don Grolnick, Greg Mathieson
Percussion - Steve Sheman, Ralph MacDonald, Manolo Badrena, Jean-Pierre Drouet
Violin - Allen Sloan, Jean-Luc Ponty
Synthesizer - Katia Labeque
Flugelhorn, Trumpet - Randy Brecker
Piano - Edgar Winter
Sax (Tenor) - Michael Brecker
Trumpet - Miles Davis
Sax (Alto) - David Sanborn

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies - 1969 [2015] "The American Metaphysical Circus"

The American Metaphysical Circus is a 1969 psychedelic album by Joseph "Joe" Byrd. It was recorded after his departure from the band The United States of America, and featured some of the earliest recorded work in rock music utilizing extensive use of synthesizers and vocoder, along with an extended group of West Coast studio musicians Byrd named "The Field Hippies".

As a "conductor" and organ/electronic synthesizer player, Byrd is very much the leader of this circus. With a couple drummers, a half-dozen horn players (including a young Tom Scott), three female vocalists, and a half-dozen or so other musicians popping up over the course of the album, there are a lot more people involved in this project than there were in the (relatively) stable lineup of the United States of America. Despite the ambition of this LP, it ultimately serves to illustrate just how Byrd benefited from the unique synergy provided by the other members of the U.S.A. There are all kinds of adventurous electronics and eclectic ideas bouncing back and forth, but the songwriting is simply not as strong as that of Byrd's previous group. The best songs are the ones which most strongly recall the U.S.A. in their spacy melodicism ("Moonsong: Pelog") and driving psychedelic pulse ("You Can't Ever Come Down"). Unfortunately, the female singers on these tracks are no match for The U.S.A.'s Dorothy Moscowitz, although they seem to be aspiring to the same dreamy, icy quality. Byrd himself is quite a mediocre singer, as his attempts at taking the lead on straightforward rock material prove. Otherwise, there are some bad takeoffs on gospel and old-time music, haphazard primitive early synthesizer, and dated social commentary/satire. As ambitious in its scope as Byrd's first rock project, this album is not nearly as successful.

After his first album with a band called "United States of America," Joe Byrd released this, his masterpiece, in 1969. Even without the aid of mind-expanding drugs it is obvious that metaphysics is central to the overall theme of this great concept album.
The first section, "The Sub-Sylvian Litanies," is an attempt to turn reality inside-out. Literally meaning "beneath the forest," its three odes get right to the core of our very existence. It employs themes built upon the fourth degree of the octal scale, a Greek mode called phrygian.
The middle section, "Four Songs for a Departing President," are a slap in the face to former president Lyndon Johnson. It is a condemnation of both his "Great Society" movement and his perpetuation of the Vietnam War. "Gospel Music" is a tribute to Byrd's brother, Ruddell, who was imprisoned at Leavinworth for evading the draft.
Finally, the third section deals with aging under the sub-heading "The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts & Crafts Festival." Often morose and overly nostalgic, it nevertheless presents a clear view of the way our elders are shuffled off to nursing homes to await death.
The song writing and arrangements are superb, the use of synthesizers is tasteful and the theme is awesome. You have to get out of the box to receive the full experience this album has to offer.

This album did a great deal to change my brain when I was in high school in the early '70s. Concurrent with ingesting a multitude of substances that shall remain unmentioned, this album saw many, many spins on my and my friends' turntables. It was always a significant experience. There is literally EVERYTHING on this record. Vaudeville, jazz, electronic, psychedelic powerhouses, acid rock, spoken word, and much more. Joe Byrd was an unrecognized genius who put out two incredible, ahead-of-their-time records (The United States of America being the other). Sometimes our minds were expanded. Other times our minds were blown. But our minds always received an EXPERIENCE listening to this fine, unique, well-produced and well-composed music. There is nothing else like it. Nothing!

I originally owned this album as a vinyl record when I was in high school. I bought it for the wrong reason - purportedly the first part of the recording is like an LSD trip. This album kindled my lifelong interest in "new" music. I literally wore the pressing out, I liked it so well.

The pioneering use of a quality synthesizer arraignment superimposed on lyrical vocals. The composer, Mr. Byrd, obviously wrote and orchestrated each piece as though it were a symphonic work. This album is not for people who hate experimental music. John Coltrane's Africa Brass, or Ornette Coleman Shape of Jazz to Come are similar artistic endevors in the jazz vein.

When Joseph Byrd was fired from his previous creation, the United States of America, he could well have called it a day, secure in the knowledge that he had produced one of the most important, but underappreciated albums of the sixties. But Byrd didn't feel like he'd fully accomplished what he'd set out to do, so he gathered this astonishing collective together, and produced an album that has always been overshadowed by its more lauded predecessor, but arguably is a far more successful synthesis of his experimental spirit and pop sensibilities.

"The American Metaphysical Circus" is not an easy album. It's also not an album that is easy to assimilate in part. For the full effect, it really needs to be listened through from the first second to the last, and this is perhaps part of the reason for its lesser reputation. Although it does have many highlights which could potentially have been lifted for singles/compilation appearances/radio play etc. they gain so much from being heard in their proper context.

Split into four separate suites, there's a lot going on here. Too much for some people, but Byrd's compositional skills ensure that the disparate instrumentation, and musical styles flow smoothly together.

Opening suite "The Sub-Sylvian Litanies" is the trippy highlight for me, with Victoria Bond's electronically treated voice leading into an explosive revisit of "You Can't Ever Come Down", with searing lead guitar. "Moonsong: Pelog" winds it down nicely, with Susan de Lange's vocals venturing into Grace Slick territory without her sounding out of her depth. This mini suite has enough ideas to sustain a whole album, but there are three others to follow, which veer all over the map, from acid-rock ("Nightmare Train") to cocktail jazz and prominent early use of synthesizer, via the pointed social commentary of "Leisure World" - an extremely interesting, orchestrated piece of what we'd now call Hauntology. Its presence near the end of the album likely left listeners a little baffled at the time, but we live in more open minded, enlightened times now right?

Esoteric's new reissue sounds absolutely fabulous, with fascinating accompanying sleeve notes. One of the reissues of the year so far.

Track listing:

The Sub-Sylvian Litanies

01.  "Kalyani" – 3:52
02.  "You Can't Ever Come Down" – 3:02
03.  "Moonsong: Pelog" – 3:47

American Bedmusic - Four Dreams For A Departing President

04.  "Patriot's Lullabye" – 2:49
05.  "Nightmare Train" – 3:20
06.  "Invisible Man" – 3:33
07.  "Mister 4th of July" – 1:48

Gospel Music For Abraham Ruddell Byrd III

08.  "Gospel Music" – 4:29

The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts and Crafts Festival

09.  "The Sing-Along Song" – 4:05
10.  "The Elephant at the Door" – 5:13
11.  "Leisure World" – 2:36
12.  "The Sing-Along Song (Reprise)" – 0:48


    Pot - Piano, Conductor, Harpsichord
    Ed Sheftel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
    Christie Thompson - Vocals
    Ernest "Ernie" Anderson - Voices
    Fred Selden - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
    Ted Greene - Guitar
    Joseph Hunter Byrd - Organ, Producer, Vocals, Keyboards, Conductor, Synthesizer
    Larry Kass - Tabla
    Michael Whitney - Guitar (Classical)
    Chuck Bennett - Bass Trombone
    Victoria Bond - Vocals
    Bob Breault - Engineer
    Ray Cappocchi - Tuba, Tenor Trombone
    Dana Chalberg - Flute, Piccolo
    John Clauder - Percussion, Drums
    Susan de Lange - Vocals, Electronic Voices
    Meyer Hirsch - Flute, Saxophones
    Don Kerian - Trumpet, Cornet
    Gregg Kovner - Drums, Percussion
    Tom Scott - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
    Harvey Newmark - Bass (uncredited on album)
    Harihar Rao - Percussion (uncredited on album)

Jeff Beck - 1976 [1990] "Wired"

Wired is the third solo album by British guitarist Jeff Beck, released on Epic Records in 1976. An instrumental album, it peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.

After the success of his previous album, 1975's Blow by Blow, Beck retained two of its key contributors for the follow-up, keyboardist Max Middleton and producer George Martin. Beck had also begun a musical relationship with former Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer and drummer Narada Michael Walden; Beck would tour with the Jan Hammer Group after these sessions. The result of the interplay between Beck and Hammer was a more "synthesized" sound than that of Blow by Blow, hence the new album's title, Wired.

Although the band from the previous album appears on some tracks, four are originals by Walden and one by Hammer. Middleton contributed the homage to Led Zeppelin, "Led Boots," and Beck chose to interpret the Charles Mingus ode to saxophonist Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," from the classic jazz album Mingus Ah Um. These last two tracks have been long-time staples of Beck's performance repertoire.

Jazz-rock fusion music has had no greater exponent than Jeff Beck, whose latest album, Wired, demonstrates how vital this genre can be. Even more important, Wired presents Beck in a context that finally satisfies both his uncompromising musical standards and commercial necessity.

Beck's first group, the Yardbirds, was the most inventive of the early Sixties British blues bands and is now credited with producing three of the most important electric guitarists of the past ten years — Eric Clapton, Beck and Jimmy Page. Both Clapton (with Cream) and Page (with Led Zeppelin) became famous after leaving the Yardbirds.

But Beck remained a relatively obscure figure. This despite the fact that the hits following "I'm a Man" — "For Your Love," "Shapes of Things," "Over Under Sideways Down," "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" — were all powered by his brilliantly manic lead guitar. In comparison, Clapton was an extremely conservative stylist and Page, merely a technician. But Beck's guitar work was visionary: "Shapes of Things" shows his mastery over raga-style guitar solos and multitracking, ideas which were in their infancy at the time. Beck experimented with blues progressions, using feedback and other distortion techniques to push the electric guitar's expressive capabilities into new areas, as well as developing rock and R&B styles along the same lines.

After leaving the Yardbirds, Beck made a classic solo album, Truth, with a band which included Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. Page, meanwhile, formed his own band, Led Zeppelin, whose music was a variation on Beck's concept (compare the versions of "You Shook Me" on Truth and the first Zeppelin album). He returned two years later with a jazz-accented R&B outfit based around keyboardist Max Middleton and singer Bob Tench.

Their two albums featured a lighter, more progressive guitar style. But Beck was still not satisfied and tried a brief, disastrous fling into heavy metal with the ex-Vanilla Fudge/Cactus rhythm section of bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice.

Last year, producer George Martin reunited Beck and Middleton for their greatest collaboration, Blow by Blow, which became Beck's best-selling solo album and established him firmly in the jazz-rock hierarchy. But Beck was only developing ideas he'd been playing with for years.

On Wired, Beck invites a direct and favorable comparison with John McLaughlin (with whom he toured last year) by collaborating with ex-Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer and his band. Martin didn't score any of the horn arrangements because Hammer's synthesizer fills all those spaces, but the album is better recorded and has a much fuller sound than Blow by Blow. Middleton's contribution is still essential — his one song, "Led Boots," opens the album at its hottest pace and it's definitely enhanced by the interplay with Hammer's keyboards and Beck's guitar. Hammer's synthesizers work from Middleton's clavinet base, and Beck stitches runs in between.

Beck wrote no songs for this record in order to concentrate on his playing, but he dominates the album conceptually. You can tell "Head for Backstage Pass" is bassist Wilbur Bascomb's song from the bass solo that kicks it off, but from there it's all that Beck/Middleton Metal Motown Machine. Drummer Narada Michael Walden contributed four songs, three of which sound like they could have easily come from the Blow by Blow sessions. "Sophie" shows the distance between McLaughlin's cerebral meandering and Beck's incisive, witty compositional ability as the song moves from an introspective theme to an incredibly hard-edged exposition. Hammer swings here in a sweating, unself-conscious ride of pure joy that needs no guru for inspiration. Hammer's "duet" with Beck, "Blue Wind," builds phased rhythm guitars against the tension of those slogging, perfectly imprecise drums into an anthem pitch with furious guitar-synthesizer solo duels overhead. Beck's cover of the Charles Mingus ode to Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," is an unlikely if not unappreciated inclusion that seems too understated to clock in as more than a tentative exploration of an already well-covered tune, but Beck's soloing, as usual, carries it off with some bizarre phrasing and adventurous distortion.

Many of Beck's older fans claim he's toned down to play this music, but listening closely, you can hear all the fire and imagination that has characterized every phase of his career. Wired is the realization of a style Beck has been working toward for years, and should finally attract the recognition he deserves.

Recording any kind of full-length album is a challenge. Following up an LP that revolutionized rock guitar? That's another matter entirely — and the struggled faced by Jeff Beck as he entered the studio to work on his third solo release.
Beck's second solo album, 1975's Blow by Blow, which found him working alongside keyboardist Max Middleton and producer George Martin on a set of songs that placed him firmly at the rock/jazz fusion vanguard while catapulting him to fresh commercial heights. A Top 10 hit, it gave Beck his first platinum record — and expanded expectations accordingly.
Unsurprisingly, Beck opted not to reinvent his sound for the follow-up. Retaining Middleton and Martin, he added another pair of key contributors for the sessions: former Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer and drummer Narada Michael Walden, both of whom brought original material to the table while broadening the sonic palette he'd employed for Blow by Blow.
Hammer in particular had an audible impact on the new songs, adding synth-derived textures to the arrangements and freeing up Middleton to focus on clavinet and Fender Rhodes. Walden, meanwhile, not only anchored the rhythm section, he wrote half the album, contributing four of the eight tracks recorded by Beck and the new band. The result, in a nod to the album's more electronic sound, was titled Wired.
Released in May 1976, Wired wasn't the groundbreaking effort its predecessor had been; instead, it found Beck building on the fusion template he'd used the previous year. Though the subgenre would soon devolve into an easy listening playground for lowest-common-denominator smooth jazz records, in the early-to-mid-'70s, fusion could be genuinely exciting, as proven by influential hits like Blow by Blow and Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters LP. With Wired, Beck used the arrangements as launchpads into challenging instrumental excursions that took advantage of jazz's freedom without sacrificing rock energy.
That rock/jazz blend was arguably best reflected in a pair of Wired cuts: the Middleton original "Led Boots," which led off the album with a nod to Led Zeppelin, and a cover of Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," which used the jazz legend's classic as a framework for some of Beck's finest guitar work. Throughout the record, the group showcased their rich interplay, summed up with a concluding trio of Walden tracks that left equal room for melody and instrumental virtuosity.
Their efforts were rewarded with another impressive showing on the charts. Although Wired didn't quite reach the heights achieved by Blow by Blow, peaking at No. 16, it added another platinum record to Beck's list of hits, and seemed to cement his status as a rare rock artist who didn't need vocals to enjoy consistent mainstream success. Dating back to 1972's Jeff Beck Group, he'd landed four consecutive releases in the Top 20, each of which had sold at least half a million copies.
Ultimately, Beck would find it difficult to sustain that momentum — his next studio release, There & Back, didn't arrive until 1980 — but the work he'd done throughout the '60s and '70s, capped with the commercial success he achieved with Blow by Blow and Wired, made him a household name while paving the way for decades of creative freedom.

Tracks Listing:

1. Led Boots (4:03)
2. Come Dancing (5:55)
3. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (5:31)
4. Head for Backstage Pass (2:43)
5. Blue Wind (5:54)
6. Sophie (6:31)
7. Play with Me (4:10)
8. Love Is Green (2:30)

Total Time: 37:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Jeff Beck / electric & acoustic (8) guitars
- Max Middleton / clavinet (1,2,4,6,7), Fender Rhodes (3,6)
- Jan Hammer / synthesizer (1,2,5,7), drums (5)
- Narada Michael Walden / piano (8), drums (1,2,6)
- Wilbur Bascomb / bass
- Ed Greene / drums (2)
- Richard Bailey / drums (3,4)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Larry Coryell - 1971 [2017] "Fairyland"

Fairyland is a live album from jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. All songs were recorded 18 June 1971 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Larry Coryell is accompanied by Chuck Rainey on bass and Pretty Purdie on drums.

Recorded live in June 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland. Long considered a fan favorite of Larry's fusion period. This recording will melt the paint off your walls. This album is incontrovertible proof that Larry Coryell is more than worthy of a seat in the same tier as guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, and Santana. Featuring: Larry Coryell - guitar, Chuck Rainey - bass and Bernard Purdie - drums.

Fairyland has long been a favorite among fans of Larry Coryell's jazz-rock days. The stripped-down trio format allows Coryell plenty of solo space. He actually sings quite effectively on the first two tracks, but more effective are the torrents of 18th notes, mutated blues licks, and avant-garde sound textures that emanate from his guitar. "Further Explorations for Albert Stinson" is a later incarnation of "The Jam With Albert," which is a staple of Coryell jazz-rock compilations. A rewarding listen. All Music.

If you like your rock ala hendrix or early Guru Guru then you'll probably like this a lot. There's a nice mix of true rock (mid 60s / mid 70s) and jazz guitar chops and licks to satisfy the most demanding rock n roll / guitar worshiper.
Also, Purdie & Rainey do a nice job behind Coryell all the way through. Nice! By Speedy.

This is recorded live from 1976 in Switzerland. It is a very short album at 32 minutes. When you remove the cheering, you only end up with 30 minutes of actual music.

This is power trio doing jazz fusion. It is what Cream would sound like if it played fusion. There are the solos and musical runs similar to Live Cream (but in a jazz fashion). There is also some very nice distorted guitar.

This is different from other Larry Coryell albums. His others are a "more traditional" fusion, similar to Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return to Forever. He also has more traditional, acoustic jazz albums.

I have seen him a couple of times in concert. He puts on a great show and has lots of stage presence and personality. But, when I saw him, he didn't play anything as frenetic as this. By kireviewer VINE VOICE.

This is among my favorite recordings of all time. Just crackling with unbounded energy. And the cover art is suggestive of where these guys' heads may have been. If your are a lover of fusion, jazz, or psychedelic rock, you owe it to yourself to give this a listen. I have long hoped for a CD release, but, alas, it may never come to pass. Do not pass up an opportunity to add this to your collection. It is rare. By Laurence Diamond.

If you like Larry loud this record rocks the house like no other! Larry is freakin out of control here. I feel his playing seems like he maybe drunk and all hell is breakin loose! It's destructive. If you like Coryell tight and smooth, this is definitley not a album for you. I only have it on record. By Ward Hilgers.

Track listing:

All songs except "Stones" were composed by Larry Coryell.

1. "Souls Dirge" – 9:39
2. "Eskdalemuir" – 8:38
3. "Stones" (Doug Davis) – 7:08
4. "Further Explorations for Albert Stinson" – 6:47


Larry Coryell – guitar, vocals
Chuck Rainey – bass
Pretty Purdie – drums

CAB - 2000 "CAB"

CAB is a jazz fusion supergroup founded by Bunny Brunel, Dennis Chambers, and Tony MacAlpine. Since their formation in 2000, they have released four studio albums and two live albums. Their second album, CAB 2, received a nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 2002 Grammy Awards. Other members who have been a part of CAB include Patrice Rushen, Virgil Donati, David Hirschfelder, and Brian Auger.

When asked about the band's name, Brunel said:

...Center Tone Records wanted me to record an album with Dennis Chambers and Tony MacAlpine. [I thought I’d create an acronym of our last names] Chambers, Alpine, and Brunel. I didn’t know that MacAlpine was an ‘M’ and not separate from the ‘A.’ But we thought it was a good way to carry the music... CAB, so we left it like that.
— Bunny Brunel

Remember that old Star Trek episode where an alien race is able to move around the Enterprise at an infinitely quicker pace than Kirk and company? Listening to Cab, you might wonder whether Tony MacAlpine, Bunny Brunel and Dennis Chambers aren’t members of that same alien race. This trio spawns a turbo-charged blend of jazz and rock guaranteed to rattle windows and wake the sleeping.

Fusion fans know Dennis Chambers as one of the most powerful and precise drummers in contemporary music. French bassist Bunny Brunel is best known for his work with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. The name Tony MacAlpine might be less familiar to jazz fans. A classically trained musician who first learned piano and violin, MacAlpine has toiled for 15 years as a progressive metal guitarist often compared to Yngwie Malmsteen. MacAlpine plays both guitar and keys on this album.
Cab is a high-octane fusion release chock full of lightning-fast exchanges and unthinkable improvisations. Brunel and Chambers are dynamic together, and MacAlpine is a wildman guitarist. Though I could do without some of MacAlpine’s synthesized keyboard solos, the tunes provide an interesting framework for the players fiery improvisations.

Five tracks were penned by Brunel, two by Brunel in partnership with Japanese guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, and three by MacAlpine. (Watanabe does not play on the album.) All 10 tracks are good, but three of Brunel’s compositions stand out for me. "Night Splash" is complex, fast-moving piece with a Latin feel that includes brief solos by all three players, including an amazing machine-gun run by Chambers. "One for Stern" is a bluesy fusion number with Brunel on both fretless and piccolo basses and Brian Auger sitting in on organ. "Bernard" is a stirring number co-written by Brunel and Watanabe that showcases Brunel on five-string piccolo synth bass.

Listening to Cab is a bit like being chased by bulls through the streets of Pamplona for 50-plus minutes. You might wish for a slow interlude just to catch your breath, but you’ll feel exhilarated.

Guitarist/keyboardist Tony MacAlpine, known for chest-swelling rock-classical hybrids, has occasionally tinkered with jazz-rock elements on earlier releases. Here, he fully invests himself in a fusion trio that includes bassist Bunny Brunel (who owns credits with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock) and David Chambers (Parliament-Funkadelic). Along with being the album's featured instrumentalist, Brunel wrote seven of the disc's 10 tracks, with MacAlpine penning the final three. The results are attractive, if not always arresting. MacAlpine takes flight as a soloist only sporadically, most memorably when responding to his own meaty rock chops in the title track and during an elaborate run on the concluding selection, "Bernard." MacAlpine's output on keyboards surfaces almost as often as his riffing, lending a Return to Forever vibe to a package that shines more brightly when MacAlpine and Brunel give themselves room to cook (as on the Satriani-like "Boogie Me") rather than simmer.

Track listing:

1. "Night Splash" Bunny Brunel 5:20
2. "CAB" Brunel 7:16
3. "So There Is Love" Tony MacAlpine 3:41
4. "Just Perfect" Brunel 5:05
5. "One for Stern" Brunel 6:59
6. "The Watcher" MacAlpine 3:47
7. "Atamanashi" Brunel, Kazumi Watanabe 5:23
8. "Boogie Me" Brunel 4:39
9. "Elastic Man" MacAlpine 5:15
10. "Bernard" Brunel 4:37

Total length: 52:02


Tony MacAlpine – guitar, keyboard
Bunny Brunel – keyboard, bass, engineering, mixing, production
Dennis Chambers – drums
Brian Auger – organ

Monday, November 13, 2017

Robert Fripp & The League Of Gentlemen - 1986 [1996] "Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx"

The League of Gentlemen was a band active during March–December 1980 that featured guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame. Other members included bass guitarist Sara Lee (who later joined Gang of Four, The B-52's, and Indigo Girls), keyboardist Barry Andrews (formerly of XTC; later of Shriekback) and percussionist Johnny Toobad, replaced late in the band's tenure by Kevin Wilkinson (later of China Crisis and Squeeze).

Fripp referred to the 1980 band as "a second-division touring new wave instrumental dance band".

The Trouser Press Record Guide described the League of Gentlemen's music as typically taking "a simple medium-to-fast backbeat over which Fripp and Andrews locked horns, with melodic development emerging slowly, surely, subtly." Trouser Press also suggests that the League's foray into dance oriented rock was a precursor to Fripp's reformed King Crimson in the early 1980s.

The band toured extensively in Europe and North America throughout 1980.

There are 77 specific tour dates detailed in the sleevenotes on the album The League of Gentlemen. Missing from this list are four (possibly warm-up) gigs at the 14th Century Hunting Lodge (now Lodge Farm House), outside the grounds of Kingston Lacy near Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England. These gigs are dated 24 to 27 February and pre-dated the first 'official' gig on 10 April at Moles, Bath.

The early 80s were a musical dance phenomena as well as a signpost for radical changes in the echelons of music taste and fashion. The times dictated 'in with 4/4 rhythms, out with the extended pieces of music' (based on elaborate time changes and structure). This project was the immediate precursor to the 1981 reformation of the Crimson King, and shows our man Fripp shredding leads left and right across a very disco-ish dance floor. At least a little head bobbing is in order! Throughout the live show, the Englishman is on a solo vengeance tear, going backwards, upwards, sideways, down. The heat of the small clubs can almost be felt by the end of the each song: people were really moving out there! What is also great about this release is that it really is a good sounding bootleg (from five separate shows) with no sound doctoring from remix engineer David Singleton. It's listed in the liner notes: a raw live band recording, warts and all. What you hear is what you got: the band as it really sounded from two mikes at the back of the club going directly into a cassette recorder.

Band personnel included the hot talents of Barry Andrews (XTC's first keyboardist who went on to more successful work with Shriekback) and Sarah Lee (ex of Gang of Four later with the B-52's). The oddest track stylistically speaking is "Farewell Johnny Brill," which uses a familiar R&B groove as a soloing vehicle. Superb liner notes with details about life on the road with complete tour dates, excerpts from the guitar meister's journal (always fun to read). The last fifty seconds summarizes the set perfectly; it's taken from recorded comments by Fripp at these shows: "I have something to say to you from the heart, I... I really want to have a party. And I say this to everyone else in the band as well, team... I really have to party." Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx is a fun disc to annoy your friends, and what more could you ask for really?

"Lovingly and laboriously pieced together by co-producer David Singleton from a number of performances, this is marketed as an "official bootleg". What this term acknowledges is that the recordings were made on rudimentary cassette equipment with plenty of interference from crowd noise and other venue-related gremlins. However, Singleton has assembled, with judicious cutting and pasting, a strong CD which justifies his (and Fripp's) evident belief that this was worth the work spent on it.

"The League of Gentlemen's lone studio album was an awkward affair. Fripp puts this down to Johnny Toobad's departure and the fact that a recently inducted drummer played on most of the tracks. I think the real reason is that when captured clinically and pristinely, the sound of the League of Gentlemen comes across as... well... clinical. An intellectual exercise in setting Frippertronic patterns to a basic dance beat, as if merely to demonstrate the versatility of Fripp's invention. The silly titles -- 'Heptaparaparshinokh', etc -- and the snippets of quirky dialogue added to the impression of this being some sort of arch joke.

"Heard live, in the palpably sweaty confines of this official bootleg's North American venues, the music stands revealed as tight, aggressive dancefloor entertainment that almost sneakily manages to sound like no other dance music ever brought before the public. It does what it does with confidence and flair, and is genuinely groovy.

"It is unfortunate that the full version of the original League of Gentelmen LP is not available. While seeming to be uncertain if they were making an "Exposure" style art piece or a rock album, the band still managed to create an interesting work. But this "official bootleg" of the 1980 tour shows what the Leaugue really were: a new wave instrumental dance band. There are no vocals on this disc (with the exception of the audience), and much of the material was not drawn from the studio album.

"The music is about as far from King Crimson as Mr. Fripp has ever gone: every track has a simple dance beat, and the band members stick very close to the song riffs throughout. The trio of Andrews, Lee, and Toobad provide a strong, solid backing. Like the Crafties, they put down a "song" which Fripp plays over. Fripp's fret work is VERY fast, but not especially complicated: he often plays note patterns that move up and down the neck exploring various keys. Only occasionally does he break into a real "solo".

"We cannot call this music timeless: it is very 1980. (The riff to the title track, of which, by the way, there are three versions, sounds much like PIL's Keith Levine.) But that it captures a certain time and place is, along with some great playing, the recording's strength. It is also a good example of Mr. Fripp's highly respected "rock" playing during this purely non-Crimson period ("Scary Monsters" is another). New wave musicians and fans were very interested in Fripp, despite his connection to what was then thought of as "Dinosaur Rock". This disc shows us why that was so."

Track listing:

Recorded live at El Mocambo, Toronto, 17-18 June 1980, and Harpo's, Detroit, 10 July 1980.

01 Inductive Resonance
02 Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx I
03 Trap
04 Boy At Piano
05 Heptaparaparshinokh
06 Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx II
07 Christian Children Marching, Singing
08 Ooh! Mr. Fripp
09 Dislocated
10 Minor Man
11 Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx III
12 Farewell Johnny Brill
13 Inductive Resonance II


Robert Fripp - (guitar)
Sara Lee - (bass)
Barry Andrews - (organ)
Johnny Toobad - (drums)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

John McLaughlin - 1982 [2013] "Music Spoken Here"

Music Spoken Here is an album by John McLaughlin, released in 1982 through Warner Music Group. The album reached number 24 in the Billboard Jazz Albums chart 1983.

Though this fitfully inspired yet always intelligently musical record is an electric album, McLaughlin is more often heard on acoustic guitar in something resembling his electric manner, along with more pronounced classical and flamenco influences. This quintet, along with bass and drums, contained two keyboard players, Francois Couturier and the noted classical pianist Katia Labeque (who was McLaughlin's companion). Labeque, seated at a Synclavier and a grand piano, has acres of technique and almost no feeling for jazz, though she is adept at providing moody backdrops, and her rapid-fire synth runs and Jarrett-like etudes on the Steinway aren't too far away stylistically from McLaughlin's helter-skelter flurries. In a continued homage to McLaughlin's once and future employer Miles Davis, "Blues for L.W." brazenly quotes "Blues for Pablo," and sometimes the music texturally resembles the heavily synthesized things that Miles would soon be putting out.

 Music Spoken Here features the same line-up as the previous year’s Belo Horizonte. MSH is a little rougher around the edges than the earlier effort. This may be seen as an improvement to some, as the music is a bit wilder. But to others, the compositions may seem a bit weaker. However, make no mistake about it: this is a fine album with much to offer.

"David" is the highlight of the album. For several years, McLaughlin played this piece on tour and demonstrated why the acoustic guitar, when played brilliantly, may be one of the most expressive instruments on the planet. (Also listen to the Trio's version on Passion, Grace and Fire. ) Another piece of note is "Negative Ions," a murky tune that toys with our inner demons. Mclaughlin obtains a truly strange tone and sound on this cut. He appears to be playing an electric for this piece, but the original liner notes do not confirm this.

Classical and jazz pianist Katia LaBeque lets loose with some furious written-out runs that, although well played, sound a little too rehearsed for a jazz album. Her sound however, does help to define this music, giving it a European flavor.

Music Spoken Here comes awfully close to New Age music in places, as did Belo Horizonte, but as with all McLaughlin's recordings, there is more than meets the ear. Just when you think the man is going soft, he unleashes a torrent of sound which ensures the tune will never make any New Age radio play list!

Tommy Campbell deserves a few words. His drumming on two records and two tours was outstanding. In the end, McLaughlin said that this music really couldn’t go on in the way he intended, because his desire to play acoustic on stage was overwhelmed by the volume of the drums. In order to be heard, he had to turn his volume way up, and this led to major feedback problems. Perhaps McLaughlin should have relied upon Tommy in an electric fusion band. For now, we will have to settle for two very good recordings.

John McLaughlin is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of music. Making albums from the 60's through the present, his intense guitar work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis gave birth to jazz/fusion. In the early 80's, he recorded three albums for Warner Bros. Records. Music Spoken Here features John on acoustic guitar backed by an electric band. It was recorded in France along with its companion piece, Belo Horizonte. Mr. McLaughlin has a fanatical following.

Music Spoken Here is fresh and modern and impeccably played forward-looking music. The one big thing that sails this disc into the future is the Synclavier played by Katia Labeque. She is supreme on the Steinway as well. And of course, McLaughlin's fluent writing and supple guitar playing on both electric and acoustic--he's so far out there on each. Aspan powers in with synth and drum rolls to the main melody. Unbelievably fast riffs from both keys and guitar with drums and acoustic bass holding it together. Musicianship is unquestioned on this entire spacious set--all the players are quite advanced. Blues For L.W., The Translators, Honky Tonk Haven all brilliant. Honky Tonk Haven especially so. The original lp (which I purchased for $7.97) ends side one with a very short flamenco piece Viene Clareando. "Side two" begins with solo guitar into selection called David. Lifts nicely with Synclavier and bass sustaining--drums setting the background. Lovely melody, bass solo. This whole record, by the way, continues the pace set by previous album Belo Horizonte from 1981. Also an excellent recording. Next is the Negative Ions piece which picks up with big drums. Brise De Coeur is a sparkling piano and guitar duet. Loro finishes out the work--a buoyant melody if ever there was one. I see that this disc is priced in the many dollars area. Too bad. New people need access to this music. I know that I never tire of learning from it. Music Spoken Here is a beautiful and memorable project of fine artistry, but probably was not of high Profitability. Therefore, few humans will know that it existed.

Track listing:

1. "Aspan" (John McLaughlin) – 5:42
2. "Blues for L.W." (McLaughlin) – 6:21
3. "The Translators" (McLaughlin) – 2:38
4. "Honky-Tonk Haven" (McLaughlin, Shankar) – 4:08
5. "Viene Clareando" (Segundo Aredes, Atahualpa Yupanqui) – 0:32
6. "David" (McLaughlin) – 7:47
7. "Negative Ions" (McLaughlin) – 3:52
8. "Brise De Coeur" (McLaughlin) – 5:20
9. "Loro" (Egberto Gismonti) – 2:11


John McLaughlin – guitar
Katia LaBeque – keyboards
Francois Couturier – keyboards
Jean Paul Celea – bass
Tommy Campbell – drums

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Naniwa Express - 1982[1991] "DaiuchuhMugenryokushin"

Naniwa Express (ナニワエキスプレス) was a Japanese jazz fusion group active from 1977 to 1986. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz it was "one of the most successful jazz fusion bands in Japan". The group was founded by Ko Shimizu and Kazuhiko Iwami, with Kiyoshi Kamada on drums in the early years; Kenji Nakamura joined in 1978. The group traveled to the USA in 1979 and returned in 1980; Rikiya Higashihara and Makoto Aoyagi joined in 1981. The group made its first recordings for CBS/Sony in 1982, and continued recording until its dissolution in 1986. Limited reunion touring and recording occurred in the 2000s.

Track listing:

01. Red Zone 4:16
02. Image 4:43
03. DaiuchuhMugenryokushin 7:46
04. Marshall Arts 3:51
05. Spot 5:33
06. Jerome 4:36
07. 9th Mountain High (Live At Goppongi pit Outt) 4:05
08. Dawn 4:40


Kazuhiko Iwami - guitar
Kenji Nakamura - keyboards
Ko Shimizu (ja) - bass
Makoto Aoyagi - piano, saxophone
Rikiya Higashihara - drums

Monday, November 6, 2017

King Crimson - 1974 [1989] "Starless And Bible Black"

Starless and Bible Black is the sixth studio album by English progressive rock band King Crimson, released in March 1974 by Island Records in the United Kingdom and by Atlantic Records in the United States. Much of the album was recorded live, but edited and blended with studio material.

King Crimson's previous album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic (on which they had moved decisively away from a more traditional progressive rock sound drawing on American jazz, and towards the influence of European free improvisation), had been recorded by a quintet lineup of the band, including experimental percussionist Jamie Muir. Early in 1973, Muir abruptly left the band – ostensibly due to an onstage injury, but in fact due to an overwhelming spiritual need to retreat from music and spend time in a monastery (something which was not communicated to his bandmates according to the liner notes for the Portsmouth Guildhall show in the Complete Recordings box set). Muir's departure turned out to be permanent. The band's drummer, Bill Bruford, absorbed Muir's percussion role in addition to his own kit drumming, and the band continued to tour as a quartet.

These upheavals and the pressure of touring left King Crimson short of new written material when it came to the time to record their next album. Having increased their level of onstage improvisation during recent tours, the band opted to take advantage of this to solve the problem. New compositions tried out in concert and captured on several live recordings were presented as part of the new album material, alternating and in some cases blending with studio recordings.

The only songs recorded entirely in the studio were the first two tracks, "The Great Deceiver" and "Lament". "We'll Let You Know" was an entirely improvised piece recorded in Glasgow. "The Mincer" was another improvised piece, originally recorded in concert in Zürich but overdubbed with Wetton's vocals in the studio. "Trio", "Starless and Bible Black" and "Fracture" (the last of which Robert Fripp has cited as one of the most difficult guitar pieces he has ever played) were recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Also recorded at the Concertgebouw was the introduction to "The Night Watch" (the band's Mellotron broke down at the start of the next section, meaning that the remainder of the song needed to be recorded in the studio and dubbed in later). In all cases, live applause was removed from the recordings wherever possible (although the remains of it can be heard by an attentive listener). The complete Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert was eventually released by the band in 1997 as The Night Watch.

"Trio" was notable for being a quartet piece with only three active players – John Wetton on bass guitar, David Cross on viola and Robert Fripp on "flute" Mellotron. Bruford spent the entire piece with his drumsticks crossed over his chest, waiting for the right moment to join in but realising that the improvised piece was progressing better without him. His decision not to add any percussion was seen by the rest of the band as a crucial choice, and he received co-writing credit for the piece. "Trio" was later included on the 1975 compilation album A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson, the performance credits of which cite Bruford's contribution to the piece as having been "admirable restraint."

Only four tracks on the album have lyrics. As had been the case with Larks' Tongues in Aspic, these were written by John Wetton's friend Richard Palmer-James (the former Supertramp guitarist who'd left the band after its first, self-titled album). "The Great Deceiver" refers to The Devil and is an ironic commentary on commercialism (Fripp contributed the line "cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the Virgin Mary" after seeing souvenirs being marketed in Vatican City). "Lament" is about fame. "The Night Watch" is a short essay on Rembrandt's painting of the same name, describing the painting as an observer sees it and attempting to understand the subjects. "The Mincer" has more ambiguous lyrics, though lines such as "fingers reaching, linger shrieking," "you're all alone, baby's breathing," and the song's title could be references to a home invader or killer.

The phrase "Starless and Bible Black" is a quotation from the first two lines of poet Dylan Thomas's play, Under Milk Wood.[4] The band's next album, Red, contains a song called "Starless", which contains the phrase "Starless and bible black", whereas "Starless and Bible Black" is an improvised instrumental. The title track on both the album and the compact disk is an edit of the original Amsterdam improvisation as performed at the Concertgebouw, which presumably ran several minutes longer (as improvisations of this tour often did). (The sleeve notes included with the CDs indicate that it was cut short for the 1973 album "due to the constraints of vinyl"). All currently-available master tapes contain the 9:11 version.

The album art is by painter Tom Phillips. The phrase "this night wounds time", which appears on the back cover, is a quotation from Phillips's signature work, the "treated Victorian novel" A Humument (p. 222).

Starless and Bible Black is even more powerful and daring than its predecessor, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, with jarring tempo shifts, explosive guitar riffs, and soaring, elegant, and delicate violin and Mellotron parts scattered throughout its 41 minutes, often all in the same songs. The album was on the outer fringes of accessible progressive rock, with enough musical ideas explored to make Starless and Bible Black more than background for tripping the way Emerson, Lake & Palmer's albums were. "The Night Watch," a song about a Rembrandt painting, was, incredibly, a single release, although it was much more representative of the sound that Crimson was abandoning than where it was going in 1973-1974. More to that point were the contents of side two of the LP, a pair of instrumentals that threw the group's hardest sounds right in the face of the listener, and gained some converts in the process.

Possibly the only thing more challenging, unpredictable and even befuddling than King Crimson’s otherworldly musical creations at the start of the '70s was their ever-shifting personnel. By the end of the band's first half-decade of existence, leader Robert Fripp had already gone through several lineups of musicians.
Thankfully, for Crimson’s sixth album, Starless and Bible Black, which was released on March 29, 1974, they had found some measure of stability around Fripp, bassist/vocalist John Wetton, drummer Bill Bruford, multi-instrumentalist (violin, viola, keyboards) David Cross and lyricist Richard Palmer-James, whose unorthodox wordplay capably filled the role vacated by Fripp’s longtime foil, Peter Sinfield.
Musically, though, King Crimson’s restless experimenting continued thanks to a renewed focus on improvisation that saw all but two of the new album’s songs recorded live in concert, then overdubbed and cleansed of crowd noise in the studio. Both of those studio-only creations kicked off Starless and Bible Black, whose title was an allusion to Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood." The first melded skittish tempos and drastic soft/hard dynamics with a beautifully ethereal interlude lasting mere seconds, while the second, by comparison, opened gently and plainly, sweetened by Cross’ violin, but soon embarked towards darker realms on an ominous Wetton bass line.
Wetton’s instrument also starred alongside subversive guitar interjections across the understated "We’ll Let You Know," which then gave way to lusher, almost Spanish-flavored chords on "The Night Watch," a minimalist, virtually percussion-free instrumental (one of many) in "Trio" and finally static-encrusted lounge jazz for "The Mincer." And that was just Side One.

The second half of Starless and Bible Black bowed under the daunting weight of two epic instrumentals averaging ten minutes -- edited down from their concert originals -- of wanton improvisation. The title track slowly gained intensity around Fripp’s distorted, dive-bombing guitar-strangling until finally locking into a steady groove five minutes in, and then gradually decomposing again. By Fripp’s own admission, "Fracture" challenged even his abilities with its complexity, and yet, the tight interplay between all involved throughout the song’s protracted ebb and flow is on display.
And to think that this quasi-telepathic musical synchronization was already being undermined by a new occurrence of lineup uncertainty — namely involving Cross, whose violin was losing the battle for expression and sheer volume vs. his more assertive bandmates. This, in the kill-or-be-killed world of King Crimson, meant his inevitable ousting (by unanimous vote, no less) prior to the following year’s excellent, Red, which signaled another complete band collapse and a five-year hiatus.

 Tracks Listing:

1. The Great Deceiver (4:02)
2. Lament (4:00)
3. We'll Let You Know (improv recorded in Glasgow) (3:46)
4. The Night Watch (4:37) *
5. Trio (5:41) *
6. The Mincer (improv recorded in Zurich) (4:10)
7. Starless And Bible Black (9:11) *
8. Fracture (11:14) *

* Recorded Live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam


- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron, effects
- David Cross / violin, viola, Mellotron, electric piano
- John Wetton / bass, vocals
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Richard Hallebeek - 2004 [2014] "Richard Hallebeek Project" (Remastered)

Richard Hallebeek (born August 2, 1969 in Bilthoven) is a Dutch jazz fusion guitarist.

Advanced jazz rock fusion by Dutch guitar monster, Richard Hallebeek, with Lale Larson (keys) and Bas Conelissen (drums), and featuring Shawn Lane (guitar) & Brett Garsed (guitar).

This project brings together a group of exciting jazz rock musicians playing genuine compositions with intense improvisations. No endless, un-coordinated numbers. No boring, "heard-it-all-before" songwriting. Just the very best in high energy, progressive and moreover, complex music.

Richard Hallebeek is probably best known for his 1995 album, Generator, released on Mark Varney's Legato label. Jamming along at the tender age of 23 with guitar legends Carl Verheyen, Scott Henderson, Frank Gambale, Scott Kinsey and Dan Gilbert he wrote the majority of the album's tunes, proving he was a voice to be reckoned with. Richard has studied jazz and improvisation at the Amsterdam Conservatory; he also studied for a year at the GIT in L.A. with Brett Garsed.

Lale Larson (keys) has worked closely with highly respected guitarist, Todd Duane (with whom he appeared on Mark Varney's compilation CD Guitar on the Edge as the only keyboard soloist). Between 1996-99 Lale composed and recorded The Seven Deadly Sins, a highly original concert in seven movements which contains everything from acoustic piano and jazz to thrash metal. Around the same time he also wrote several piano pieces, two of which were performed by pianist Joakim Olsson on 17/5/96 at the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen.

Sebastiaan Cornelissen started playing drums when he was just 5 years old. At the age of 17, he began his studies at The Conservatory of Amsterdam. During that time he formed jazz/fusion group, Isotope, along with teacher and well-known Dutch piano virtuoso, Rob van Bavel. They have since released 2 albums: Isotope and Perception of the Beholder (Munich records). Besides Isotope, Sebastiaan also performs with his quartet featuring Leonardo Amuedo, and a very exciting project with highly respected guitarist Eef Albers.

And if the above players aren't exciting enough, read on. The CD includes none other than legendary guitar virtuosos Shawn Lane and Brett Garsed.

A Dutch Richard Hallebeek is fairly known in so-called guitar society. He graduated from Hilversum Conservatory and Musician's Institute (Los Angeles). So far he cooperated with the likes of Shawn Lane, Frank Gilbert, Carl Verheyen, and also with his teachers - Scott Henderson and Brett Garsed. He is strongly associated with a Finnish guitarist Antii Kotikoski as well. You can come across Richie's name in the booklets of Maximum Brain Disfunction's, The Flowriders', Isotope's and René Engel's releases. Moreover, he is a journalist of a Duch magazine - "Music Maker".

Richard invited to recording some famous stars like an Australian Brett Garsed and Shawn Lane. Brett played in AOR band called Nelson, but is most famous for his cooperation with T.J. Helmerich and their two CDs - "Quid Pro Quo" (1992) and "Exempt" (1994). However, Shawn Lane recorded a few solos on Mark Varney Project's "Centrifugal Funk" (1991). Obviously, you can as well hear Brett's parts on that compilation. Unfortunately, Shawn died in 2003 at the age of forty. It was after recording his solos for RHP a little while.

I'd call RHP a jazzy project, not only because of Hallebeek's and Lane's jazz education, but also thanks to rhythm section's parts made up of Udo Pannekeet (bass) and Sebastiaan Cornelissen (drums). We can find some instrumental similarities to Lale Larson's Ominox, but his presence and ideas in RHP couldn't have vanished without trace. I think that musicians sometimes make references to symphonic rock from the seventies ("Good Food"). RHP is a good proposal for devotees of Pat Metheny's and De Gladas Kapell's music. If you were looking for relaxing music that is best for losing in meditation and supporting in deceleration of daily life's mad pace, you are spot-on!

The production is crystal clear and avoids sounding sterile as too many releases in this genre do. The addition of Shawn Lane (what was his last musical adventure) and Brett Garsed are sure to bring in a few fans that otherwise may not get to know of RHP, and they too will be satisfied with their artists contributions. There is a definite live vibe throughout yet each track posesses structure and avoid aimless meandering.

Highlights on jazz fusion albums are often hard to pick as its generally more "a sum of the parts", as opposed to "single entities". Yet Canoga Park stands out thanks to its mesmerising atmospheric depth and some sublime solos from Richard Hallebeek and Shawn Lane. Good Food has a nice almost 70's pomp prog vibe to it that again makes it worthy of its own mention.

Overall RHP is a very solid slice of jazz rock and I get the feeling this band will be killer in the live setting. Fans of jazz rock/fusion make sure you check this out!

Track listing:

1 Prescription Strength 6:53
2 Lined Out 7:41
3 Canoga Park 4:36
4 Good Food 6:28
5 Free 6:43
6 Axe 4:53
7 Enigma 10:02
8 Orange Faces Everwhere 3:28
9 Imagine 5:49


Richard Hallebeek - Guitars
Shawn Lane (1,2,3,7) - Guitars
Brett Garsed (1,4,5,7) - Guitars
Sebastian Cornelissen - Drums
Lale Larson - Keys
Udo Pannekeet- Bass

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Michael Shrieve - 1994 "Fascination"

Progressing with guitarist Carlos Santana from his early Afro-Cuban rock and pop-based successes to his experimentation with jazz fusion, drummer Michael Shrieve subsequently released a string of fine solo recordings of his own. This one features guitar hero Bill Frisell and the ever-inventive organist Wayne Horvitz for a rather divergent set featuring ethereal soundscapes, loose grooves, and crunching opuses. Here, Shrieve provides sturdy backbeats to coincide with some nicely placed fills and his acute implementations of the dynamic. This effort highlights Frisell's wily and rather slithery guitar work, enhanced by the glowing sonic characteristics of the production, when viewed upon as a whole. The band is apt to soar skyward via climactic overtures in concert with a crash-and-burn methodology. Needless to say, this affair represents a potent concoction of jazz fusion melded with folksy themes and an avant-garde-type swing vamp, evidenced on "The Glass Tent." Yet, after a string of enterprising solo outings, Shrieve's solo career quieted down to a near whisper during the late '90s and into the new millennium.

You never know what you are going to get with this type of CD (great musician's solo effort) so this was a very pleasant surprise. I had a feeling going in that it was going to be new-agey but it's a solid instrumental rock album with some great guitar playing from Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz on organ. Every song was strong and no two resemble each other, a difficult task on an instrumental album but this guy can write music. There is also a Chris Whitley composition. If I had to compare it, I guess I would say it's much closer to Jeff Beck/John McLaughlin than Steve Vai/Joe Satriani.

Track listing:

01. Sam The Man
02. Tell Me Everything
03. Circus!Circus!
04. The Glass Tent
05. Fascination
06. One Nation, Invisible
07. The Great Ambassador
08. Living With The Law
09. Jig Saw
10. Soundings In Fathom


Micael Shrieve - Drums
Bill Frisell - Guitar
Wayne Horvitz - Organ

Tony Williams - 1969 [2011] "Emergency!"

Emergency! is the debut double album by American jazz fusion group The Tony Williams Lifetime. It was released in 1969 and was one of the first significant jazz fusion recordings. The album has commonly been regarded as a pioneering, influential, and original album in the jazz, rock, and fusion genres.

On the album, the band experiments with a wide range of genres including funk, psychedelic rock, hard bop, blues and free jazz. Williams can also be heard singing on the record on the songs "Beyond Games", "Where", and "Via the Spectrum Road". It was during John McLaughlin's tenure with the band that Williams introduced the young guitarist to Miles Davis, who was conducting his own fusion explorations at the time. This introduction led to McLaughlin playing on some of Davis's most acclaimed and influential albums, including In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Davis had a particular influence on the band, as Williams had played in his Second Great Quintet with Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Herbie Hancock, and Larry Young would go on to record on Bitches Brew.

Emergency! was originally released in 1969 by Polydor Records and Polygram Records. In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau called the album a "stunner" and hailed Williams as "probably the best drummer in the world". The record was later reissued on CD by Verve Records and Polygram in 1997.

According to J. D. Considine in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992), jazz fusion started on Emergency! where McLaughlin was first given the chance to combine jazz and rock. In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Leo Stanley said that it "shattered the boundaries between jazz and rock" with its "dense, adventurous, unpredictable soundscapes". Dennis Polkow of the Chicago Tribune wrote that in spite of the album's questionable sound quality, the music has an "energy and spirit" that has never been surpassed in fusion.

Tony Williams' Emergency was one of the first and most influential albums in late-'60s fusion, a double-LP set that shattered the boundaries between jazz and rock. Working with guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young, Williams pushed into new territory, creating dense, adventurous, unpredictable soundscapes. With Emergency, Tony Williams helped create the foundation of the style and sound of fusion. It's a seminal release.

Emergency! was not only one of the first fusion records, but also probably the defining record that introduced American audiences—and most notably Miles Davis—to John McLaughlin. Williams himself, at the age of twenty-four, was already a veteran of groups with Sam Rivers, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, and of course Davis' second great quintet. His innovative style has put him in the same realm as Max Roach, Jack DeJohnette, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones. But the glue of the record wasn't just Williams, it was the explosive combination of the Lifetime band with McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. Their expansive sound within the confines of a trio is pure genius. The sound is huge and the jams are rooted deeply in rock styles.

The hard touch Williams employed on the Davis quintet records rules throughout Emergency!. The Blakey vibe is definitely here, but Williams switches styles and tempo in mid-track. He can be tossing some hard bop, then flash in some Ginger Baker chops (Baker was the blazingly original and influential drummer of Cream). This practice helped to give the record a more rock-oriented sound than much of the fusion that followed. But McLaughlin's playing is some of his finest. McLaughlin's chops showcase the eclectic tastes that would be a building block in fusion and rock-jazz. His uncanny technique for knowing just how to lead not only his solos, but also the composition itself is genius.

In many ways this record works as a companion piece to Davis' In a Silent Way and Filles de Kilimanjaro. As well, Larry Young's organ playing differs greatly from the jazz organists of the era who played primarily soul- and funk-jazz. Young's style grooves closer to the sounds that were being used primarily in rock bands of the era. In this sense, the organ adds an almost spacey and trippy effect to the sound. But Young used jazz keyboard influences and textures for his solos. This mixture makes for a huge- sounding and eclectic record.

Emergency! is a sprawling epic that came out as a double album upon its release in 1969. Unlike some doubles of the era that were bloated affairs that sank under their own weight, its size worked as an advantage, not a deterrent. The compositions rarely reach over ten minutes, making the record more conventional in a rock sense. But most importantly the tracks themselves open up completely to rock music in its most primal forms. Sure, Bitches Brew is cited for this innovation, but Emergency! predates it and is every bit as solid, without using horns.

In fact, the combination of just guitar and organ gives this recording a more authentic rock esthetic. It seems quite obvious that Williams was a true fan of the genre and used it to its greatest effect. Take the jam "Where," which pulsates throughout, building and dropping, utilizing rock foundations and jazz chord structures. The album definitely sounds much like San Fran jam bands of the era who were using jazz templates for their spacey improvs.

Is it Jazz or is it Rock? This was undoubtedly the question on the mind of every listener when first venturing into the content of Emergency!. The music is centered around the soloistic spontaneity of Jazz music, but features absolutely no wind instruments which were once considered essential instruments of the genre. In fact, during the time of its release, the album was virtually a pariah. The Jazz community completely repudiated The Tony Williams Lifetime altogether, as no one considered the group was doing anything revolutionary. But the album's heretical nature served to be a catalyst that would inspire the musical styles of several future Jazz Fusion acts.

As we descend into "Emergency", Tony Williams erupts out of silence and deploys a bombastic and eccentrically complex drumming style. Larry Young and John McLaughlin then ornament his atypical percussive rhythms with their respective organ and guitar arrangements. John McLaughlin soon asserts the spotlight as he indulges into his own exploratory solos, while the other instruments provide a rambunctious backing section for his performances. This being highly unorthodox at the time as electric guitars were never featured as dominant instruments in Jazz, but there lies the charismatic allure of the album. It is the electrifying synergy of John McLaughlin and Tony Williams that makes Emergency! such an impetuous release of adrenaline. Exhibiting the energetic musicianship that would later be defined as the inveterate nature of Jazz Fusion. "Something Special" and "Via The Spectrum Road" show the group embracing the conventions of rock music so intimately, that it is arguable as to whether the Jazz influences are even present. For example, "Via The Spectrum Road", displays a variety of musical characteristics that are synonymous with rock music. There is a coalescence of electric and acoustic guitar playing that express a very subtle blues tone. The song, as well as several others in the album, even feature prominent singing. The orchestral arrangements of "Via The Spectrum Road" are also furnished to compliment Tony Williams' singing, while almost completely ignoring the instrumental vitality and improvised spontaneity that is the core essence of Jazz.

The nature of Emergency! is merely a reflection of its time. Rock music was dominating the sound of the late 1960's, and artists were expanding the conventions of traditional musical orchestration and exploring new dimensions as Psychedelia grew in prominence. Segregation had long been abolished in the United States, while promoting equality between racial classes. New ideologies were flowing throughout the western world, as hedonistic lifestyles and eastern philosophies were replacing the Christian fundamentals that once embodied the social norms and morals of society. In other words, it was a time to experiment and leave old traditions behind. An attitude that would influence artists to direct their music into more abstract routes. "Where" alludes the embrace of new philosophies, and serves as a prime example of the group's innovative style. It posses many different compositional movements, from exuding psychedelic ambiences to explosive musicianship. John McLaughlin and Larry Young also deploy some elaborate effects on their respective instruments that add a sense of cosmic dissonance to the music. This is one of the first Jazz albums to incorporate electrical atmospheric textures, along with Miles Davis' In A Silent Way which was released earlier that year.

But Emergency! tends to shine its brightest when the group devises a frantic style of playing, and that is what makes "Vashkar" and "Spectrum" such impeccable performances. From Tony Williams' dynamic and sensuously bombarding percussive rhythms to John McLaughlin's exhilarating solos. both songs are moments of suspense filled with convoluted and utterly maniacal instrumentation. This is the album that turned the Jazz world upside down, and established a whole new approach to the genre. Emergency! is the template that all future Jazz Fusion acts would soon follow, mirroring its hyperactive and assiduous display of musicianship. This album is perhaps the most free we will see John McLaughlin perform until his work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Because of the album's prominent rock leanings, his guitar playing is much more spirited and aggressive, providing a truly captivating performance on his part. I cannot express how truly ingenious this album is. It is a performance that no mere words can even begin to do it justice, it has to be experienced to honestly fathom its imaginative and deranged brilliance.

Recorded at Olmsted Sound Studios, New York City May 26 & 28, 1969

CD Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2256 (2011, Europe) Remastered.

Tracks Listing:

1. Emergency (9:35)
2. Beyond Games (8:17)
3. Where (12:10)
4. Vashkar (4:59)
5. Via The Spectrum Road (7:50)
6. Spectrum (9:52)
7. Sangria For Three (13:08)
8. Something Spiritual (5:38)

Total time 71:29

Line-up / Musicians:

- Tony Williams/ drums, vocals (2,3,5)
- John McLaughlin / electric & acoustic guitars
- Larry Young / organ