Monday, May 6, 2024

Prog Lists: My Favorite Prog Albums of Each Decade

2020s (so far):

iNFiNiEN Beyond the Veil (2022)
OIAPOK OisaLün (2023)
MAGICK BROTHER & MYSTIC SISTER Magick Brother & Mystic Sister (2020)
NEEDLEPOINT Walking Up That Valley (2021)
PENDRAGON Love Over Fear (2020)
THE RETICENT The Oubliette (2020)
HANDS OF THE HERON 13 Moons (2021)
CALIGONAUT Magnified As Giants (2021)
AISLES Beyond Drama (2023)
EARTHSIDE Let the Truth Be Told (2023)
HOLY WAVE Five of Cups (2023)
RETURNED TO THE EARTH Fall of the Watcher (2022)
RANESTRANE Apocalypse Now (2022)
GADADU The Weatherman Is Wrong (2022)
GREEN ASPHALT Green Asphalt (2022)
BREIDABLIK Alduorka (2022)
WESERBERGLAND Sacrae Symphony No. 1 (2022)
IKARUS Plasma (2022)
AMOEBA SPLIT Quiet Euphoria (2023)
SLIFT llion (2024)
MOTORPSYCHO Ancient Astronauts (2022)
KLAUS SCHULZE Deus Arrakis (2022)
STRANGE POP Ten Years Gone (2022)
BLACK MIDI Cavalcade (2021)
MICE ON STILTS I Am Proud of You. (2023)
BILLIE BOTTLE'S TEMPLE OF SHIBBOLETH Billie Bottle's Temple of Shibboleth (2023)
RASCAL REPORTERS The Strainge Case of Steve (2023)
BATTLESTATIONS Memoirs of Once (2023)
STEFANO PANUNZI Pages from the Sea (2023)
ZOPP Dominion (2023)
ACTIONFREDAG Turist i eget liv (2023)


1. HOMUNCULUS RES Limiti all'eguaglianza della parte con il tutto (2013)
2. UNAKA PRONG Salinity Now! (2018)
3. THE AMAZING Gentle Stream (2011)
4. DEMEN Nektyr (2017)
5. FIVE-STOREY ENSEMBLE Not That City (2013) 
6. ALIO DIE & LORENZO MONTANÀ Holographic Codex (2015)
7. TONY PATTERSON Equations of Meaning (2016)
8. BENT KNEE Shiny Eyed Babies (2014)
9. LAGARTIJA Particelle (2011)
10. CICADA Light Shining Through the Sea (2015)

11. MICE ON STILTS Hope for a Mourning (2016)
12. VOTUM Harvest Moon (2013)
13. BATTLESTATIONS The extent of damage (2015)
14. AXON-NEURON Metamorphosis (2016)
15. FAUN Eden (2011)
16. GHOST MEDICINE Discontinuance (2016)
17. GHOSTS OF JUPITER The Great Bright Horses (2016)
18. MIDAS FALL Evaporate (2018)
19. MEER Meer (2015)
20. SEVEN IMPALE City of the Sun (2014)

21. JAMBINAI Onde (2019)
23. ANATHEMA The Optimist (2017)
24. RYUICHI SAKAMOTO async (2017)
25. AMOEBA SPLIT Dance of the Goodbyes (2010)
26. BROTHER APE A Rare Moment of Insight (2010)
27. THE GABRIEL CONSTRUCT Interior City (2013)
28. BATTLESTATIONS Vixit (2017)
29. FAUN Luna (2014)
30. EDISON'S CHILDREN The Final Breath Before November (2013)

31. STEVEN WILSON Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)
32. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE The Dream of the Jongleur (2011) 
33. ANATHEMA Falling Deeper (2011)
34. CORDE OBLIQUE A Hail of Bitter Almonds (2011)
35. FUNIN Unsound (2010) 
36. TIRILL Said the Sun to the Moon  (2019)
37. IAMTHEMORNING ~ (2012)
38. STEVE HAUSCHILDT Strands (2016)
39. FROGG CAFÉ Bateless Edge (2010)
40. KATE BUSH 50 Words for Snow (2011)

41. ANTOINE FAFARD Ad Perpetuum (2014)
42. KANT FREUD KAFKA No tengas miedo (2014)
43. AIRBAG The Greatest Show on Earth (2013)
44. PROMENADE Noi al dir di Noi (2016)
45. LATTE E MIELE Passion Secundum Mattheum - The Complete Work (2014)
46. STARVING DAUGHTERS Strange Valleys (2018)
47. STARSABOUT Halflights (2016)
48. KEOR Petrichor (2018)
49. IAMTHEMORNING Lighthouse (2016)
50. LA BOCA DELLA VERITÀ Avenoth (2016)

Honorable Mentions:
TREE TOPS Ghosts Don't Dance with Shoes (2017)
LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO La notte anche di Girono (2015)
PENDRAGON Passion (2011)
IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE Il Tempio Delle Clessidre (2010)
MELTING CLOCK Destinazione (2019)


1. ODYSSEY: "The Greatest Tale" (2005)
2. DOVES Lost Souls (2000)
3. MOTORPSYCHO Phanerothyme (2001)
4. IONA Open Sky (2000)
5. BJÖRK Vespertine (2001)
6. BIG BIG TRAIN The Difference Machine (2007)
7. MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Part the Second (2009)
8. NIL Nil Novo Sol (2005)
9. ULVER Shadows of the Sun (2007)
10. PROGHMA-C Bar-do Travel (2009)

11. PÄATOS Timeloss (2002)
12. OCEANSIZE Everyone Into Position (2005)
13. FAUN Renaissance (2005)
14. DOVES The Last Broadcast (2002)
15. KARDA ESTRA Eve (2000)
16. PURE REASON REVOLUTION The Dark Third (2006)
17. BARK PSYCHOSIS Code Name: DustSucker (2004)
18. RIVERSIDE Second Life Syndrome (2005)
19. JANNICK TOP Infernal Machina (2008)
20. KOTEBEL Omphalos (2007)

21. THE FLAMING LIPS Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
22. THE GATHERING If_then_else (2000)
23. MAGMA Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré (2009)
24. AIRBAG Identity (2009)
25. MAD CRAYON Preda (2009)
26. BOX Le horla de Montpassant (2009)
27. AISLES In Sudden Walks (2009)
28. DAVID DARLING Cello Blue (2001)
29. STEREOLAB Sound-Dust (2001)
30. MAGENTA Seven (2004)
31. SYLVAN Posthumous Silence (2006)
32. QUIDAM The Time Beneath the Sky (2002)
33. NOSOUND LightDark (2008)
34. MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Leaving Your Bodymap (2001)
35. PORCUPINE TREE Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)
37. GA'AN - Ga'an (2009)
38.. MOTH VELLUM Moth Vellum (2007)
39. KBB Lost and Found (2000)
40. ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS Mild Profundities (2003)

41. SIGUR RÓS ( ) (2002)
42. KLAUS SCHULZE Kontinuum (2007)
43. KARDA ESTRA Constellations (2003)
44. MAUDLIN OF THE WELL Bath (2001)
45. KATE BUSH Aerial (2005)
46. THORK Wê-ila (2004)
47. NIL Quarante jours sure le Sinaï (2003)
48. BONDAGE FRUIT V - Skin (2002)
49. DUNGEN 4 (2008)
50. THORK Nula Jedan (2007

51. CORDE OBLIQUE The Stones of Naples (2009)
52. PORCUPINE TREE Lightbulb Sun (2000)
53. FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM Mourning Sun (2005)
54. MAGYAR POSSE Random Avenger (2006)
55. VIOLETA DE OUTONO Volume 7 (2007)
56. IONA The Circling Hour (2006)
57. FROST* Milliontown (2006)
58. ESPERS II (2006)
59. UZVA Uomo (2006)
60. ELECTRIC ORANGE Morbus (2007)

61. GAZPACHO Night (2007)
62. MAGMA K.A. (2004)
63. PANDORA Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco (2008)
65. PENDRAGON Pure (2008)
66. MONO You Are There (2006)
67. VIIMA Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta (2006)
68. YVES POTIN Elsewhere (2007)
69. iNFiNiEN How to Accept (2006)
70. PAATOS Silence of Another Kind (2006)

Honorable Mentions:
RADIOHEAD In Rainbows (2007)
MAGISTER DIXIT Cellules de Crises (2006)
KARDA ESTRA The Age of Science and Enlightenment (2006)


1. STEREOLAB Dots and Loops (1997)
2. LANDBERK Indian Summer (1996)
3. PAT METHENY Secret Story (1992)
4. LANDBERK One Man Tells Another (1994)
5. SADE Love DeLuxe (1992)
6. MONO Formica Blues
8. ECHOLYN Suffocating the Bloom (1992)
9. OZRIC TENTACLES Jurassic Shift (1993)
10. OLGA KHARITIDI & JIM WILSON Entering the Circle (1996)

11. SIGUR RÓS Ágætus Byrjun (1999)
12. BONDAGE FRUIT  I (1994)
13. JANET JACKSON Janet. (1993)
15. PÄR LINDH PROJECT Mundus Incompertus (1997)
16. BARK PSYCHOSIS Hex (1994)
17. PAT METHENY Imaginary Day (1997)
18. COLLAGE Moonshine (1994)
19. KINGSTON WALL III: Trilogy (1994)

21. ON THE VIRG Serious Young Insects (1999)
23. DAVID DARLING Eight String Religion (1993)
24. AFTER CRYING Megalálzottak és Megszomorítottak (1992)
25. THE FLOWER KINGS Flower Power (1999)
26. ANGRA Holy Land (1996)
27. OZRIC TENTACLES Waterfall Cities (1999)
28. JON ANDERSON Change We Must (1994)
29. HÖYRY-KONE Huono Parturi (1997)
30. DEAD CAN DANCE Aion (1990)

31. PORCUPINE TREE The Sky Moves Sideways (1994)
32. QUIDAM Quidam (1996)
33. IN THE WOODS... Omnio (1997)
34. AFTER CRYING Föld És Ég (1994)
35. ART ZOYD Häxan (1997)
36. FATES WARNING A Pleasant Shade of Gray (1997)
37. OZRIC TENTACLES Arborescence  (1994)
38. MR. SIRIUS Dirge (1990)
39. ANTHONY PHILLIPS Slow Dance (1990)
40. DEAD CAN DANCE Into the Labyrinth (1993) 

41. COLLAGE Baśnie (1990)
42. VOLARÉ The Uncertainty Principle (1997)
44. AFTER CRYING Overground Music (1990)
45. AFTER CRYING De Profundis (1996)
46. MR. BUNGLE Mr. Bungle (1991)
47. THINKING PLAGUE In Extremis (1998)
48. DEAD CAN DANCE Spiritchaser (1996)
49. THE TEA PARTY The Edges of Twilight (1995)
50. ÄNGLAGÅRD Epilog (1994)

Honorable Mentions:
THE FLOWER KINGS Back in the World of Adventures (1996)
DISCIPLINE Unfolded Like Staircase (1997)
CARLOS NAKAI & NAWANG KHECHOG Winds of Devotion (1998)
ULVER Kveldssanger (1996)
CYNIC Focus (1993)
TOOL Ænima (1996)
DREAM THEATER Awake (1994)


1. COCTEAU TWINS Tiny Dynamine/Echoes on a Shallow Bay (1985)
2. THE FIXX Reach the Beach (1983)
3. U2 Boy  (1980)
4. RICKIE LEE JONES Pirates (1981)
5. DAVID SYLVIAN Brilliant Trees (1984)
6. ANTHONY PHILLIPS 1984 (1981)
7. PAT METHENY GROUP Still Life (Talking) (1987)
8. LOVE AND MONEY Strange Kind of Love (1988)
9. THE CURE Disintegration (1989)
10. COCTEAU TWINS Treasure (1984)

11. SIMPLE MINDS New Gold Dream: (81-82-83-84) (1982)
12. RYUICHI SAKAMOTO Ongaku Zukan (1984) / Illustrated Music Encyclopedia (1986) 
13. ESKATON 4 Visions (1981)
14. DAVID SYLVIAN Gone to Earth (1986)
15. TALKING HEADS Remain in Light (1980)
16. THE MOON AND THE MELODIES The Moon and the Melodies (1986)
17. FLAIRCK Gevecht met de Engel (1980) 
18. PAT METHENY & LYLE MAYS As Falls Witchita, So Falls Wichita Falls (1981)
19. KING CRIMSON Discipline (1981)
20. KATE BUSH The Dreaming (1982)

21. HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (1980)
22. TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting (1983)
23. PREFAB SPROUT Steve McQueen / Two Wheels Good (1985)
24. TEARS FOR FEARS The Seeds of Love (1989) 
25. SOLSTICE Silent Dance (1984)
26. KATE BUSH The Sensual World (1989)
28. PAT METHENY GROUP First Circle (1984)
29. THE POLICE Ghost in the Machine (1981)
30. U2 October (1981)

31. PROPAGANDA A Secret Wish
32. BRUCE COCKBURN Stealing Fire (1984)
33. FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Welcome to the Pleasuredome (1984)
34. XTC The Big Express (1984)
35. ANTHONY PHILLIPS & ENRIQUE BERRO GARCIA Private Parts & Pieces III:  Antiques (1982)
36. STYLE COUNCIL Confessions of a Pop Group (1988)
37. MR. SIRIUS Barren Dream (1987)
38. AMENOPHIS Amenophis (1983)
39. BRUCE COCKBURN Big Circumstance (1988)
40. PETER GABRIEL Passion (Original Soundtrack Music from the motion picture The Last Temptation of Christ) (1989)

41. XTC Mummer (1983)
42. COCTEAU TWINS Blue Bell Knoll (1988)
43. JEAN-LUC PONTY Individual Choice (1983)
44. JANE SIBERRY No Borders Here (1984)
45. ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Secrets (1989)
46. HOWARD JONES Human's Lib (1984)
47. U2 The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
48. LOS JAIVAS Obras de Violeta Parra (1984)
49. SBB Memento Z Banalnym Tryptikiem (1980)
50. PAZZO FANFANO DI MUSICA Pazzo Fanfano di Musica (1989)

51. DEAD CAN DANCE Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (1987)
52. UNIVERS ZERO Uzed (1984)
53. SWANS Children of God (1987)
54. UNIVERS ZERO Ceux du dehors (1981))
Skylarking (1986)
56. BRUCE COCKBURN The Trouble with Normal (1983)
57. PETER GABRIEL "Security" (1982)
58. UNIVERS ZERO Heatwave (1986)
59. SOLARIS Marsibéli Krónikák (1984)
60. ITOIZ Ezekiel (1980)

Honorable Mentions:
AIN SOPH Hat and Field (1986)
COCTEAU TWINS Victorialand (1986)
ÉMERAUDE Geoffroy (1981)
OZRIC TENTACLES Pungent Effulgent (1989)
IVORY Sad Cypress (1980)
THE ENID In the Region of the Summer Stars (1984)


1. GENESIS The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)
2. MAGMA Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh (1973)
3. JONI MITCHELL Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977)
4. JAN AKKERMAN Jan Akkerman (1977)
5. STEELY DAN Aja (1977)
6. UTOPIA Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1974)
7. RENAISSANCE Novella (1977)
8. JAN AKKERMAN & KAZ LUX Eli (1976)
9. ANTHONY PHILLIPS The Geese and The Ghost (1977)
10. YES Relayer (1974)

11. LENNY WHITE Venusian Summer (1975)
12. HARMONIUM Si on avait besoin d’une cinqième saison (1975)
13. NINA HAGEN BAND Nina Hagen Band (1978)
14. MIKE OLDFIELD Hergest Ridge (1974/6)
15. ALAN STIVELL Renaissance de la harpe Celtique (1971) Renaissance of the Celtic Harp (1972)
16. SHAKTI (with John McLaughlin) Natural Elements (1977)
17CHICK COREA The Mad Hatter (1978)
18. PINK FLOYD Animals (1977)
19. GENESIS A Trick of the Tail (1976)
20. SANTANA Caravanserai (1972)

21. GENESIS Selling England by the Pound (1973)
23. SUPERTRAMP Crime of the Century (1974)
24. FREDDIE HUBBARD The Love Connection (1979) 
25. SBB Pamiec (1975) 
26. UK UK (1978)
27. EGG The Polite Force (1971) 
28. RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior (1976)
29. BABYLON Babylon (1978)
30. AREA Crac! (1975)

31. CARAVAN For Girls Who Plump in the Night (1973)
32. PTARMIGAN Ptarmigan (1974)
33. RENAISSANCE Turn of the Cards (1974)
34. ARTI & MESTIERI Tilt (1974)
35. KHAN Space Shanty (1972)
36. RENAISSANCE Scheherazade and Other Stories (1975)
37. TODD RUNDGREN Initiation (1975)
38. LAURENT THIBAULT Mais on peut pas rêver tout le temps (1978)
39. HAROLD BUDD Pavillion of Dreams (1978)
40. STEVE REICH Music for 18 Musicians (1978)

41. HATFIELD AND THE NORTH Hatfield and the North (1974)
42. GENTLE GIANT Free Hand (1975) 
43. FOCUS III (1972)
44. EDDIE HENDERSON Inside Out (1974)
45. CHRIS SQUIRE Fish Out of Water (1975)
46. STRAWBS Ghosts (1975)
47. PICCHIO DAL POZZO Picchio dal Pozzo (1976)
48. YES Fragile (1971)
49. FOCUS II / "Moving Waves" (1971)
50. JULIAN PRIESTER Love Love (1974)

51. TODD RUNDGREN Todd (1974)
52. PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI Per un amico (1972)
53. GENESIS Foxtrot (1972)
54. FOCUS Hamburger Concerto (1974)
55. MIKE OLDFIELD Incantations (1978)
56. PINK FLOYD Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
57. JEAN-LUC PONTY Cosmic Messenger (1978)
58. GENESIS Nursery Cryme (1971)
59. CARAVAN In the Land of Pink and Grey (1971)
60. SUPERSISTER To the Highest Bidder (1971)
61. COS Postaeolian Train Robbery (1974)
62. YES Close to the Edge (1972)
63. URIAH HEEP Demons and Wizards (1972)
64. DEODATO Prelude (1973)
65. NEKTAR A Tab in the Ocean (1972)
66. THE SOFT MACHINE Bundles (1975)
67. KLAUS SCHULZE X (1978)
68. LED ZEPPELIN Houses of the Holy  (1973)
69. COS Viva Boma (1976)

71. EBERHARD WEBER The Following Morning (1976)
72. GENTLE GIANT In a Glass House (1973)
73. FLAIRCK Variaties Op Een Dame (1978)
74. POLLEN Pollen (1976)
75. SPIROGYRA St. Radingunds (1971)
76. ALAN PARSONS PROJECT I, Robot (1977)
77. SUPERTRAMP Even in the Quietest Moments... (1977)
78. AREA Arbeit Macht Frei (1973)
79. CERVELLO Melos (1973)
80. CAROL OF HARVEST Carol of Harvest (1978)

81. CELESTE Principe di giorno (1976)
82. NEKTAR Remember the Future (1973)
83. CARAVAN If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You (1970)
84. NEKTAR Journey to the Centre of the Eye (1971)
85. JOHN MARTYN One World (1977)
86. PETER GABRIEL Peter Gabriel ("Car") (1977)
87. GENESIS Trespass (1970)
88. GENTLE GIANT Gentle Giant (1970)
89. YES Going for the One (1977)
90. EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1971)

91. SOFT MACHINE Third (1970)
92. SUPERSISTER Present from Nancy (1970)
93NOVA Vimana (1976)
94. MELLOW CANDLE Swaddling Songs (1972)
95. EDEN Erwartung (1978)
96. BRÖSELMASCHINE Bröselmaschine (1971)
97. THE AMAZING BLONDEL Fantasia Lindum (1971)
98. LINDA PERHACS Parallelograms (1970)
99. VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR H to He, Who Am the Only One (1970)
100. BRUFORD Feels Good to Me (1978)

Honorable Mentions:
RICKIE LEE JONES Rickie Lee Jones (1979)
THE BUGGLES Age of Plastic (1979)
MOTHER GONG Fairy Tales (1979)
HÖLDERLIN Hölderlins Traum (1972)
HEART Dreamboat Annie (1975)
BOSTON Boston (1976)
COMUS First Utterance (1971)
NEKTAR Recycled (1975)
GENTLE GIANT The Power and the Glory (1974)


1. STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK Incense & Peppermints (1967)
2. KING CRIMSON In The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
3. LILY & MARIA Lily & Maria (1968)
4. THE ASSOCIATION The Best of the Association (1968)
5. THE COLLECTORS The Collectors (1968)
6. SIMON & GARFUNKLE Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (1966)
7. JOHN COLTRANE My Favorite Things (1961)
8. THE MOODY BLUES Days of Future Passed (1967)
9. DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA 'Live' at Monterey! (1966)
10. THE PRETTY THINGS S.F. Sorrow (1968)

11. DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA Electric Bath (1967)
12. JOHN COLTRANE Expression (1967)
13KALEIDOSCOPE Tangerine Dream (1967)
14. ULTIMATE SPINACH Behold & See (1968)
15. TERJE RYPDAL Bleak House (1968)
16. CHICAGO Chicago Transit Authority (1969)
17. FRANK ZAPPA Lumpy Gravy (1967/8)
18. SOFT MACHINE Volume Two (1969)
19. STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK Wake Up … It's Tomorrow (1968)
20. H.P. LOVECRAFT II (1968)

21. SANTANA Santana (1969)
22. RENAISSANCE Renaissance (1969)
23. THE PENTANGLE Basket of Light (1968)
24. JOHN COLTRANE A Love Supreme (1965)
25. THE BEATLES Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
26. JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
27. THE DOORS The Doors (1967)
28. DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA Autumn (1968)
29. GENESIS From Genesis to Revelation (1968)
30. IRON BUTTERFLY In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968)

31. LOVE Forever Changes (1967)
32. ULTIMATE SPINACH Ultimate Spinach (1968)
33. YES Yes (1969)
34. THE BEATLES Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
35. TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME Emergency! (1969)
36. CARAVAN Caravan (1969)
37. COLOSSEUM Valentyne Suite (1969)
38. FRANK ZAPPA Hot Rats (1969)
39. HERBIE MANN Stone Flute (1969)
40. DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA Shock Treatment (1968)

Sunday, April 28, 2024

A Compendium of My Favorite "Classic Era" Jazz-Rock Fusion Albums, Part 1: 1967-1976, Other Great Albums

(89.0 to 90.0)


The veteran trumpeter was getting on board the jazz-rock fusion train, here using a virtual who's who of proven J-R Fuse musicians in his recording sessions: Ron Carter, Bob James, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Airto.

I originally purchased this album because of the lineup of collaborating artists (I was hugely into Bob James, the Laws brothers, and Ron Carter during this period) but also cuz Freddy was covering two of my all-time favorite soul/R&B songs--both made famous by The Stylistics: "People Make the World Go Round" and "Bethca By Golly, Wow." The former of which Freddie made the best version of the song I've ever heard: here, on Polar AC.

Freddy had been notably trying some of the new rock-infusions on his previous albums from the early 1970s, but had been using his own or the studio's musicians to do so, and they just were't getting it. So, for Polar AC he called in some of the heavy hitters--musicians who had served time on the front lines: with Miles and Tony--including the three drummers here, Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White, and Billy Cobham and percussionist/drummer Airto Moreira.

1. "Polar AC" (6:57) a Cedar Walton tune covered with the help of Jack DeJohnette on drums. (13.125/15)

2. "People Make the World Go Round" (5:50) Lenny White is the drummer on this one. A personal favorite. (10/10)

3. "Betcha By Golly, Wow" (8:09) a good song that actually gets better when Freddie starts to take liberties with the melody lines. (13.5/15)

4. "Naturally" (5:52) a Cannonball Adderly song helped out by Billy Cobham. The song even sounds like a nostalgic look back into the post-My Favorite Things 1960s. Even Hubert Laws' flute feels so Sixties. Pleasant and melodic with very solid traditional jazz play (and sounds) from Freddie's supporting musicians. (8.875/10)

5. "Son of Sky Dive" (13:20) a reconditioning of the title song from one of Freddie's first attempts to foray into the Jazz-Rock Fusion idiom--a more latin rhythm form released in 1972 on which he used a lineup that included Billy Cobham, Airto Moreira, Ray Barretto, Ron Carter, Keith Jarrett, Hubert Laws, and George Benson. This one's better. Lenny White was pretty good, too. Sounds and plays out like "Love Connection Version 1." I absolutely LOVE Lenny White's drum play as well as Ron Carter's bass and keyboard support from George Gables. This is great modern-day jazz without collapsing into the quagmire of an abyss of "Smooth Jazz." (27.5/30) 

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion.

NOVA Blink!  (1975)

Napolitano bands Osanna and Cervello unite (reuniting brothers Danilo and Corrado Rustici) for some groovin' jazz-rock fusion.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Corrado Rustici / lead vocals, acoustic (2) & electric guitars
- Danilo Rustici / electric guitar
- Elio D'Anna / alto (2,3,6), soprano (1,3,5) & tenor (4,6) saxophones, flute (2)
- Luciano Milanese / bass
- Franco Lo Previte / drums
- Morris Pert / percussion

1. "Tailor Made - Part 1 & Part 2 (5:09) what starts out sounding rather funky turns into driving blues-rock when the singing starts, but in the instrumental intervals between vocal passages it's highly-charged Jazz-Rock Fusion! Saxophonist Elio D'Anna is on fire but so is that rhythm section! What a temperamental song from these headstrong lads! (9.25/10)

2. "Something Inside Keeps You Down - Part 1 & Part 2 (6:11) opens as a kind of meandering, wandering "warm-up" or "practice" session turns into something quite else when Corrado Rustici enters singing in a high almost-falsetto voice. After two minutes, the singing shuts down and the band folds into a heavy rock motif that is anchored by some awesome deep bass playing and amazing drumming from Franco Lo Previte. Heavy and brooding but not bombastic or pedantic, this is very solid instrumental  (9.25/10)

3. "Nova - Part 1 & Part 2 (7:10) opening with some funky rhythm guitar, Franco enters with some stunning drum work while everybody else settles into the rock 'n' roll groove. Elio takes the lead with some awesome sax screaming--on multiple instruments--while the guitars work out from beneath who's the lead and who's the rhythm. The brothers duke it out with Danilo shrieking out his more blues-anchored style before giving it up to Luciano Milanese's bass by way of short bursts from Elio and little brother Corrado with his fire-breathing machine gun. Elio gets another solo sixth minute which allows us to focus more on the different playing styles of the Rustici brothers: Danilo being all blues-orented while Corrado is so much more Mahavishnu--which is especially demonstrated when he finally lets loose in the final 30 seconds with some of his fire and brimstone. (13.5/15)

4. "Used to Be Easy - Part 1 & Part 2 (5:12) picked and strummed electricguitar chords over which Corrado starts singing in his higher-pitched vibrato voice that I'm so familiar with from my love of the band's Vimana album. The music beneath is sounds quite firmly founded in blues-rock, though you can tell from both his vocal and guitar that Corrado is very much interested in going a different direction (Elio, too); as a matter of fact, the rhythm section of Franco, Luciano, and Danilo all feel so firmly rooted in the blues-rock forms that this is the first time I'm conscious of the rift that must have led to their departure from the band. (8.66667/10)

5. "Toy - Part 1 & Part 2 (4:21) nice semi-funky rock with some jazzy elements coming from the rhythm guitar, lead sax, and drums (a bit)--the rest is more instrumental jam-band rock. By the time they get to the third and fourth minute the infectious groove has gotten so inside your being that the solos become quite enjoyable. I can't believe how 180 my view of this song became over the course of its four minutes! (9/10)

6. "Stroll On - Part 1 & Part 2 (10:33) hard-drivin', blistering-paced, near-metal blues rock with rather coarse and aggressive vocals from Corrado while the band races forward for the first six-and-a-half minutes, Luciano Milanese sounds very much like he's trying to match the speed and style of Percy Jones. Then they slow down a bit, allowing for a bit of space within which the various instrumentalists are able to clearly, patiently inject their solo--though the highlight of the entire song is Elio and Corrado's paired melody lines during the song's final two minutes; the two are in sync! (17.75/20)

Total Time 38:36

Interesting to contrast the two guitar styles of brothers Danilo and Corrado: the former is far more blues-rock oriented with lots of note bending and favoring a much more "dirty" sound while the latter is clearly a student/emulator of the technical wizardry of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. At times Corrado's vocals sound so much like David Bowie! As accomplished as the musicians are, the sound engineering mix is not very enjoyable: the bass and drums are mixed farther forward than any of the other tracks! And Luciano Milanese is no Percy Jones (future member/contributor to the band) but he and drummer Franco Lo Previte are quite a force as a rhythm team. Though the music is often far too close to standard blues rock in both sound palette and style, I have come away very impressed with the power and presence of this album. I think the power of the music even helped me to cast aside my initial myopic orientation to only being open to Jazz-Rock Fusion. This is not Jazz-Rock Fusion. Still, it is my opinion, that the band's core trio's next move--to move to London, England, where they will use studio musicians in supporting rolls to record their next albums--is the best move they could have made.

89.89 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of hard-driving technically-awesome jazz-infused bluesy rock 'n' roll music. 

FROM Power On!  (1972)

The sophomore release from this German band showing tremendous growth, moving the band's music fully into the realm of Jazz-Rock Fusion.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Gustl Mayr / tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bells, co-composer (1)
- Viktor F. Belgrove / congas, vocals, percussion, steel drums
- Kurt Bong / drums, gong, timpani, percussion 
- Klaus Gobel / piano, composer (2) electric piano, organ
- Dieter Von Goetze / electric bass, composer (1,3)
- Horst Lubitz / arrangements, conductor
- Roland Schneider / arrangements, conductor

1. "Festival Rock / Use the Bridge" (17:30) right from the beginning of this piece one can sense the DRAMATIC change in musical approach the band has grown into: using an approach that is much more in tune with the fusion trends going on at the time in contemporary Jazz-Rock Fusion. The sound engineering is still strikingly pristine, almost ECM/ahead of its time, while the constructs are much more similar to those of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi-era albums or even Miles Davis: more spacious, more drawn out, not so hurried to get the music into a compact form and package. The addition of electric piano to Klaus Gobel's keyboard repertoire is especially telling, considering that he was very much organ-centric on their previous album, 0611 Cat Quarter (released in the previous year). What a difference a year can make! Though the core quartet has remained the same, there are new collaborators on this album than on Cat Quarter in the form of busy percussionist Viktor F. Belgrove and two conductor/arrangers. I love the mix of the instruments so much as everybody seems up front and close--as if the listener is sitting in the middle of a circle of the players. Would that all albums could feel this intimate!
At the beginning of the second minute the band falls into an awesome funky groove that drives somewhere in the third or fourth gear so tthat the individual soloing can begin. Fender Rhodes is first before a quiet slowdown bridge returns the band to the opening motif before they turn down a completely different alley for some Santana-like latin funk over which Gustl Mayr solos enthusiastically with his tenor sax. Speaking of enthusiasm, it definitely shows in every single musician's performances: these guys are fully, 100% engaged. In the second half of the ninth minute the melodists back off so that Viktor Belgrove and Kurt Bong can have some solo time. Then, at the end of the tenth minute, the band comes back with Klaus Gobel back to his organ while the rest of the band puts together a kind of another new motif--this one swinging a little more and which sees Klaus' organ playing a big role despite nice contributions from everyone else. In Gustl Mayr's solo in this portion of the suite we hear him going off with more fire and brimstone than we're used to hearing from him. (He's usually quite melodic and restrained.) Once again Gustl's organ playing style during his turn in the spotlight reminds me more of that of Rod Argent than anyone else--though he is quite fond of "returning to order" with the long sustained chords familiar to everybody from Steve Winwood's play on "I'm a Man." Nice suite. I really would have loved to hear more of that second, more-funky motif. (32/35)

2. "Catalyst" (9:18) opens with a more familiar 1960s organ-based jazz-rock approach that might have come from Stevie Winwood's SPENCER DAVIS GROUP or one of BRIAN AUGER's projects. Drummer Kurt Bong gets quite a little solo time in the second minute before the rest of the band is allowed to rejoin, this time with Gustl soloing on his tenor in a more 1950s bop style of jazz. In th e fifth minute everybody cuts out for about a minute of odd but interesting African tribal chant and drum music, but then, just as suddenly, everybody returns to full-band jazz, picking up the bop motif as if nothing had interrupted them, only this time the create a new pattern by slowing way down every 20 or 30 seconds for brief bluesy organ passages, repeating this pattern over and over four or five times until the song's end. An okay song. (17.5/20)

3. "Fog in Rossert" (7:11) built over a pretty cool bass line, this one starts out kind of funky before slowing down at the end of the first minute for Gustl to play a pretty melody that must have been lifted by David Shire for his song "With You I'm Born Again" which became a massive hit worldwide when it was performed by Billy Preston and Syreeta (Wright) for the 1980 film soundtrack Fast Break. Fortunately, the song moves back and forth between this motif and the funky opener with another interesting percussion interlude in the sixth minute before everybody comes back together for the low-key finish. (13.375/15)

Total Time 33:59

As alluded to in my review of FROM's only other album, I really respect and like the talents, commitment, and engineering of From's music. I only wish the band had been able to pull off another song or two to solidify the fact of their commitment to the new jazz/Jazz-Rock Fusion that they seem to be matriculating toward--or that they had stayed together for at least one more album cuz they had so much potential. After this album release all three of the founding quartet broke off into separate projects--some as band leaders, a few in other jazz combos.   

89.82 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of early "mainstream" "First Wave" Jazz-Rock Fusion--an album that I highly recommend to all prog rock lovers--and especially jazz and J-RF lovers--if only for the experience of hearing such an incredibly tightly-performed band rendered with such phenomenal sound engineered.

THE ELEVENTH HOUSE Introducing The Eleventh House with Larry Coryell (1974)

With 1969's Spaces (released, mysteriously, some 19 months after it was recorded), it felt as if guitarist Larry Coryell might have been a little reluctant to jump fully on board the Power Rock infusion of the Jazz-Rock Fusion movement, but then I'm sure he could see the commercial, critical, and financial success his band mates from that album were having: John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miroslav Vitous with Weather Report, and Chick Corea with his Return To Forever project. 
Tapping into some of his more adventurous New York City-based friends this was what he came up with. Released in February of 1974.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Randy Brecker / trumpet 
- Mike Mandel / piano, ARP synth
- Danny Trifan / bass
- Alphonse Mouzon / percussion

1. "Birdfingers" (3:07)Alphonse Mouzon gets us started, showing off a little of his skills before the song's swirling melody lines are launched by Larry Coryell and Randy Brecker and, later, Mike Mandel. Man! These guys are all moving!--especially the afore-mentioned trio. Great opener putting it all out there! (9.75/10)

2. "The Funky Waltz" (5:10) using a "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"-like bass and cymbal foundation the synth, trumpet and electric guitar lines established over the top are nice though the weird "fireworks"-like synth flares are pretty annoying. Larry's mute/wah-affected solos in the second and third minutes have the sound that is similar to that of the pedal steel that I hear from Steely Dan guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on Can't Buy a Thrill or the horns from the Pretzel Logic album. (8.66667/10)

3. "Low-Lee-Tah" (4:17) opening with a reverbed guitar arpeggio display similar to something we all heard on the Mahavishnu albums. The rest of the band slowly joins in, not yet shifting the tempo into anything above first gear but maintaining a great atmosphere of potential energy. Randy Brecker takes the first solo. I wish they had mixed him better: more a part of the song instead of feeling outside of the others. Larry takes the next solo using lots of bending of notes on the fretboards like John McLaughlin does with his special scooped frets for his Indian music. Pretty cool but not perfect. (9/10)

4. "Adam Smasher" (4:30) A bit of a Steely Dan sound to this one with the funk bass and drums and clavinet. Mike Mandel's Fender Rhodes takes the first solo sounding like the next Bob James generation of the Herbie/Chick sound. Randy's solo is interesting for his virtuosic use of the muting device. Larry's solo is next: he's using a wah-pedal/device that gives another shape and sound to his dextrous guitar play. (It almost sounds like the talkbox tube made famous by Peter Frampton.) (8.875/10)

5. "Joy Ride" (6:08) more laid back music that allows more space for the musicians to be heard and appreciated. During the first two minutes as the band establishes the foundations and framework of the song, Larry's guitar playing sounds almost like he's playing an acoustic: so smooth and fluid. Later he gets more aggressive and fiery in his particular way. The keys are particularly noticeable throughout, feeling something between Herbie Hancock and Bob James. I like the picking up of the pace in the fifth minute for the duelling between Larry and the wah-effected ARP and trumpet. Overall, another song that is perhaps a little too simple in its basic construct: like having white bread when you want wheat or rye. (8.75/10)

6. "Yin" (6:03) more power jazz-rock fusion that seems to be trying to sound like Billy-Cobham led Mahavishnu music. I like Larry's abrasive rhythm guitar while supporting Randy Brecker's great first solo. His solo in the third minute over the high-speed rhythm track below is awesome--as is the hard-driving work of bassist Danny Trifan and drummer Mouzon. Perhaps the best song on the album. Randy, Alphonse, and Danny are extraordinary. (9.75/10)

7. "Theme for a Dream" (3:26) slow and dreamy with a bit of a feel of an interlude song from a Broadway musical. The kind of musical landscape that spawned the Easy Listening and Smooth Jazz genres of music. Larry's muted and effected guitar sounds a lot like the virtuosic background guitar play of Steely Dan's great guitarists like Larry Carlton, Jay Graydon, Dean Parks, Hugh McCracken, and Lee Ritenour.  It's pretty! (8.875/10)

8. "Gratitude 'A So Low'" (3:21) a solo electric guitar song from Larry. Not very melodic nor even super impressive! (8.666667/10)

9. "Ism - Ejercicio" (3:59) trying to be heavy and ominous, it's just not working: neither the chord progression, low end, or pacing. The bass-and-drum race of the second minute is an odd and not altogether engaging motif, nor is the next heavy, plodding Mahavishnu-like blues-rock motif over which Randy's muting play solo ensues. Then there is the YES-like motif in the final minute in which Alphonse's drumming sounds out of sync with the others. (8.6666667/10)

10. "Right On Y'All" (4:21) a fairly together fast-driving song with more sounds and stylings that remind me of Steely Dan as well as some annoying cowbell, guitar play, and synth noises. (8.75/10)

Total Time 44:22

All of Larry's bandmates are quite competent with drummer Alphonse Mouzon receiving a lot of attention for his dynamic work, but, for me, it is trumpeter Randy Brecker who keeps stealing my attention away from the others--even from Larry himself. I agree with other reviewers that the songwriting on this album seemed to take a back seat to A) fitting into the genre and B) showing off the skills of the individual musicians. 

For as talented and skilled as Larry Coryell was, he must have had a stubborn streak running deep inside cuz the dude never quite fit in--never became as famous, always stuck to a very eccentric agenda and style of music--even his guitar sound remained "stuck" inside some kind of dirty, raunchy, macho that sounded as if he had to make more noise than everyone else. Maybe he had some kind of inferiority complex that he was compensating for. Maybe it's because he had to wear glasses. Or because he was from Seattle. But he had cool hair! My point is: the dude never really moved to the front of the class and I think this had a lot to do with his stubbornly eccentric choices: he wanted to be different and he was; it was just not the kind of 'different' that propels one to the top of the charts or in front of sold-out arena-size audiences.

89.75 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; there are some great, top tier J-R Fuse tunes and performances here--some real highs--but there are also a few duds, making this album as a whole the kind of middle of the road.

ATMOSPHERES Voyage to Uranus (1974)

Clive Stevens and "friends"' second and final album together--both published within the same calendar year. Multi-instrumentalist Ralph Towner and guitarist John Abercrombie return from two years before while the rest of the rhythm section has been replaced.

Line-up / Musicians:
Clive Stevens / electric tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto flute, echoplex, wah wah pedal
Michael Thabo Carvin / drums
David Earl Johnson / congas, timbales, assorted percussion
Stu Woods / electric bass
John Abercrombie / electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Ralph Towner / electric piano, clavinet, 12 string acoustic guitar

1. "Shifting Phases" (6:55) a great galloping horseback riding rhythm track over which John Abercrombie's jazz guitars and Clive Stevens' saxophone swoop and soar; great energy straight off the bat with the bass, drums, and rhythm guitar's funky groove. Great engineering in that every instrument is fully defined--though I don't like the dirty distortion effect used on Ralph Towner's Fender Rhodes electric piano. I like the fact that each of the instrumentalists remains actively engaged and creatively contributing while other band members are having their turns soloing. I'd give this full marks were it a little more memorable in the melody department. (14/15)

2. "Culture Release" (6:50) The song opens up with some impressive whole-group showmanship over the course of 30-seconds of complex chord and melody transitions but then the song settles into a high-speed R&B form within which clavinet, guitar, and soprano sax trade lightning fast bursts of soloing; it's constructed like a geometrical mathematical until the soloists (clavinet, electric guitar, sax, electric bass, and drums) start trading barbs at the end of the first minute, then it sounds like Todd Rundgren's first Utopia album. Drummer Michael Thabo Carvin gets the clear-out effect for an extended isolated solo in the third and fourth minute, and then everybody comes back together just like at the beginning as if they were calmly starting over: no problem! And the jam continues! Great performances--even Michael Thabo Carvin's extended drum solo--considering the lightning speed of the main rhythm track. Never quite heard the clavinet solo like Ralph Towner plays it here. Very impressive--though, again, I wish there were more attention to melody than riffing. (13.5/15)

3. "Inner Spaces and Outer Places" (5:15) slowing it down with some low-end chord play from Stu Woods and Ralph Towner while John Abercrombie's guitars and Clive Stevens' multiple horns loosely provide a lazy, unsynchronized melody over the top. In the second minute the sonic field thins as the low-end chords stop while two guitars solo, at the same time, as if in completely different universes! Saxes and Fender Rhodes give a kind of Steely Dan support while the rhythm section offers a solid foundation beneath. Weird that I find myself listening more to Ralph Towner's chord play, Stu Woods' bass lines, or David Earl Johnson's congas more than the rest; I guess I'm not much of a fan of either of the guitarists' sound choices or their soloing styles. (8.875/10)

4. "Un Jour Dans Le Monde" (4:43) aqueous and dreamy soundscape established by Ralph's Fender and Clive's saxophone. The gentle arpeggiating of the guitar tracks also helps. This is the kind of song that is challenging for percussionists to contribute to without disturbing the mood--bass, too--but Stu, David, and Michael do a fair job. Nice melody established from the beginning and perpetuated nicely by Clive and the John Abercrombie throughout the entire song. Nice song texturally but sometimes a little draggin' (9/10)

5. "Voyage To Uranus" (5:52) opens side two as if a continuation or variation on the previous song with sax leading the melody and guitar, Fender, and percussion helping to fill the field with gentle, dreamy stuff. Once the intro is moved passed, the rhythmatists establish an equally-gentle and -melodic foundation over which Clive solos. There's a little Bob James-like feel to this music despite a slightly-more-active bass and percussionist. Clive's solos are rather engaging, not off-putting as so many sax solos can be (for me), but Ralph's Fender Rhodes work (and John Abercrombie's rhythm guitar work) is a bit too saccharine like so much of Bob James' arrangements. (8.75/10)

6. "Electric Impulse From The Heart" (4:15) opening with a rather mysterious yet-melodic arpeggioed keyboard chord sequence similar to many of JEAN-LUC PONTY's songs over the next ten years but, at the same time having a little RETURN TO FOREVER/MAHAVISHNU edginess to it--all in rather gentle support of Clive's effected saxophone play. The hypnotic song slips by so quickly that I find myself surprised each time when it ends. (8.875/10)

7. "Water Rhythms" (8:44) a one minute long intro that seems to be built around a jazz-rock-infused R&B motif turns into a more forward-moving smooth jazz motif with some heavier drumming, more dynamic soul-R&B rhythm guitar strumming, slightly more brash sax and Fender Rhodes soloing--all of which takes it out of its smooth categorization and places it firmly into the realm of some kind of neighborhood-cruising R&B. In the last two minutes a rising-and-then-falling sequence of full chords of ominosity repeat themselves a few times before the band brings it all to a crashing end. Interesting. Not my favorite but a solid, decent song. (17.75/20)

8. "Return To The Earth" (5:15) Clive on flute is supported by 12-string guitar picking and delicate bass and drum play with rich electric piano arpeggiations and chord sequences. At the end of the third minute John Abercrombie's electric jazz guitar solos as Ralph Towner accompanies on one of the 12-strings. This is more like the kind of stuff I was hoping for! With all of the tracks of guitars plus Fender Rhodes it is obvious that Ralph and John are each using multiple tracks--and these are the tracks that my brain gravitates to. An interesting--and totally unexpected--way to end the album! (8.875/10)

A collection of very impressive performances, to be sure, coming through in interesting, unusual compositions. Though I like the sound engineering better on this album than it's predecessor, I like the dynamic diversity and whole-band entanglement of their debut better; this album feels more like a Clive Stevens album whereas the eponymously-titled debut felt more reliant on collaboration.

89.625 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of melodic jazz rock fusion. While there are some songs not to be missed here, there are several that just miss the mark. 

THE DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA Live in 3 2/3 / 4 Time (1967)

Due to the popular response of Don's performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September of 1966, a record album was quickly prepared for release: 'Live' At Monterey ! This album contained three recordings from September 18th's historic performance with one track ("Concerto for Trumpet" [11:50]) from a live performance that occurred a month later at the Pacific Jazz Festival (10/8/66). The Don Ellis phenomenon was so rabid (with sightings of "Where Is Don Ellis?" bumper stickers rising across the country), and the sales of the first album so encouraging, that Liberty Records was quick to try to assemble a second live recording in order to try to take advantage of the wave of Monterey/Don Ellis buzz. 
     This album, Live in 3 2/3 / 4 Time, was prepared from more recordings from the live performance at Pacific Jazz Festival as well as three songs from a March 27 of the following year. (The list of songs extracted from this performance at Shelly's Manne-Hole in Los Angeles would grow to number eight with the release of an expanded CD version in 2000.) As usual, the highly-charged, amazingly-synchronized and -harmonized arrangements (only two of which are original Don Ellis compositions--though one song, "Thetis," comes from Don's long-time collaborator and friend, Hank Levy) are a marvel to listen to and, I think you'll find, quite often stir one's core enough to force you to get out of your seat and dance!

Line-up / Musicians:
Don Ellis / trumpet, quarter-tone trumpet

- Saxes & Woodwinds:
Ruben Leon - alto sax, soprano sax, flute
Joe Roccisano - alto sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet
Tom Scott - alto sax, saxello, flute, clarinet
Ira Schulman - tenor sax, flute, clarinet
Ron Starr - tenor sax, flute, clarinet
John Magruder - baritone sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet

- Trumpets:
Glenn Stuart
Alan Weight
Ed Warren
Bob Harmon

- Trombones:
Ron Myers
Dave Wells
Dave Sanchez
Terry Woodson - bass trombone

- Rhythm Section:
Dave Mackay - piano
Ray Neapolitan - bass
Frank De La Rosa - bass
Dave Parlato - bass
Chuck Domanico - bass
Steve Bohannon - drums
Alan Estes - drums, timbales
Chino Valdes - congas, bongos
Mark Stevens - percussion

Original Liberty/Pacific Records vinyl release in 1967:

A1. "Orientation" (11:20) more fun in 7/8 + 9/8 starting out, of course, with the rhythmatists: congas and percussion, bass, drums, and piano. When the horns start joining in it is with what seems to be an unusually reckless/wild abandon, but they all come together at about 1:45 for an Ira Schulman sax solo with accents coming from multiple banks of horns, high and low. Awesome! And SO danceable! A little lull at 3:50 as the sax finishes up before solo time is given to conga player Chino Valdes for about a minute. Horn swell leads into a cool polymetric multi-sax solo section before another horn swell at 6:05 opens the door for the band leader to take his solo. Oddly enough Don's trumpet may be the worst recorded instrument in the orchestra. Despite this fact his solo keeps climbing the mountain, being assisted by some seriously swelling horns and rhythm section play (which is greeted with some appropriately appreciative audience response at 8:15). The next big swell occurs in the middle of the tenth minute and it is drum-led, which is pretty cool. The big finish features multiple banks of horns going their own way, though not quite as or independently as that wild opening. Awesome! (19/20)

A2. "Angel Eyes" (5:41) a slow, pensive, and plodding "Porgy and Bess"-like old-style R&B crooner with Don's piano- and horn-supported trumpet carrying the melody in place of the human voice as it would have been sung in 1946 when Earl Brent and Matt Dennis first penned it. Nice melodies. (8.875/10)

A3. "Freedom Jazz Dance" (5:54) Eddie Harris' song performed in "seven," featuring pianist Dave Mackay and saxello player Tom Scott. Pretty cool--especially when Mackay goes low onto his keyboard. The "saxello" is a weird sounding sax that sounds like it comes straight from the streets of New Orleans (I think it's a flange-wah effect applied to the channel mic-ing Tom's tenor sax). The percussion and rhythm section are, of course, amazing, adding layer upon layer and volume and power the further the song progresses. Awesome! (9/10)

B1. "Barnum's Revenge" (4:36) one of Don's sax players, Ruben Leon, arranged this 3 2 2 time song from "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?" Very interesting but it does play out more like a whole-band teaching exercise than an audience-targeted crowd pleaser--at least until Don and the drummers and trombonists get their chances to embellish. (8.75/10)

B2. "Upstart" (9:02) this is the song from the album: the one in 3 2/3 / 4 time--the second original composition on the album. The moderately paced foundation has a kind of near-Latin (say, Southern California) feel to it over which Don takes the first solo followed by a bridge of stellar, purposely-staggered horn banking before a clarinet solo by Ira Schulman takes the next spotlight. Following the percussionists and rhythm section members is easy to do and quite fun for the challenge of trying to parse out the odd time signature. Bird-like discordant clarinets pepper the upper end during the next extended bridge while the band and horn banks plod beneath--even getting the end. (17.5/20)

B3. "Thetis" (8:27) composed and arranged by Don's long-time friend and associate, Hank Levy, this one starts out like a slow-moving train before finally taking off and featuring rondo-like layers of multi-instrumental sections circling over and around one another. In the third minute everybody congeals into a single direction of very spicy Caribbean-rhythmed music over which Ruben Leon's soprano sax solos. The next is Don's trumpet and then Dave Mackay's piano. The solos are great--these are very professional performers, but it's as if one cannot help but be drawn to the rhythmatists--which, accordingly, get their own solo time in the seventh minute.  (17.5/20)

Total time: 44:00

Track listing for the 2000 CD release:

1. Orientation
2. Angel Eyes (Denni s, Brent / arr. Don Ellis)
3. Freedom Jazz Dance (Eddie Harris / arr. Don Ellis)
4. Barnum's Revenge (Ruben Leon / arr. Ruben Leon)
5. Upstart
6. Thetis (Hank Levy / arr. Hank Levy)
7. Bossa Nueva Nova (Hank Levy / arr. Hank Levy)
8. Opus Five (Howlett Smith / arr. Howlett Smith)
9. Seven Up (Howlett Smith / arr. Joe Roccisano)
10. Johnny One-Note (Jaki Byard / arr. Jaki Byard)
11. Freedom Jazz Dance (alternate) (Eddie Harris / arr. Don Ellis)

I am usually loathe to listen to much less review live album recordings but Don Ellis has become quite another matter: his song introductions, quick quirky sense of humor, and educational approach are so darn charming and disarming!

89.58 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; If you are at all interested in sharing in the experience of those first waves of the truly-groundbreaking Don Ellis Orchestra experience, then I highly recommend finding this album to listen to! Plus, these songs are not available on other albums and are here for your entertainment and amazement.

P.S. If you get the chance to listen to the CD release of this album, do so: the additional five songs from the March 27, 1967 performance at Shelly's Manne-Hole in L.A. are every bit as worthy of hearing as the original six songs on the 1967 vinyl release.

DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA Shock Treatment (1968)

Recorded on February 18 & 19 of 1968, this is the album that caused such a stir in the public eye because of the record company (Columbia)'s massive mess up with its initial mastering and publication. Here' the story in Don's own words extracted from a letter he sent to the "Chords and Discords" forum of DownBeat magazine immediately following the magazine's review of (the first version) of the album:
“Regarding the review of my record Shock Treatment by Harvey Pekar (DB, Sept. 19), I would like to set the record straight on some little known facts in connection with this album. The copy that was reviewed was one about which I am embarrassed and not proud. The story behind this is as follows:
Upon completion of the album, I did the mixing and editing here in California and then sent the finished product to New York. It wasn’t until the album was already released that I heard a pressing. Much to my horror, I found that without consulting me the whole album had been changed around—rejected masters and unapproved takes were used (not the ones which I had selected and edited), the wrong tunes were on the album, unauthorized splices were made which disturbed the musical flow of some of the compositions (beats were even missing from bars), whole sections were cut out, some of these being the high points of the album. Therefore the liner notes, which were done to the original album, do not agree with what is actually on the album, calling attention to solos and high spots which are not there. I’m surprised that this wasn’t mentioned in the review! Also, the wrong personnel is listed on the jacket. When I discovered what had happened I was, naturally, disturbed and asked Columbia to redo the album. They graciously consented and I was able to change the album back to its original form except that I left Mercy Maybe Mercy, which my producer particularly liked, in place of Zim, which I hope will appear in a future album. Unfortunately, they were not able to call back all the thousands of albums which had already been released. However, they did send a note to the reviewers telling them that the copy which they had received was defective, and to please not review it until they received the corrected copy. It looks as if Down Beat didn’t get that letter. In conclusion, let me state that I have no quarrel with Harvey’s review, but I do wish that he or someone else would review the correct album.”
Great story: One that illustrates, once again, how obtuse record companies can be to the desires, preferences, and wishes of their artists as well as to how little say/control an artist has over the finished product of their work. What they think will sell is not always in line with the artist's creative vision for their finished product--in this case, not nearly in line.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Don Ellis / quarter-tone trumpet
Rhythm Section:
- Mike Lang / piano, clavinet, Fender piano
- Ray Neapolitan / bass, sitar
- Frank De La Rosa / bass
- Dave Parlato or Jim Faunt / bass
- Steve Bohannon / drums
- Chino Valdes / congas, bongos
- Mark Stevens or Ralph Humphrey / timbales, vibes, miscellaneous percussion
- Alan Estes or Joe Pocaro / miscellaneous percussion
Saxes & Woodwinds:
- Ruben Leon / alto & soprano saxophones, flute
- Joe Roccisano or Joe Lopez / alto & soprano saxophones, flute
- Ira Shulman / tenor saxophone, piccolo, flute, clarinet
- Ron Starr / tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet
- John Magruder / baritone saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet
- Glenn Stuart, Alan Weight, Ed Warren, Bob Harmon, 
- Ron Myers or Vince Diaz, Dave Sanchez
- Terry Woodson / bass trombone

INITIAL 1968 unsanctioned Columbia Record company vinyl RELEASE:

A1. "A New Kind of Country" (Hank Levy) (4:10) (/10)
A2. "Mercy Maybe Mercy" (Hank Levy) (3:22) (/10)
A3. "Opus 5" (Howlett Smith) (8:05) (/15)
A4. "Beat Me, Daddy, Seven to the Bar" (edit) (3:03) (/10)
A5. "The Tihai" (7:16) (/15)
B1. "Milo's Theme" (4:26) (/10)
B2. "Star Children" (3:22) (/10)
B3. "Homecoming" (3:03) (/10)
B4. "Seven Up" (Howlett Smith / arr. Joe Roccisano) (3:58) (/10)
B5. "Zim" (John Magruder) (3:58) (/10)

Total Time 44:43

SECOND June 26, 1968 "Santa Maria" VINYL PRESSING:
A1. "A New Kind of Country" (Hank Levy) (4:10) (/10)
A2. "Night City" (Ellis, MacFadden / arr. Don Ellis) (2:58) (/10)
A3. "Homecoming" (3:00) (/10)
A4. "Mercy Maybe Mercy" (Hank Levy) (3:22) (/10)
A5. "Opus 5" (Howlett Smith) (9:22) (/20)
B1. "Star Children" (3:18) (/10)
B2. "Beat Me, Daddy, Seven to the Bar" (6:15) (/10)
B3. "Milo's Theme" (4:24) (/10)
B4. "The Tihai" (8:40) (/20)

Total Time 45:29

THIRD 2005 Columbia (Terra Haute) VINYL PRESSING
(Same as the second but with slightly different liner notes):

2003 Koch Jazz (Sony Music)) CD release:
1. "A New Kind of Country" (Hank Levy) (4:10) sounds like a modernized big band standard (with some electrified instruments and recording techniques) waiting for a young crooner to sing over the top--like Don is here definitely taking advantage of all of the Latin-infused musics infiltrating the American music scene in the 1960s--especially and probably Stan Getz (and, to a lesser degree) Paul Desmond more than any others. Could have been a theme song to one of the game shows of the day--like The Dating Game or The Newlywed Game. (8.875/10)

2. "Night City" (Ellis, McFadden / arr. Don Ellis) (2:56) the co-composers must have been trying to reach the wider record-buying audiences of the day (1967) with this very LAWRENCE WELK-like song. Elaborately arranged MITCH MILLER-like choral vocals (male and female) are accompanied by a Latin rhythm to create this rather heavy-hearted song. I like it though it is not very progressive or particularly fusionary. Also could be a tribute to the great music being written for Broadway musicals by new artists like Burt Bacharach and Stephen Schwartz. (8.875/10)

3. "Homecoming" (3:02) sounds so familiar--like the more emotional old-time music that was so popular with moms and pops on the old porch settings. (Could've fit in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.) (8.75/10)

4. "Mercy Maybe Mercy" (Hank Levy) (3:20) sounds like a watered-down version of Billy Page's "The 'In' Crowd" (8.75/10)

5. "Zim" (John Magruder) (3:59) a fan favorite from the first release that Don grew to like specifically because of the enthusiastic feedback he received. Composer and, here, bandmate John Magruder came up with several memorable songs for Don and the Orchestra over the years. (9.25/10)

6. "Opus 5" (Howlett Smith) (9:19) nice polyrhythmic foundation over which muted horns play makes for a cool start. In the second minute a bridge serves as a kind of rewind so that everything starts over, only this time the full horn section--in two different lines--can recapitulate the superceding melody--and then piano and very odd upper-end bass make themselves known to be the soloists for the second half of the third and first half of the fourth minutes. Lead trumpet takes over at 3:30. Rest of horns slowly creep back in in the middle of the fifth minute before backing off to a softer bank, but, man! I keep getting lost in the rhythm lines! Congas and drums actually get some spotlight before horn banks bridge into more "team-sharing" section of rather complex multiple team-interplay. By the time we get to the eighth minute there are so many layers working together at the same time (like 9 or 10!) that it shocks me that they all can stay on their own path--and it all works incredibly well blended together! Amazing! What a design (composed by pianist/composer Howlett Smith)! (19.25/20)

7. "Star Children" (3:21) weird song with weird combination of sedate jazz with choral vocals. (8.666667/10)

8. "Beat Me, Daddy, Seven to the Bar" (6:12) this spirited blues-rock vamp makes me feel as if I'm at a party in a Peter Sellers movie from the day--maybe even a pool party--which gets kind of "serious" when the percussionist (conga player) is given sole occupancy of the recording tape. Supremely tight performances of yet-dated music. (8.75/10)

9. "Milo's Theme" (4:23) experimentation with echo effects on Don's trumpet and then all the instruments to follow. Weird but pretty cool! (And using very pretty and melodic cinematic music to do it). I love hearing artists take chances like this. The ensuing horn and then full band harmonized buildups are wonderful (if "Big Band Era" dated), but then we return to the modulation effects experimentation for the finish. Cool! (9/10)

10. "Seven Up" (Howlett Smith / arr. Joe Roccisano) (3:59) like a blast from the past with this one sounding like the soundtrack music for either "I Dream of Jeannie" or "Bewitched" (maybe that's why I love it: I grew up on those shows). Awesome jazz bass walking beneath Don's trumpet and his complex, multi-horn accompaniment. Again, to think that we're at an episode of some dance routine on the Lawrence Welk Show is not a far-off stretch of the imagination, but those big explosions of horns and alternating cutesie flute and muted-horn passages are so fun! (8.875/10)

11. "The Tihai" (8:44) Don's preferred edit and mix of this one sounds. There are moments where the melodic rhythm track feels and sounds like something from The Flinstones cartoon soundtracks of the day and others that feel like soundtrack music to an Elvis Presley (or Our Man Flint or Pink Panther) beach movie scene. And then, surprise of all surprises, there is the Konnakol Carnatic Indian percussive vocal exchange taken from the South Indian traditions at the six-minute mark. Odd use of minor keys at times where popular tradition would have made different choices. (18/20)

12. "Zim" (alternate take) (John Magruder) (4:00) a much more smooth-flowing "Take Five"-like version of the tune; this was not Don's preferred version of the song but he was serving popular demand from the response of listeners from those who had purchased or heard the original unapproved version on Columbia's initial release of the material. I can't say that I dislike it. The mix ius a bit muddier than the other one, but that almost gives it an era-appropriate psychedlic acid-trip feel!  (9/10)

13. "I Remember Clifford" (Benny Golson / arr. Terry Woodson) (5:25) a more traditional lounge jazz tune like something you might have heard at Rick's Café in Casablanca. (8.875/10)

14. "Rasty" (2:52) another song that sounds like a Big Band remnant brought into the late 1960s for renovations. (8.666667/10)

Total Time 65:42

While most of music on this album does sound (almost laughably) out-dated and anachronistic one cannot the technical and compositional skills required put together and then pull with such tight (and professional) performances--captured in just two days in the recording studio!

I've decided to post my rating and ranking according to the version of music published in CD from in 2003 because this release offers the listener a fine cross-section of the two original releases.

89.58 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of large-spectrum jazz and jazz-rock performances of cutting-edge compositions. 

P.S. That girl photographed for the album cover has some long-ass toes!  

MIROSLAV VITOUS Infinite Search (1970)

This childhood friend of Jan Hammer had made the move to the United States after winning a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in 1966. After a stint with flugelhorn pioneer Clark Terry in Chicago, he matriculated to New York at the invitation of Miles Davis in 1967 where he met Herbie Mann with whom he recorded two albums--one that was to come after this. 
     Infinite Search was recorded on October 8, 1969, with Herbie Mann producing. This January publication was one of the first releases of Herbie Mann's new label, Embryo Records. The album is also remarkable for bringing on board four of jazz-rock fusion's hottest fairly-young phenoms in John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Henderson.

Lineup / Musicians:
- Miroslav Vitous / double bass
- Jack DeJohnette / drums (A1 thru B2)
- Joe Chambers / drums (B3)
- Herbie Hancock / electric piano
- John McLaughlin / guitar
- Joe Henderson / saxophone

A1 "Freedom Jazz Dance" (10:54) a basic show of fiery bass and drum skills with a notable display of unhinged guitar pyrotechnics in the sixth and seventh minutes. Despite the electrified contributions of Herbie Hancock and John McLaughlin, this music is still well inside the realms of what I'd call jazz. (17.5/20)

A2 "Mountain in the Clouds" (1:51) more display of Miroslav's youthful exuberance (he was only 22 when this album was recorded) with matching support from Jack DeJohnette. (4.375/5)

A3 "When Face Gets Pale" (7:38) a much more melodic and soothing dynamic from more processed (electric) sound palette, both Herbie and John softly and beautifully dance around on the wings while Miroslav sprints his seven and a half minute marathon. The drums remains more in the background while Joe Henderson doesn't even make an appearance. A much more pleasant listen than the previous two songs but I am still pretty surprised at the speed with which Miroslav thinks he needs to move in order to express himself. A top three song for me. (13.5/15)

B1 "Infinite Search" (6:49) slowing things down even further--even Miroslav himself!--Jack even relegating himself to brushes--it is Herbie's excellent, dreamy chord play that I most love about this song--though I do enjoy Miroslav's bass play when it's at this tempo: he's quite melodic in his play. Fascinating how John McLaughlin--the John McLaughlin--can discipline himself to sit in the background playing two notes over and over! But, I guess that's what the song calls for. Once again there is a notable absence of any saxophone. A top three song, for sure. (13.75/15)

B2 "I Will Tell Him on You" (11:00) sax and bass present the main melody near the start while everyone else tries to support, but then Miroslav takes off: racing toward some finish line that nobody else can see. Jack DeJohnette does the best at feeding off of the bassist's unbound energy but Herbie is also well-matched in his support. Joe Henderson and John McLaughlin don't get to spend enough time on the front lines, but are also up to the task when asked to join in--in that frenetic fifth minute, for example (Go! Jack!) And then, for John, the sixth and seventh (in which Miroslav is amazingly restrained despite still speeding along on autodrive). Herbie's solo in the eighth minute sounds so much like mice scurrying over the floor on their nighttime escapades, then being interrupted by the pouncing cat. Even Jack gets some spotlight in the ninth and tenth minutes. This song must have been the reward everyone received for showing up for these recording sessions. When everyone comes back together at the end of the tenth minute it is to recapitulate the melody themes of the opening minute. Good though still quite "traditional jazz" in both form and style. (17.5/20)

B3 "Epilogue" (6:57) a gentle, atmospheric closer. With jazz and jazz-rock fusion I am not always such a sucker for the slow and spacious songs or passages, but there is something quite arresting to Miroslav's melodies and the band harmonic constructs that I can really pick up on during these slower passages--something that penetrates deeper when there is space and time with which to process and let them reverberate and resonate. My other top three song. (14/15) 

Total Time: 

89.58 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of pre-adolescent Jazz-Rock Fusion. 


An album that is as notable for luring guitar phenom Allan Holdsworth away from a pretty good gig with The Soft Machine as it is for being one of the legendary drummer's finest.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Tony Williams/ drums, vocals, arrangements
- Allan Holdsworth / guitar
- Alan Pasqua / piano, clavinet
- Tony Newton / bass

1. "Snake Oil" (6:30) opening with a truly funked up bass, the surprisingly-raunchy guitar from Allan Holdsworth enters with Tony's surprisingly straightforward drumming to establish a foundational framework within which the band members work in their little nuances of extras until 1:40 when Allan begins a guitar solo of subtly varied guitar chords based on the foundational flow. The band is very tight but, again, surprisingly stiff and unadventurous--until Alan Pasqua starts a clavinet solo around the three-minute mark. Thereafter one can hear Tony start to loosen up and fly around his drum kit beneath the rigid form of his bandmates. In the sixth minute, Allan launches on a surprisingly controlled and "slow" solo for about a minute, and then the song just slow fades! Wow! Kind of weird--and definitely unexpected! (8.75/10)

2. "Fred" (6:48) one of Allan's compositions, it is surprisingly melodic and smooth--especially Allan Pasqua's keyboard parts (which Allan matches with his soft guitar chords for the first two minutes. Tony's play is nice. Electric piano gets the first solo--a surprisingly extended two minute jaunt during which Tony's drum play just gets more and more dynamic. Allan finally enters as the soloist at 3:45--but it's Tony again who garners all my attention--even after 4:25 when Allan finally starts to cook, it's Tony that I am enjoying the most. How can a drummer be this "melodic"? Nice guitar solo finally ends about 5:37 whereupon we reenter the lush keyboard-and-guitar chord sequence of the opening. Nice tune. Great drum display! My favorite. (13.75/15)

3. "Proto-Cosmos" (4:02) a nice driving jazz-rock tune on which Tony once again shines despite more-than-adequate performances from his band mates--just nothing as extraordinary or dynamic as Tony's play. (8.875/10)

4. "Red Alert" (4:39) opening with a rock sound that sounds like the sound palette of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein." At the end of the first minute bass player Tony Newton is the only one left carrying the song forward as everybody else clears out for a stupendous Allan Holdsworth solo. This is the first time on the album that Allan has displayed any of the fireworks that we heard on his last album prior to this one, The Soft Machine's Bundles. Alan Pasqua gets the next solo on his electric piano in the second half of the third minute. I love how both Holdsworth and Newton (as well as Williams) embellish their own "support" play beneath Pasqua--this is the first time the three have done this to this degree. (8.875/10)

5. "Wildlife" (5:22) a slow, melodic arrangement with upper register electric piano and electric guitar presenting and carrying the BOB JAMES-like melody forward from the start. Holdsworth takes his time taking the first solo slot--and never hits third gear, just maintains and supports the basic melody, pretty much. Pasqua's clavinet is a nice second keyboard and Newton's bass play is the most loose and satisfying that we've heard beneath Pasqua's cool electric piano solo in the fourth minute. I LOVE how the bass and drum play--both fairly straightforaward and sedate--give the feeling of pushing: giving more power and even trying to push the pace up a notch. Really cool feeling! Otherwise, just a nice song. My second favorite song. (9/10)

6. "Mr. Spock" (6:15) another song that seems to have more of a rock and pop orientation--at least until the speed is finally established at the one-minute mark. In the second minute, Alan Pasqua takes the first solo with silence from Mr. Holdsworth beneath--which makes Tony's play even more noticeable. Nice bass play from Mr. Newton. Even Tony's straightforward play is filled with such nuance and subtlety! Holdsworth puts in a decent solo in the fourth minute with Pasqua now completely dropping out. Cool idea! Tony's solo play in the second half of the fifth minute (beneath Holdsworth somewhat annoying distorted three-chord guitar play) feels a little bit "amateurish" for its showy-ness. (8.87510)

Total time 33:36

Overall this is a nice album of almost proto-Smooth Jazz on which Tony Williams shows us some of the amazing power he controls in his most basic drum play. The rest of the quartet are adequate in their play but rarely jaw-dropping. The songs are a little too formulaic with the way in which they are set up to harbor a succession of individual solos (except for "Fred").

89.42 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion. 

BILLY COBHAM Spectrum (1973)

 The Panama-born drumming phenom's first foray as a solo artist/bandleader. Impressive albeit dense jazz fusion by an extremely gifted, energetic drummer and his studio hires, I never heard this album in its heyday but had to wait till seeing all of the acclaim here on ProgArchives to discover it. Again, the performances are impressive--and polished--much moreso than the Mahavishnu stuff that came before it--BUT there is not a lot of engaging meat or melody here--not a lot of "fat" to this meaty collection of songs. The few songs I return to are more as a reminder of how much growth Billy Cobham did from his 1970 stint with his original band, New York, to here. The dude must have worked his fat off! The subtleties and nuances expressed herein by Mr. Cobham's virtuosic playing are truly astonishing, I just like a little more melody to keep me engaged. Plus, I'm not really much of a fan of Mr. Hammer's style or sound palette. (Also, I think I was always a bit turned off by his one-handed approach--something he may have perfected in order to promote his mobile keyboard play; left hand/bass clef play is often what really draws me into a keyboard player's style.) nor of Mr. Bolin or Mr. Tropea's guitar tone selections and styles. With horn, keys, and some guitar soli trying to attract and keep the listeners attention, it seems that I always fall into listening to the mesmerizing playing of Mr. C. Plus, his drums are recorded so well: every sound and nuance captured so clearly and balanced.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Billy Cobham / percussion, Moog synth drum (4,6b), producer
- Tommy Bolin / guitar
- John Tropea / guitar (5b)
- Jan Hammer / electric & acoustic piano, Moog synthesizer
- Joe Farrell / flute (2b), soprano (2b) & alto (5b) saxophones
- Jimmy Owens / flugelhorn (2b,5b), trumpet (5b)
- Lee Sklar / Fender bass
- Ron Carter / acoustic bass (2b,5b)
- Ray Barretto / congas (2b,5b)

1. "Quadrant 4" (4:20) this must be a song that Jan Hammer and Billy Cobham had left over from their last Mahavishnu Orchestra sessions--the ones that left them frustrated for the lack of input allowed/honored/valued from bandleader John McLaughlin. Jan and guitarist Tommy Bolin get most of the spotlight as Lee Sklar and Tony run a pretty tight ship beneath--neither too flashy but so competent in their tight hold of the speedy rhythm track. Impressive performances but not my favorite kind of music. (8.75/10)
2. "Searching For The Right Door / Spectrum" (6:33) Bandleader Billy Cobham starts this one off as a drum solo right from the get go: just him playing as if a one man band with his expanded drum kit. The "Spectrum" second half is a horn-supported funk jazz-rock piece with one awesome Ron Carter double bass performance (and ear worm riff). Horns and keys get the first mini solos before Joe Farrell is pushed out front with his soprano sax. Billy and Ron are just chewing up that underside! Jimmy Owens gets the next solo on his flugelhorn. Jan Hammer's support on Fender Rhodes is exquisite. The horns team up for the bridge into Jan's solo as Joe Farrell switches to flute for support. Good solid jazz-rock. (8.875/10)
- a. Searching For The Right Door (1:24)
- b. Spectrum (5:09)

3. "Anxiety / Taurian Matador" (4:44) more Cobham showmanship to open this one before the rest of the band are allowed to join in. When they do it's once more at break-neck speed--as if everybody's swarming down a country road on motorcycles, weaving rather recklessly among one another, with Jan and Tommy Bolin exchanging friendly and unfriendly shouts at one another as they go while Lee Sklar and Billy hold down the sane, steady pace. Impressive; I'm just not a fan of this type of speed jazz. (8.75/10)
- a. Anxiety (1:41)
- b. Taurian Matador (3:03)

4. "Stratus" (9:50) is like hearing music from the future as Billy Cobham's partner in the opening 3-minute duet is a computer-sounding keyboard. But then everything bursts out of the cosmic soup into a celestial form that is quite similar in form and sound to something from the Mahavishnu project. The rolling bass line is undoubtedly that which prog lovers are drawn to (as well as the masterful drumming display) while the Fender Rhodes holds the song to a key and the fiery guitar of Tommy Bolin burns through the space-time continuum. Jan Hammer is the next artist to get a solo and it's a great one--despite my brain's insistence and listening to the rhythm guitar work of Mr. Bolin. All the while Billy Cobham moves around his kit as if he only has to think it in order for it to happen--it is at times unbelievable how little space is allowed to exist between his stick hits. Though not a great tune, it is catchy (especially that iconic bass line) and very impressive in the instrumental departments. (18.25/20)

5. "To The Women In My Life / Le Lis" (4:11) now for a little of the future music that we'll soon be calling "Smooth Jazz." The stellar solos are still there (Jan Hammer's Moog) and the contributions of the clavinet and horns definitely add a dimension, but the smooth Latin melody and Latin bass and drum & percussion lines are quite simple and melodic in a way that previous jazz-fusion artists were often loathe to supply. (9/10)
- a. To The Women In My Life (0:51)
- b. Le Lis (3:20)

6. "Snoopy's Search / Red Baron" (7:39) a simplified funk piece of funk that harkens back to music like Herbie Hancock's for Bill Cosby Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids show as well as to other Southern Rock-funk R&B blues fusions. A solid song but nothing with plenty of nuanced performances that is nothing that I really feel compelled  to sing, hum, or dance to. (13.375/15)
- a. Snoopy's Search (1:02)
- b. Red Baron (6:37)

Total Time: 37:17

A prog lover is want to compare this classic album to the one from the other great jazz-rock fusion drummer of the period, Tony Williams' New Lifetime's Believe It!, but they're really two very different beasts. Believe It! (which I just happened to review immediately before Spectrum) is the very clear and concise work of a jazz quartet whereas Spectrum shows a drummer with a more broad and very subtle-swift brushing of many more sounds with the sweeping motions of his sticks; Tony's mastery is shown through a tremendous variety of dynamics employed to his hits within very precise rhythms coming from a much smaller, more traditional jazz kit while Billy's drum kit seems to be a much more expanded Carl Palmer-like kit within which he tries to hit as many items with as fluid and fast a display as if to sound like a wind storm sweeping through a variety of landscapes, both natural and man-modified.   

89.33333 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a collection of solid songs from virtuoso musicians whose overall impression is one of a "near-masterpiece" instead of a true masterpiece. There is a difference between "masterful performances resulting in songs that are very interesting to listen to" and "great songs that I'm drawn back to for repeated listens over and over because I love the music so much." For an album that is a masterpiece because it has eminently enjoyable music on it, go to Billy's three Drum 'n' Voice albums issued between 2000 and 2011. 

ENERGIT Energit (1975)

Legit Jazz-Rock Fusion from Czechoslovakia that is quite mature and dextrous if somewhat derivative/imitative of the power fusion bands that formed in the USA and England a few years earlier.

Line-up / Musicians:
Jan Vytrhlík / Electric Bass
Emil Viklický / Electric Piano, Moog Synthesizer
Lubos Andrst / Guitar, Composer
Rudolf Ticháček / Saxophone [soprano and tenor]
Jiří Tomek / Congas (tracks: A, B2 to B4)
Anatoli Kohout / Drums (tracks: B2)
Josef Vejvoda / Drums (tracks: A, B4)
Karel Jenčík / Drums (tracks: B1, B3)

A. "Ráno (Morning Part I)" (17:25) opens with a brooding Latin-based RETURN TO FOREVER-like MAHAVISHNU motif over which guitarist Lubos Andrst plays an impressive Jan Hammer-like solo for the third and fourth minutes. Bridge at 3:30 leads into a motif shift: this one being more syncopated and funky--especially from Jan Vytrhlík's bass and Emil Viklický 's electric piano. Also the conga play of Jirí Tomek stands out more in this passage as sax and electric piano try leading in the melody-making department while everybody else seems to be having a fantastic SANTANA-like jam beneath them. Rudolf Tichácek's soprano sax playing is okay: always coming in bursts, never smoothing out or choosing melody over dynamics. The next solo is from Emil's electric piano: his being a little smoother than Rudolf's but still conforming to the more-percussive staccato approach for its delivery. But, once he gets going he'll occasionally get into some runs or some cool chord progressions. At 10:20 there is a slowdown and break for transition into a slightly different motif for Lubos to take another try at the lead. His playing approach definitely treads more into the territory of John McLauglin and Larry Coryell, though my brain keeps hearing Jan Hammer more than any guitarist. I like the way Emil Viklický keeps prodding the soloists (not just Lubos) with his keyboard interjections--pushing them to go further than they might without him. In the fifteenth minute there is a complete deconstruction of the rhythm track while Lubos and Emil continue to play around a bit, then in the first half of the 16th minute the band returns to the opening RTF-like motif as Rudolf takes us out with his soprano sax. (31.25/35)

B1. "Paprsek Ranního Slunce (The Early Sunray)" (4:40) countrified jazz rock that sounds like Jay Beckenstien's SPYRO GYRA merged with the OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS and DIXIE DREGS. Impressive guitar play begins around the two-minute mark and then seamlessly leads the band into a cool Mahavishnu-like motif switch. Now, this is great J-R Fusion! At least until it shifts back to BOB JAMES "Angela" territory at the four minute mark. Luckily it ends with some more of those impressive keyboard-and-electric guitar machine gun runs. (8.875/10)

B2. "Noční Motýl (Night-Butterfly)" (7:50) electric guitar harmonics open this, reinforced with electric piano play--which soon occupies two tracks, the two electric pianos using completely different settings. The more piano-sounding ep begins taking the lead from the guitar with some classical-like runs, but then, in the fourth minute a deep, pulsing, muddy foundation is committed to by the full rhythm section, which sets Emil Viklický off on a Fender Rhodes tirade before heavily-effected (Moog-sounding) electric guitar joins in and pushes his way to the front. A Moog synthesizer enters and begins competing with Lubos for the lead, dueling and playing off one another with a ferocity comparable to (yet never quite achieving the heights of) that of John McLaughlin and Jan Hammer. This doesn't last very long before the band devolves into a rich, Fender-dominated sound field for a lovely finish. Definitely a top three song for me. (13.75/15) 

B3. "Apoteóza (Apotheosis)" (2:55) more Mahavishnu Orchestra-inspired Jazz-Rock Fusion that includes another presence of the Moog synthesizer. (8.875/10)

B4. "Ráno (Morning Part II)" (4:05) what starts out as a kind of a loose, unstructured unwinding for all of the instrumentalists turns into a simple conga solo for the fadeout finish. (8.66667/10) 

Total Time: 36:55

89.27 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like the dynamic Jazz-Rock Fusion of early versions/experimentations of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Larry Coryell, and Return To Forever.

DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA Electric Bath (1967)

Late in 1967, Columbia Records releases their first collaboration with The DON ELLIS ORCHESTRA in the form of a studio album entitled, Electric Bath. Fresh out of the euphoric haze of two very successful live albums and a year of almost continuous touring to festival and rock 'n' roll audiences, Don welcomed the new partnership with Columbia producer John Hammond and with it the chance to work out some of his ideas in a studio setting. Over the course of two days in September (the 16th & 17th) the band put down on tape several songs, five of which would end up on the Grammy Award nominated and Down Beat magazine "1968 Album of the Year."

1. "Indian Lady" (8:07) When I first heard the opening bars to this piece, I was immediately drawn to a comparison to the music of ROBERT WYATT's "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road" from his 1974 comeback album, Rock Bottom. The song, played in 5/4 time throughout (and released as a single in a shortened three-minute version), is actually rather famous for its almost-comical multiple "attempts" to end throughout the song. Despite the large ensemble of musicians, the music somehow comes across smoothly, far more easy for the brain to accommodate than one might expect. Heck! There are even some melodic HERB ALPERT-like riffs and motifs. (13.5/15)

2. "Alone" (5:32) soothing and filled with gorgeous melodies, this one reminds me of some of the mellower pieces on my beloved 1970s albums by Eumir Deodato and Bob James as well as many of the jazzy television music providing background and mood for popular television shows that I would watch as a small child in the late 1966s--like I Dream of JeannieBewitched, and The Newlywed Show. Lots of big banks of horns. (9.5/10)

3. "Turkish Bath" (10:29) dynamic music with an Indian base coming from the sitar, tabla and other Indian percussion, as well as flutes and slurring horns. Once set in motion the Latin rhythms and melody structure give it a feel quite similar to Billy Page's song "The 'In' Crowd" as made popular by Dobie Gray and Ramsey Lewis. Who knew that Indian instruments, big band horns, and electric clavinet could be melded together so easily into a bassa nova song?!! (18/20)

4. "Open Beauty" (8:27) beautiful and yet haunting in a psychedelic way thanks to the electric effects applied to the keyboard and vibraphone. Unusual for the minimal presence of drums or other percussives. The extended quarter-tone trumpet solo with echo effect from 5:30 to 8:05 is also remarkable for its particular singularity. (17.5/20)

5. "New Horizons" (12:21) this is a song that sounds to my untrained ear like a pretty standard big band jazz piece. If there are extraordinary things happening I'm not able to pick them up; it's just another long piece with minimal melodic hooks played within a base of a Latin-rock rhythms. (21.75/25)

Total Time 44:56

The musicianship is incredible all-around; how 20 musicians can play such complex music so seamlessly and cohesively is nothing short of amazing. Don's mission to open the West up to the odd meter times "naturally" used in the rest of the world's folk traditions had begun in earnest and would not quit through the rest of the Sixties, only take a slight Bulgarian left turn in the Seventies thanks to his meeting and pairing up with Bulgarian jazz and piano sensation Milcho Leviev.

89.1666667 on the Fishscaels = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of boundary-pushing jazz-rock fusion.

ISOTOPE Illusion (1974)

Highly-acclaimed jazz-rock fusion from a British quartet of seasoned musicians--including Hugh Hopper.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Gary Boyle / guitars
- Nigel Morris / drums
- Laurence Scott / keyboards
- Hugh Hopper / bass

1. "Illusion" (3:54) nicely-partitioned jazz-oriented rock music, drummer Nigel Morris and mutli-keyboard-playing Laurence Scott seem more deeply connected in keeping the rhythm track on a tightly-formed course while the disturbingly-distorted bass of Hugh Hopper and wah-wah-ed rhythmic guitar play of Gary Boyle seem to be the more adventurous and experimental explorers on top. I think I'm most impressed with Mr. Scott on this one. (8.875/10)

2. "Rangoon Creeper" (6:01) weird boring funk. Laurence Scott again gets the chance to show off his tow-handed skills. (8.5/10)

3. "Spanish Sun" (7:50) great display of Gary Boyle's technical skill on the John McLaughlin-like guitars (especially the electric). I like the minimal support from the other band members; the song could probably even exist without them but they add something (besides their solos). (13.5/15)
4. "Edorian" (2:01) seems like a reprise of the two opening songs--especially in the sound palette choices. I like the doubling up of the keys and guitars while Hugh Hopper just wanders off on his own--apparently as tripping and his fuzz-tone bass. (4.3333/5)

5. "Frog" (2:31) a MAHAVISHNU'/"Vashkar"-like song with more drugged-out bass but nice lead guitar over the tight rhythm section of Nigel and Laurence. (I guess I'd better get used to the fact that Hugh Hopper will never contribute to the rhythmic structure and linear pacing of any of these songs, that it is, in fact, keyboard player Laurence Scott that will be playing the role usually expected/relegated to the bass player in tandem/association with the drummer.) (8.75/10)

6. "Sliding Dogs / Lion Sandwich" (5:58) I can see the draw to this one: for the fine execution of its mathematical structure--especially as it gets complicated with multiple tracks moving in off-set rondo--but it's not my favorite style of jazz-rock fusion. (Plus, Hugh Hopper's bass sound is already driving me to distraction and dislike.) (9/10)

7. "Golden Section" (5:15) at least on this song Hugh Hopper is able to show off some skills despite his fuzz-tone bass as he mirrors Gary's melody lines over the opening 1:20. After that, there's really nothing very special here: just over extended Fender Rhodes play with some sometimes-interesting bass exploration beneath. Even the song's main theme is nothing to write home about. (8.75/10)

8. "Marin Country Girl "(2:10) delicate interplay between piano and guitar with minimal support from bass and drums. The bass play may even be a second guitar, not Hugh Hopper's bass (which is highly likely due to the fact that it is not electric). Very nice. (4.5/5)

9. "Lily Kong" (2:32) what starts out rather simply, as a fairly straightforward weave, turns more complex until it is rudely faded away from our listening capabilities. Foul! (4.5/5)

10. "Temper Tantrum" (3:46) two tracks dedicated to electric guitar, bass and drums mixed kind of to the rear, with panning/reverberating keys floating in the in-between, Gary establishes quite an awesome little duel/battle with himself--between the two guitars (one that reminds me quite a bit of the amazing future duel between Al Di Meola and Larry Coryell on Lenny White's "Prince of the Sea"). Now this is Jazz-Rock Fusion! Best song on the album! (9.5/10)

Total Time: 51:58

The music here is definitely not connecting with me the way it has for many other music lovers. I am impressed with the sound and with the guitar playing of band leader Gary Boyle, but I do not find the compositions as substantive or dynamic as I like. And I absolutely do not understand the affinity to or allegiance to Hugh Hopper--whose obsession with the abhorrent sound created by the singular bass effect he seems so stubbornly attached to over the album's first seven songs is almost enough to drive me away; a keyboard could (and should) do the work that he is so praised for! Kudos to Laurence Scott for coming in from relative obscurity and holding his own next to these other giants.

89.12 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent if totally confusing and sometimes off-putting example of experimentation within the fairly-new Jazz-Rock Fusion genre of music.

MINGO LEWIS Flight Never Ending (1976)

The one and only attempt by young percussion virtuoso of SANTANA fame to produce an album as a bandleader.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mingo Lewis / Congas, Percussion, ARP Odyssey synthesizer, MiniMoog, Clavinet [Hohner D6], ARP Pro Soloist, Yamaha Acoustic Piano, Gong 
- Eric McCann / Bass
- David Logeman / Drums
- Randy Sellgren / Guitars [Electric and Acoustic]
- Michael Kapitan / Synthesizers [MiniMoog, ARP Odyssey, ARP String Ensemble, Oberheim 4 Voice, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Organ [Yamaha YC-30] arrangements, writing
- Kincaed Miller / Synthesizer [ARP Pro Soloist], Clavinet (6)
- A. Louis Bramy / Hand Bells (5,7,8)

1. "Aba Cua" (1:36) a drum circle of hand percussionists expressing with vocal chant/call (with no response). (4.33333/5)

2. "Frankincense" (7:02) a high-flying if loosely-conjoined hydra of instrumentalists moving along as if in the same direction yet without many constraints. Sounds very much like something that could have come from Al Di Meola's first two albums except the drummer is trying too hard, the bass line too monotonous, and the sonic field too disparate and incongruous despite all staying admirably on the same pace, the solos too repetitive and monotonous. (13/15)

3. "Heartsong" (8:20) great performances with excellent engineering and effects of a nice composition. Though there is more cohesion in sound and more variation in tempo and motif here, unfortunately, the song uses the same weird, slightly-flanged drum sound from the previous song--which might work with a less-frenetic drummer but this guy must think he's Keith Moon. I do, however, like the guitar solo of Randy Sellgren: he blazes with great consistency and "real" feeling fire. The motif change at 4:30 is perfect: from racing to regal and beautiful, everybody fully engaged with this one (except the drummer who starts flailing away beneath the guitarist's in the sixth minute. The fully-rock motif that starts at 5:50 is okay, very Jan Hammer-like, which supports a sweltering ARP Odyssey synth solo over the seventh and eighth minutes before everybody comes together for the finale--which is cheesy and poor. (17.75/20)

4. "The Wizard" (7:35) a song that is familiar to us all from Al Di Meola's cover of it on his debut album, Land of the Midnight Sun. A great song for racing along the highway, packed with memorable melodies and musicianship, but this version is more percussion dominant and contains a rather annoying high-pitch droning synthesizer note for a big chunk of its more dynamic sections. Overall, it's a little too loose and chaotic for my ears and brain. (13.25/15)

5. "Visions Of Another Time" (6:30) opens with what sounds like an Egyptian melody theme as introduced to them by the Anunnaki, again percussion and fast-pacing are the two predominant elements though there are some melodic elements worth pursuing that are led by multiple synths while the rhythmatists go crazy beneath. It's just a little too much chaos for my puny little brain. Then, lo! and behold! the music suddenly shifts into a "All Along the Watchtower" kind of chord progression with clavinet and harpsichord leading while someone (probably Mingo) sings a NewAge-y message over the top. The new Latin-based motif is okay--at least taming the percussionists into a more refined crew--but the vocal and guitar lead are only okay. (8.75/10)

6. "Trapezoid" (4:46) funk of the Parliamentary kind with multiple instruments dripping with funk in a pretty perfect weave of funkiness: bass, clavinet, multiple synths, drums, rhythm guitar, and congas all propelling this monster of a song forward in "Space Race" way that Billy Preston would be proud if not envious of! I only wish there was a more catchy melody to hook everybody in. (9.5/10)

7. '"Maginary Monsters" (1:02) experimental synth play. They must be drunken monsters. (4.33333/5)

8. "Flight Never Ending" (8:30) though this album is teeming with similarities to AL DI MEOLA's Land of the Midnight Sun album of the same year, none more than this somewhat cinematic suite: of its 8:30 about eight minutes and 29 seconds feel as if they are straight out of Al Di's world. How could this be possible, you might ask--especially when this album was released to the public a full month before Al's? Well, James had toured with Al's previous band, RETURN TO FOREVER (as well as Santana) and been a major contributor to the recording sessions for 22-year old Al's debut solo album which occurred in July and August of 1975 (sic [?!] More likely July and August of 1976). "Mingo" was surely inspired to try to replicate the energy and sound of the wave he'd been riding for the past three years and quite possibly was able to finagle the support from Columbia for this album--which became a "one-off" despite his playing on four other Al Di albums (as well as Billy Joel, The Tubes, and Todd Rundgren) over the next decade. But who are these no-name musicians? As alluded to in my opening statement, this would have been a worthy inclusion to any Al Di Meola album--even with "Randy Sellgren" playing guitar. (18/20)

Total Time 45:21

This much attention and volume given to frantic percussionists is Al Di Meola sound-alike Randy Sellgren is rumored to have been a psuedonym for another artist who had to stay hidden due to conflicting contractual obligations. That would help explain the fact that guitar phenom Randy appears on no other albums in music history--though there are Randy Sellgren's mentioned in the engineering/production credits to a few albums over the years--nothing else as a guitarist. Weird, hunh?   

88.92 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a worthy album of inclusion in one's Jazz-Rock Fusion collection--though not necessarily for the light of heart; an album that contains many moments of individual virtuosity as well as a bucketload of memorable moments is somewhat weighted down by the "Emperor Joseph II Syndrome": sometimes there are just "too many notes"--and not always coherently arranged. The album also suffers slightly, in my opinion, from some questionable sound engineering choices.

BILLY COBHAM Crosswinds (1974)

Drummer Billy Cobham's sophomore effort at bandleader.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Billy Cobham / drums, percussion, arrangements, orchestration & co-producer
- John Abercrombie / acoustic (1b) & electric guitars
- John Williams / electric & acoustic basses
- George Duke / keyboards
- Randy Brecker / trumpet
- Michael Brecker / woodwind
- Garnett Brown / trombone
- Lee Pastora / Latin percussions

1. "Spanish Moss - A Sound Portrait" :
- a. "Spanish Moss" (4:11) human-generated wind sounds (synths and cymbals and gongs) open this one before the whole band jumps into a highway-driving cruise through New Jersey or the Taconic Parkway. Beautiful scenery A gorgeously-constructed song with subtle and heavily-nuanced performances from all of the performers--especially Billy, Lee Pastora, and keyboard artist George Duke. (9.25/10)
- b. "Savannah The Serene" (5:14) some gentle drums and bass over which Randy Brecker solos in the first minute. I adore John Williams' sensitive bass play on this song. Also George Duke's expert and mature--and innovative--keyboard work. (9.75/10)
- c. "Storm" (2:52) George Duke wind synth washes with Billy's heavily-flanged tom-tom and cymbal play taking over in the second half of the first minute. Interesting. Did Billy have fun with this? In the end, it must have been hard to feel satisfied. (8.75/10)
- d. "Flash Flood" (5:08) how could this movement be from the same suite as the previous experimental piece? Musically, they have seemingly nothing to do with one another. At the same time, the polyphonic and polyrhythmic Latin rhythms and horns are wonderful. John Abercrombie's heavily-effected electric guitar solo in the third and fourth minutes is unfortunately contrasted with "real time" Fender Rhodes and, thereby almost lost. Too bad cuz it's a rather nice solo. (9/10)

2. "Pleasant Pheasant" (5:21) constructed over a funk bass line with clavinet and Fender Rhodes and straightforward drumming we get solos from Michael Brecker on sax and then Randy. It's a solid brass rock instrumental with great pace and energy but, unfortunately, it's just one of those songs that feel like they're a dime a dozen; nothing special here except for solid performances. In my opinion a 35-minute album should showcase new and exciting musical ideas not just high quality renditions of things that have already been done. (8.5/10)

3. "Heather" (8:40) very soft and mellow atmosphere, like something for late night radio, created by George Duke's sensitive Fender Rhodes play and John Williams' bass while Billy accompanies without drawing any attention to himself. Michael Brecker's sax gets the first solo--and a thing of beauty it is. Then George gets to tinkle the upper ivories of his Fender while Billy begins to show a little more life beneath--for a minute, but then everybody just kind of backs off--including the soloist! Again: It just feels kind of strange (and wasteful) to dedicate almost nine of your 35 minutes to a song of this minimal dynamic I mean, I get the textural nuance and maturity of restraint it takes to perform--and feel this kind of music, but when your reputation comes from being one of the most talented and dynamic drummers who ever held sticks, this seems a waste. (Kudos to Billy and George for having the courage to incorporate this one into their album--and to Columbia Records for sponsoring it!) (17.375/20)

4. "Crosswind" (3:42) Lee Pastora comes out on top with regards to who draws the most of my attention on this one. (Which is a backhanded way of saying, "What a waste!") (8.5/10)

Total time 35:08

I have to admit to being quite disappointed in having given this album so much of my attention today--this despite some fine work from innovative keyboard artist George Duke and rock solid performances from the Brecker Brothers. Billy gave up a lot of prestige to offer this to what I expect was his expectant fan base. After such a fine start with the wonderful Spanish Moss sound portrait, the rest just didn't live up to the same standard of dynamism.  

88.91 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an inconsistent album of jazz-rock fusion in which a ridiculously-average or overly-subtle Side Two failed to live up to the expectations set by the wonderful Side One suite.  

ARENA Arena (1975)

Australian studio/sessions musicians lured into breaking in a new recording studio just outside of Melbourne.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ted White / saxophone, flute
- Peter Jones / keyboards, piano
- Graham Morgan / percussion, drums
- Bob Arrowsmith / bass
- Charlie Gould / guitar

1. "Journey In Threes" (6:30) drums, funked up bass, clavinet, saxophone, and guitar open this one with a GENTLE GIANT-like circus romp, then there is a long spacious pause before the band kicks back in at 1:20, this time in a very tightly arranged nearly-Reggae weave with tenor sax in the lead and guitar doing accent strums and notes. The bass is now more straightforward (the previous sound I called a "funked up bass" may have been, in fact, the left hand on the clavinet). Clavinet gets the second solo spot but the sax comes back for the third--this time with a little more vim and vinegar. Very interesting! And danceable in a DON ELLIS way. I don't know why I like the clavinet so well! (9/10)

2. "Scope" (5:05) BRUFORD-like syncopated complex opening weave turns into a little smoother jazz at the 30-second mark with bass and drums weaving a tightly Then, at 1:45 the band stops at the stop sign, looks both ways, then takes a left turn down one of the Fender Rhodes as keyboardist Peter Jones starts flying over his plastic keys. Another stop at another stop sign at the 3:15 mark results in another change of direction--this one more straightforward as the car cruises out onto the Nevada desert where we watch it fade away into the distance. Very interesting, complex jazz-rock fusion--all of the motifs sewn together here are quite complicated. Impressive! (9/10)

3. "Duke" (3:50) a duet of moody sax and supportive lounge Fender Rhodes gives this opening a late night French Film Noire or Femme Fatale feel. Nice performance if a bit stereotypic. The guys must have been in a mood. (8.75/10)

4. "Scrichell Cat" (6:30) more music that feels like something from an old black and white film--until the three-chord rock bridges. Sax is again offered the lead role while bass, drums, Fender Rhodes, and wah-rhythm guitar provide support and accents. Oddly simplistic compared to the mind-bogglingly complex music of the opening two songs. Electric guitar finally gets a solo around the four-minute mark--it's nice! He's got a very nice tone and very flowing, technically sound run capabilities. When he pairs up with the sax in the sixth minute it works remarkably well and then they parts ways to return to the rock motif for an extended period over (beneath) which the searing ROBERT FRIPP-like guitar play continues to the very end. (8.875/10)

5. "Keith's Mood" (7:34) The angular, sometimes discordant Robert Fripp guitar sound and style starts off right from the opening note of this one while drums, bass, and saxophone play Coltrane or Ornette Coleman to the Robert. Around the two-minute mark the band takes a divergent path to explore a trash-filled alley that empties out next to the church onto main street in the form of a blues-based R&B passage. Sounds like The Isley Brothers, past (the Sixties) and future (Harvest for the WorldGo For Your Guns. etc.) An extended drum solo fills the sixth minute and more sounding quite traditional jazz except for the use of a large floor tom. At the end of the eighth minute the rest of the band returns, playing some grroup scales before suddenly stopping. Interesting and impressive but not very engaging (or danceable). (13/15)

6. "The Long One" (6:32) this one sounds like early Herbie Hancock as he explored the landscapes and sonic possibilities of early funk and R&B-infused jazz-rock. Sax is the lead melody-maker but the funky bass and Fender Rhodes play a huge role in the song's overall feel. Very cool in the early-1970s meaning of the word. Fender Rhodes takes the next solo in the fourth minute while the bass, guitar, and drums do a great job of maintaining the funky base. The nuances of each instrumentalist's contributions to this song are really quite something to behold--and even study! Not my favorite song or song style but definitely praiseworthy for these incredibly mature performances. (9/10)

7. "Turkish Defunked" (7:41) Waht?! a straigt-time beat?! (Wait 20 seconds.) Oh! They were just messing with me! Back to some funk with some Eastern European/Middle Eastern sounds coming from the sax(es). When the opening mood and sound palette have been established, the sax drops out for an extended Fender Rhodes solo that sounds quite a bit like Ray Manzarek. Sax resumes the lead as Ray continues to add sass and bluesy funk around the sides. Cool song that has its feet more in jazz than R&B-rock but goes back to the Turkish theme enough to confuse us. In the sixth we finally get the return of the burning sound of Charlie (Glenn's nephew) Gould's fuzzy electric guitar, but then the band switches gears, gets more staccato rhythm-brained before finally returning to the main theme for the finale (while Charlie continues his nonstop Fripp runs from behind). High quality performances of a diversified composition.(13.5/15)

Total Time 43:42

I can see how the AVERAGE WHITE BAND inspired the world. 

88.91 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent addition to any Jazz-Rock Fusion lover and an album that I think any and every prog lover can and would appreciate.

ABLUTION Ablution (1974)

Swedish experimental Jazz-Rock Fusion with the help of Quartermass keyboard player Pete Robinson (later with Brand X).

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Gustavsson / bass
- Barry De Souza, Ola Brunkert / drums
- Björn J:son Lindh / flute, piano
- Janne Schaffer / guitar
- Pete Robinson / keyboards
- Malando Gassama, Ola Brunkert / percussion
- Barry De Souza / trumpet

1. "Bluegaloo" (6:25) a B+ funk track in a Herbie Hancock Headhunters style with successive solos from flute, electric guitar, drums and percussion, and electric piano (with flute and horn accents and embellishmnts). Nice jam with nice sound but there's really nothing very innovative from the soloists in terms of the sound or styles. (8.75/10)

2. "Woodchurch Sorceress "(1:50) creepy cinematic flute and percussion in-the-woods kind of stuff. (4.25/5)

3. "Kokt Tvätt" (5:51) flourish-filled launch into a repeating bar of odd rock-riffs arranged into a groove over which flute and electric piano solo and stuff. Not your typical Jazz-Rock Fusion; more like drawing from the older stuff of the earlier experimental work of Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie, and even Miles Davis. Nice drumming and percussion work. Pete Robinson and bassist John Gustavsson are a little too free and crazed for me. (8.75/10)

4. "The Nard Finished Third" (7:08) more funky like something from PARLIAMENT, WAR, or THE AVERAGE WHITE BAND than jazzy. Over the first few minutes it's all about the funk with little attention given to solos or jazziness. The third minute finally sees some soloing but this is all rock guitar (again like Parliament). I guess this reminds me also of Larry Coryell's eccentric Jazz Fusion. Again I must commend the percussion work of Malando Gassama and Ola Brunkert as well as dummer Barry De Souza (or is it Ola Brunkert on this one?). The flute play in the next section is quite flamboyant--more akin to that of Ian Anderson or Thijs van Lier than Joe Farrell or Hubert Laws. (13.25/15)

5. "Equator" (5:51) a quick-out-of-the-gate percussive sprint leads into a section of frenzy before the band finally settle into a still-frantically-paced and performed body akin to something John McLaughlin or Larry Coryell might have something to do with. Guitarist Janne Schaffer comes out of the first turn as the first true soloist before the percussion team takes over for a "solo" of their own. Then Pete Robinson, Janne Schaffer, and John Gustavsson start to trade barbs, back and forth, around the triangle, before settling into a side-by-side race of all-out soloing. The "chorus" brings the band back into harmony despite the frenetic energy feeding the soloing instincts of every one in the band. Wow! (9.25/10)

6. "Third Meter Stroll" (6:40) opens with lone bass acting as if he's trying to find his way through a cave system in the dark. Crazy-man Björn J'son Lindh joins in on his bat-fluttering flute while synthmeister Peter Robinson adds his own version of mammalian scurrying and fluttering action. The song goes on like this for the duration of the entire 6:40 as the hiker/spelunkerer continues down the tunnels on a steady if stop-and-go, look-and-listen, bump-and-learn mode. (8.875/10)

7. "The Visitor" (9:54) opening with an awesome deep thrum like the Talking Heads' "The Overload" within and over which guitar, percussionists, and wind instruments add their incidentals. Pretty cool--and, I'm sure, a lot of fun for the percussionists/sound effects artists! I wonder if Brian Eno or any of the Heads heard this song before heading into the Remain in Light sessions. (17.75/20)

Total Time 43:39

Interesting for the wide variety of Jazz-Rock Fusion styles adapted here as well as for the experimentalism used to try to create a variety of cinematic moods. 

88.91 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent collection of experimental Jazz-Rock Fusion songs and tracks. A very interesting listening experience!


Catalàn Jazz-Rock Fusion pioneers from Barcelona--their debut album, before they managed to imbed their j-r Fuse within traditional Catalàn musical traditions.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Esteve Fortuny / electric & Spanish guitars
- Jordi Soley / piano, Fender Rhodes, Moog
- Joan Fortuny / soprano saxophone
- Carles Vidal / bass
- Josep Fortuny / drums, percussion

1. "Fesomies Urbanes" (5:26) awesomely rich Jazz-Rock Fusion of the funk-infused sort; a cross between Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock and Return To Forever. I love the support of the too-heavily-reverbed  soprano saxophone by the electric wah-wah rhythm guitar and Fender Rhodes keyboard (they almost bury the sax!). Jordi Soley's Moog sound choice and play is very fresh/refreshing as well. Bass player Carles Vidal is solid though a bit too muted while drummer Josep Foruny is great in his pacing and support. (9/10)

2. "Lila" (4:17) water sounds beneath a soloing Spanish guitar open this one for about 40-seconds before bass, Fender Rhodes, and soprano sax join in with some very nice harmonic support. But it's the guitar that's the center and star of this show: displaying some pretty amazing skills in a kind of unique style along the way. The sax and Fender get some solo time in the third and fourth minutes, but, again, it's really Esteve Foruny's show on his Spanish guitar. (9/10)

3. "Capità Trueno" (10:16) back to RTF style and sound palette, though this time the guitar has a bit more Johnny Mac style to it--and the soprano sax certainly flavors the music differently than anything contemporary MO or RTF are doing. On this song the bass, electric guitar, and Fender Rhodes are mixed as if in the same universe while the sax and drums feel as if they're on different continents: the former a small church and the latter a distant tunnel of an underground cave system. Though all the musicians are competent at their instruments--and perform proving such--they really do not seem to always be "in the same song," that is, there's just a little too much separation and distance between the melodies and rhythms to make me feel a cohesive unity for this composition. Is it more mathematical--or more independent "free jazz" they're trying to merge within the RTF style? At 6:55 there is an interesting--and pleasant--shift in tempo and key which allows the sax a better bed over which to lay down his next solo. This is the first time in this song that I've felt as if the band had "come together" with a common vision for the song. The sax player is good--expressive and talented--but that weird, overly-reverbed sound is quite annoying. (17.5/20)

4. "Lalila" (1:16) more acoustic guitar play: either two or just one with a long-delayed echo effect employed. At the 0:45 mark Joan Fortuny enters with her soprano sax and then the song fades out! (4.25/5)

5. "Eufòria" (4:24) again the band seems to be trying to emulate the Return To Forever formula with guitar, drums, and bass propelling the song along while keyboards and sax add their own spices. At the same time, it's guitarist Esteve Fortuny who takes the first (and, it turns out, only) solo--one that is quite like Larry Coryell (in sound) and/or Corrado Restuci (in style) more than J. McLaughlin or Al Di. (8.75/10)

6. "L'harmoniosa Simfonia D'un Cos. Part 1" (4:17) opening with percussion bells and saxophone with spacious Fender Rhodes, bass, and guitar chords providing some accompaniment and mood-manipulation beneath. This one really sounds like the music that will represent the band NOVA either during the same year or just after this release. Unfortunately, despite the nice sound base, it never really develops much or takes off until "part 2." (8.875/10)

7. "L'harmoniosa Simfonia D'un Cos. Part 2" (3:39) the rhythm is added so that the song can move forward. It's a nice, city driving pace but it is highlighted by the top being down so the listeners can enjoy the sun, wind, and exo-urban scenery. Here all of the instruments seem to be in perfect synchrony while still supporting the soloing of Joan Fortuny's soprano sax. (9.125/10)

8. "El "bailaor" Còsmic" (4:22) a slow, spacey opening like something from a Larry Coryell album turns into a nice movin' bass-and-drum generated J-R F flight over which keyboard artist Jordi Soley gets a chance to show his stuff on his Fender Rhodes, that is, before guitarist Esteve Fortuny jumps in and takes over with his rather aggressive electric jazz guitar play. I like the more Latin (Catalàn?) rhythmic touches in the foundation. I also like the band's tightness on this one. (9/10)

9. "Tema Dels Carrers Radioactius" (1:50) another shaker and mover that shows the band firing on all cylinders--with fairly good precision timing, too. Too bad it's so brief. (4.5/5)

Total time 39:47

88.89 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; a wonderful display of peak-era, somewhat Latin and Return To Forever-influenced Jazz-Rock Fusion. The family needs another year or two to polish their collective vision and timing skills, but I can only recommend this one highly!

GEORGE DUKE Faces in Reflection (1974)

The peak of George Duke's solo Jazz-Rock Fusion work. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- George Duke / keyboards, ARP Odyssey synth vocals (2,9)
- John Heard / double bass
- Leon "Ndugu" Chancler / drums

1. "The Opening" (3:18) rollicking RTF-like racing music.. (8.875/10)

2. "Capricorn" (5:06) bluesy like a slavery field work song. I can feel the deep emotions being released. (8.875/10)

3. "Piano Solo No 1+2" (2:21) not really the piano I was expecting: a strangely electrified piano and … piano? Nice music. Part two is definitely different and yet clearly a continuation of the same sound(s). (4.33333/5)

4. "Psychosomatic Dung" (5:03) funky schlock that will become all the rage within the next three years minus all the dynamics from the rhythm section. Ndugu gets some shine in the fourth minute before George lets loose on the wah-wah clavinet and Fender Rhodes. (8.75/10)

5. "Faces In Reflection No.1" (Instrumental) (3:37) nice foundation with some excellent soloing and sound use but lacking fullness and development. (Perhaps George should've had one more collaborator). Probably one of my top three songs. (8.875/10)

6. "Maria Tres Filhos" (5:09) this one not only sounds like a Chick Corea song, it may be! (It isn't: it's written by the great Brazilian songwriter Milton Nacimento.) Nice percussive work throughout from Ndugu but even more so during his extended solo in the fourth minute. (8.75/10)

7. "North Beach" (6:26) a long keyboard solo that sounds like wah-pedal rhythm guitar play and a bunch of sound effects. It's actually kind of cool. (8.875/10)

8. "Da Somba" (6:18) a song that races along on the power of the collective energy of all three highly-attuned musicians. John Heard's extended bass solo pales when compared to other contemporary bass players like Stanley Clarke, Buster Williams, Ron Carter, or Eddie Gomez. (8.75/10)

9. "Faces In Reflection No.2" (Vocal) (2:19) a final vocal supporting song--the tension here is quite cool--making the listener crave for more. My favorite piece on the album. (5/5)

Total time 39:37

Clearly influenced by Chick Corea's RETURN TO FOREVER releases, there is no arguing with George Duke's talent and skill. The biggest issues I have with the music on this album are in the sound recording and reproduction department as well as in the area of composition. Perhaps George needed an escape from the crazy control that was even the world of Frank Zappa. The heavy sound effects used on bassist John Heard's double bass seem to mimic those of RTF bass player STANLEY CLARKE. Leon "Ndugu" Chancler's drum playing is quite good but the sound engineering of his drums (not cymbals) suffers from a murky-muted compressed feel. 

88.85 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent addition to any Jazz-Rock Fusion lover's music collection. Definitely an album that gets better with repeated listens.

SLOCHE J'un oeil (1975) 

Québecois band of jazz- and funk-oriented musicians release their first studio album. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Caroll Bérard / acoustic & electric guitars, percussion, vocals
- Réjean Yacola / piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet, celesta, Minimoog, percussion, vocals
- Martin Murray / Hammond B3, Minimoog, Wurlitzer, Solina, saxophone, percussion, vocals
- Pierre Hébert / bass, percussion, vocals
- Gilles Chiasson / drums, percussion, vocals

1. "C'pas fin du monde" (8:52) starts very spacey with lots of synths playing around, as if trying to find a groove to attach themselves to. When the groove does arrive it sounds quite a bit like some Canterbury Santana--or maybe KHAN. Little keyboard interlude at the 4:54 mark brings us back to the searching chaos of the intro. The organ eventually directs everything into a kind of "Big Bang/Creation" crescendo. By 6:20 we're groovin' again--almost Motown-ish (the rhythm guitars--remind me of THE ISLEY BROTHERS, AVERAGE WHITE BAND, or WAR). Then the clavinet comes in! It's BILLY PRESTON! Fun song if a little dated. (17.5/20)

2. "Le kareme d'Eros" (10:50) begins like a piano bar player warming up his fingers with a bombastic pseudo-classic piece before getting into a CHICK COREA-like rhythm and style at the 1:10 mark. The melody established by the (Still) solo piano at 1:45 sounds a bit cinematic--as if to confirm that we are in the piano bar (with Billy Joel). At 3:15 the pianist starts to show off his classical licks à la KEITH EMERSON. At 3:45 a MAGMA-like choir makes quite an impressive (and welcomed) entrance--all over a repeating Chick Corea "Falling Aice" descending chord progression. Let the wild rumpus begin! The ensuing duelling electric guitar and keyboard sound very much like LARRY CORYELL'S performance on LENNY WHITE's forgotten classic Venusian Summer. Cool little bit. by 8:55 we've left that and gone into a more RETURN TO FOREVER-like passage. Interesting song that I'm not sure really works--even if it is supposed to portray little Cupid's random exploits. (17.75/20)

3. "J'un oeil" (4:43) relies on the repetition of a very familiar poppy riff until the wonderful clavinet-backed choral-vocal section begins. At 2:10 we go back to the introductory repetitive riff for a bit, until it slows down with a spacey organ and high-register electric guitar melody take over. Switch back to the choral-vocal section for the last minute. At times this is very Yes Fraglie quirky and funky--and  even humorous. (8.875/10)

4. "Algebrique" (6:30)  is a bit more cohesive and yet GENTLE GIANT- and YES-like in its structural shifts and staccato rhythms. An interesting ZAPPA-like part begins at the 2:10 mark, with synth and voices grabbing the listener's attention. At 3:28 begins a sudden foray into territory covered by TODD RUNDGREN'S UTOPIA's in "The Ikon." Luckily, they don't stay there long--though the drummer more and more sounds to me like a drummer from Todd's mid-70s posse. The heavier, more KING CRIMSON-esque final minute is my favorite part of this, my favorite song from this album. (9/10)

5. "Potage aux herbes douteuses" (7:07) begins again very much like the AVERAGE WHITE BAND, shifts to a little GINO VANELLI coda, then back to the A part, coda B before shifting into second gear with a fun off-tempo section. This seems to be very much an exercise in band odd tempos, though the insidious climb up the scale is enjoyable and interesting. At 3:30 the choral enters for a different coda before the THIJS VAN LEER-like organ play takes us to an extremely FOCUS/CAMEL-like section--which then combines with the choral beautifully. Wonderful! Interesting ANT PHILLIPS-like end! (13.5/15).

Total Time 38:25

This is a fairly recent discovery of mine, thus, as I go to rate it, I take into consideration both the impact it has on me today (a bit dated and immature) as well as my imagined impact the album would have had on me in the 70s or 80s (probably like Camel's Moonmadness.) I think it is a good album that has indications of a band that could (have) evolve into a great band. Like a funked up CAMEL or FRUUPP. 3.5 

88.83  on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent debut of very enjoyable funked up prog rock. Not quite pure Jazz-Rock Fusion but, at the same time, I consider the funky music here just jazzy enough to qualify for the Jazz-Rock Fusion lists.

AXIS Axis (1973)

The response to the Anglo-Italian progressive rock phenomenon from a very competent Greek band. Weird to see and hear a prog band that has no guitarists.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dimitris Katakouzinos / bass
- Demis Visvikis / keyboards, vocals, percussion
- Chris Stassinopoulos / drums
- George Hadjiathanassiou / drums & percussion

1. "Waiting a Long Time" (4:26) more like across between URIAH HEEP and BLACK SABBATH. I like it but this is not Jazz-Rock Fusion. Really nice work on the keyboards.(8.875/10)

2. "Sewers Down Inside" (6:19) moody atmospheric music trying to be both Jazz-Rock Fusion and Space Music at the same time--like Stomu Yamash'ta's Go project. The vocals at the end sound like familiar. (9.125/10)

3. "Materializing the Unlimited" (5:03) Where the benefit of two drummers shows. Again, I love the creativity of keyboard maestro Demis Visvikis. Kind of long and drawn out with the raunchy, dirty imitation guitar two chords played over and over. (8.75/10)

4. "Asymphonia I" (5:05) piano, double bass, and percussion in an old-fashioned jazz style. Goes Don Pullen and Stanley Clarke in the third minute with its pounded piano chords and bowed bass. Nice drumming as well. (8.875/10)

5. "Suspended Precipice" (1:48) a jazzy composition that at times seems more advanced on the J-R Fuze evolutionary scale, but also slips into older blues-rock forms at times, and then bleeds into/becomes the next song. (4.5/5)

6. "Roads" (5:05) slowed down and bluesy while also projecting from the bass a little "Lucky Man" 'tude, then goes more jazz-rogue as the Demis launches into his solo. The drums and bass sound so good! I wish the electric piano solo were a little more creative or proggy. There's an interesting drum solo in an extended section of the second half with a kazoo-sounding Canterbury Hammond organ solo to follow. They're obviously giving a little nod to The Softs as well. Rated up purely for the awesome groove and sound presented by the rhythm section. (9/10)

7. "Asymphonia II" (2:50) bleeding over from "Roads," we slide back into the near free-for-all of Don Pullen/Ornette Coleman-like free jazz: for the first 90 seconds everybody is just going Animal wild, and then they try to incorporate space and pauses into their performances as if to try to trick one another! Interesting! Excellent skills on display; it's just not the most satisfying music to listen to. (8.75/10)

8. "Dancing Percussion" (2:38) another display of atmospheric keyboard work over which the band creates of a percussion-generated wall of sound. (4.375/5)

9. "Pa Vu Ga Di" (3:44) organ and choir sounding like Mellotron but it's real church music (from a real church setting?) Percussion starts getting a little loose and then, at 2:35, the drums, bass, and organ go full rock beneath the church choir. Interesting! I've rarely considered bringing prog into the church service! It's more common to try to bring church sounds and stylings into the prog studio. (8.75/10)

10. "The Planet Vavoura" (4:05) back to hard-drivin' rock-infused jazz-rock. The bass and drums are motoring while Demis tries to capture that Canterbury sax-saw-organ sound for a pseudo-sax solo over  the top. Mellotron enters and slows everybody down for a bit before the band reconvenes for a dramatic finish. (8.875/10)

Total Time 41:03

The album starts off with absolutely no connection to the Jazz-Rock Fusion movement, but then, rather surprisingly, turns jazzy in the middle--a commitment that the band then maintains over the course of the rest of the album. 

88.75 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; a very good exhibition of prog rock from some very fine, very talented musicians. The songs just needed a little more polish and refinement. 

STANLEY CLARKE School Days (1976)

Stanley's highly-regarded sophomore release, his second as a band leader and principal composer, serves well to continue to cement his legacy as one of the greatest bass players of all time. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Stanley Clarke / acoustic, piccolo & electric basses, piano, gong, handbells, chimes, vocals, arranger, conductor & co-producer
- Raymond Gomez / electric guitar (1,3,5)
- John McLaughlin / acoustic guitar (4)
- Charles Johnson / electric & acoustic guitars (6)
- David Sancious / keyboards (1), Mini-Moog (2,3), organ (3), electric guitar (5)
- George Duke / keyboards (6)
- Gerry Brown / drums & handbells (1,3)
- Steve Gadd / drums (2,5)
- Billy Cobham / drums & Moog 1500 (6)
- Milt Holland / percussion (3), congas & triangle (4)
- String Section: 
David Campbell, Dennis Karmazyn, Lya Stern, Thomas Buffum, Janice Adele Gower, Marcia Van Dyke, Karen Jones, Robert Dubow, Ronald Strauss, Rollice Dale, Gordon Marron, John Wittenberg, and Marilyn Baker 
- Brass Section: 
Jack Nimitz, Buddy Childers, Lew McCreary, Dalton Smith, Robert Findley, Gary Grant, George Bohanon, William Peterson, Stuart Blumberg, and Albert Aarons 

1. "School Days" (7:51) drums and bass chords open this one before Ray Gomez' horn-like treated electric guitar solos. Interesting in a very heavy RTF/rock 'n' roll way, but there's something missing: it all feels like an (over-)extended intro until the bridge at the end of the second minute. David Sancious' synth play is rather unique. The scaled-down (bass chords removed) passage from 2:45 to 6:45 allows for Stanley to start up, escalate and realise a pretty impressive electric bass guitar solo (four minutes long!). Also, drummer Gerry Brown is a pretty good foil for Stanley's play. Interesting end with Stanley humming over the piano. (13.33333/15)

2. "Quiet Afternoon" (5:09) a gentler, more pop/radio-oriented tune that is based over Stanley's piano play and Steve Gadd's distinctive drum sound (soft toms and bass drum). Stanley uses his piccolo bass for some soloing despite the presence of his standard electric bass play in the rhythm track. David Sancious gets some extended time for some MiniMoog soloing in the third and fourth minutes. Interesting--and melodic in a Minnie Ripperton/Maria Muldaur way. (8.875/10)

3. "The Dancer" (5:27) nice percussion-rich song with Milt Holland, Ray Gomez, Gerry Brown, and David Sancious playing around within the busy weave. Nice but nothing extraordinary. (8.75/10)

4. "Desert Song" (6:56) John McLaughlin on the acoustic guitar gives Stanley the inspiration to perform a SHAKTI-like bowed double bass solo within the first 1:45 of this acoustic duet. He then drops the bow for some amazing straight bass in the third minute. John finally gets his turn on his newly-created (by master luthier Mirko Borghino) scalloped-fretboard acoustic guitar around 3:15. Along with Milt Holland's congas and triangle, the song progresses very much like a Shakti song--but Stanley and John's rapport seems to really work: it seems very easy and sympathetic.
     Stanley takes back the lead again at 5:15, returning to his bowed bass for the rest of the song. I can't help myself: I'm such a sucker for this kind of music. (13.5/15)

5. "Hot Fun" (2:55) a little foray into funk-rock--including some extra support from strings and brass. Fun! Stanley can definitely play funk! (8.875/10)

6. "Life Is Just a Game" (9:00) orchestral support for a cinematic piece like a contemporary film theme song (one that would run through the credits at the end of the movie). Billy Cobham, George Duke, guest on this one with Charles "Icarus" Johnson on guitars. Something is missing from this song--from all of the performances: a kind of cohesive enthusiasm for the song. Some of the performances are impressive (though not Icarus Johnson, or Billy Cobham [his drums are recorded with some weird effects--perhaps through is Moog 1500], or even George Duke--and the orchestration seems excessive and perhaps unnecessary.) (17.5/20)

Total Time 37:18

I just don't connect with Stanley's musicality: his compositions, melodies, arrangements, and vision do nothing for me except augment my already-healthy respect for his virtuosity as a bass player.

88.54 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice album to continue our appreciation for Stanley Clarke, bassist extraordinaire.

BUSTER WILLIAMS Pinnacle (1975)

The double bass player from Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi team decides to go out on his own to produce some Mwandishi-like jazz-rock fusion. 

Lineup / Musicians:
- Buster Williams / basses, electric and acoustic
- Onaje Allan Gumbs / keyboards
- Billy Hart / drums
- Guilherme Franco / percussion 
- Woody Shaw / trumpets (A3, B2)
- Earl Turbinton / soprano sax (A3, B1, B2), bass clarinet (A1, A3)
- Sonny Fortune / flutes, soprano sax (A1, A3)
- Suzanne Klewan / vocals (A2, A3)

A1 "The Hump" (11:26) a little too busy for my tastes--and the wind instruments are not so well recorded. As the song starts and slowly establishes its form and style (while the band leader solos on his Fender electric bass) I'm feeling as if I'm hearing the chords and melody of what will become Bob James' famous song, "Angela" (the theme song to the TV show, Taxi), but then when the full workup is accomplished the rest of the song sounds more like some of the playful funk jazz from Bill Cosby's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids--on which Buster played, of course). Onaje Allan Gumbs creative and experimental "space synth" work sounds like something from the Star Trek television series soundtracks--and is the same that he will use on Lenny White's Venusian Summer. (17.66667/20)

A2 "Noble Ego" (6:52) an okay song with some excellent double bass exposition. The wordless group scat-chant vocals are a bit odd for their choice of syllables. Pianist Gumbs has obviously studied at the Chick Corea school of piano and keyboard play because his piano play as both accompanist and soloist mirror that of the Spanish Lepruchaun (even his spacey synth injections are similar to Chick's!) But the real star here is the master bass player. (13.33333/15)

A3 "Pinnacle" (4:41) Onaje Allan Gumbs' Fender Rhodes play is so rich and welcome. The electric bass and more-rock-formatted drums give this a true J-R Fusion feel. The choral chant vocals are fun in a spiritual way. The first half offers Billy Hart's exciting drum play, then the melodic keys and sax and Freddie Hubbard-like trumpet play steal the show. (8.875/10)

B1 "Tayamisha" (6:29) classic modal jazz between Buster and Billy (with some help from Guilherme Franco's percussion work) start this one out before the rest of the band join in. Onaje Allan Gumbs' piano, Earl Turbinton's soprano sax, and Buster's double bass take the traditional solo spots. Very nice jazz but not really much of a fusion with rock. (8.875/10)

B2 "Batuki" (14:10) the jewel of the album, it opens, of course, with some of Buster's dynamic and inventive double bass play, at the 45-second mark the rest of the band joins in to help Buster create a finely harmonized wave of gentle, melodic jazz. Sax, flutes, keys, and drums do an awesome job of establishing the song's Stevie Wonder-like weave before trumpeter Woody Shaw is given the first solo in the fourth minute. There is a double-timing of some of the instrumentation at the start of the fifth minute just as saxophonist Earl Turbinton is given his solo, but then everything slows way down and thins out for Buster's next solo in the sixth and seventh minutes--a solo that nears the EBERHARD WEBER sound standard that I love so much, supported by Onaje Allan Gumbs' dreamy flange-panned Fender Rhodes. It isn't until well into the tenth minute that Buster relinquishes the lead to allow Allan a chance to shine (wonderfully supported by both Billy Hart and Buster). In the end this is a great sounding song that only disappoints in its lack of sustained memorable melodies over the course of its 14-minutes. (27.5/30)

I don't know where Buster and the gang found this percussionist, Guillerme Franco (he'd previously worked with McCoy Tyner, Lonnie Liston Smith and Keith Jarrett), but I love his mischievous injections of odd and singular percussion instruments throughout--as well as his use of the Flexitone--the signatory open sound to Ronnie Laws' mega hit, "Always There." 

Buster Williams is without a doubt a virtuoso of the double bass; it is sad how little mention or credit he is given for his contributions to so many great jazz and jazz-rock fusion albums--especially the six Mwandishi lineup albums of 1972-4. 

88.53 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent representative of the jazz-side of prog's "Classic Era" of Jazz-Rock Fusion. 

MOVING GELATINE PLATES The World of Genius Hans (1972) 

Definitely more on the jazzy side of what we call Canterbury music. Moving Gelatine Plates' second album--released only a year after their surprisingly mature debut--displayed a better quality of recording and engineering to equally mature and accomplished instrumental jazz arrangements. Other than their self-titled debut album's great "London Cab," I like this album hands down over the debut. There is more warmth in the songs and performances here--and a feeling that the band is more relaxed, as if they are just grooving and enjoying themselves and their unique sound.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Maurice Helmlinger / Hammond & Capri Duo organs, trumpet, alto, soprano & tenor saxophones, flute & backing vocals (1-7)
- Gérard Bertram / electric, 12-string & Leslie guitars, vocals (1-7)
- Didier Thibault / bass, guitar, synth & vocals (1-12)
- Gérard Pons / drums (1-7)
- Claude Delcloo / backing vocals (1-7)
- Jean-Pierre Laroque / bassoon (1-7)
- Michel Camicas / trombone (1-7)
- Guy Boyer / vibraphone (1-7)
- Jean-Jacques Hertz / guitar (8-12)
- Dominique Godin / keyboards (8-12)
- Jean Rubert / saxophone (8-12)
- Marc Profichet / drums (8-12)
- Mico Nissim / MiniMoog (12)

The opening song, the fourteen-minute epic title song, 1. "The World of Genius Hans" (14:05), is a very jazzy piece with some quite technically challenging ensemble sequences all working coherently and cohesively together. (27/30)

2. "Funny Doll" (4:29) opens with some light, bouncy interplay between sax and lead guitar with snappy bass and drum play beneath. Towards the end of the first minute the band gels into a full sound just before a male voice sings to us in a kind of Benmont TENCH kind of raspy way. The following jazz section is quite lovely, with the band playing really tightly and with some awesome multi-insturmental melodies. In the fourth minute it starts to get a little more mathematical just before a very fun section with a circus-master like vocal saying "good-bye" to us. Awesome song! (10/10)

3. "Astromonster" (6:20) opens with a rolling bass playing beneath some guitar, bassoon, and percussive oriental-sounding staccato melody weave. Then things slow down for a bit, as if to reset, before opening the third minute with some more straightforward, driving ensemble jazz with organ and fuzz bass. The fourth minute then brings in another shift--almost a bolero kind of Latin section with a very Santana sound and feel to it (except for the drums). The Santana-like melody is carried forward by the guitar until, at the end of the fifth minute, a faster paced start-and-slow alternating pattern is established for about a minute. The final minute sees a very slowed down regurgitation of one of the song's main melodies--from the flute! Weird but awesome song.  (9/10)

The next song, 4. "Moving Theme" (3:56), feels like an étude, like a song created to exercise the group's dexterity and entrainment timing. Not particularly melodic or enjoyable except in the way one can appreciate the band members' command of their instruments and their ability to play tightly. It could just be what its title says: a theme for moving! (8/10)

5. "Cauchemar" (3:53) is a fast-paced piece that kind of follows one format for its entire four minutes--even trying to establish a melody line that follows the pop ABACAB-type of flow. (8.5/10)

6. "We Were Loving Her" (3:19) is a slow-to-unveil-itself piece that has a kind of MATCHING MOLE/SOFT MACHINE experimental feel to it. The song has nice melodies expressed by the saxophone in the last minute. (8.5/10)

7. "Un jour..." (1:30) has quite a SATIE feel to it despite it's being a bass and saxophone duet. (2/2.5)

Total Time: 37:05

Perhaps not as silly as their debut but not as serious either. While not my favorite type of Canterbury music--I go for the more melodic fun stuff of Caravan and Supersister--it is not my least. The musicians and compositional team of MGP are definitely amazingly good and awesomely confident. What feels like their step forward in World of Genius Hans is how relaxed and fun the band feels to be on this album. Too bad they never generated the interest or fan base to sustain their passion.

88.48 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful addition to any Canterbury-loving prog lover's music collection.


Though Freddie had been collaborating for a couple of years with a group of musicians who dabbled with/ circulated on the fringes of the burgeoning Jazz-Rock "Fusion" scene--including Airto Moreira, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Jack DeJohnette, Hubert Laws, and, to a lesser degree, George Benson. Freddie's attempts at allowing more rock and electric elements into his stage and studio performances seemed hindered by his own allegiance to (and enjoyment of) more recent trends in jazz--like "hard bop" and "cool jazz." One problem was his relative aversion/avoidance to Latin influences like Afro-Cuban rumba and Brazilian bassa nova--two forms of popular jazz that had had huge influence in American music in the 1960s.Well, this album sees Freddie finally getting his foot in the door--thanks in no small part to his employment of Billy Cobham, Airto Moreira, and Ray Barretto--the former two of whom had been students/musicians with Miles and Carlos Santana and Joe Zawinul's Weather Report (Airto), the latter who had crossed over with the likes of Herbie Mann and Edgar Winter. This is the first album of Freddie's that I feel he has finally figured out how to fuse some of rock 'n' roll's innovations into his jazz music.

Lineup / Musicians:
Freddie Hubbard / Trumpet
Ron Carter / Bass
Billy Cobham / Drums
Kieth Jarrett / Piano, Electric Piano
Airto Moreira / Percussion
Ray Barretto / Percussion
Hubert Laws / Flutes [C-flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute], all solos
Wally Kane / Bass Clarinet, Piccolo
Don Sebesky / Conductor, Arranger
Trumpets & Flugelhorns: Alan Rubin, Marvin Stamm
Trombones: Garnett Brown, Wayne Andre, Paul Faulise [Bass Trombone]
Tuba: Tony Price
Winds: Phil Bodner [Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Clarinet, Piccolo]; George Marge [Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet]; Romeo Penque [Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, English Horn]

1. "Povo" (12:33) after an introductory extract from some man's speech the band enters, settling immediately into a somewhat funky laid-back groove for the solos of George Benson, Freddie, Hubert Laws, and Keith Jarrett (electric piano). A very pretty, engaging, and well-constructed grooving piece that I enjoy from start to finish despite its standard format of turn-taking alternating singular solos over the rhythm section. It's a good thing the basic rhythm track is so good. (22.75/25)

2. "In a Mist" (7:04) sounds like an old-time classic jazz piece with small acoustic combo and some side action big band horns. No infusion of rock (or anything else) here. Keith Jarrett's piano sounds to me like Thelonius Monk. I'm really not interested in old-time jazz, just Jazz-Rock Fusion. (12.75/15)

"Naturally" (5:53) (only available on the CD release) opens up sounding like the late-night musings of a band playing for the thinning crowd of mellowing lounge drinkers. Freddie steps it up a notch with the second verse--the rest of the all-acoustic band keeping up. Hubert Laws gets the second solo on one of his flutes, during which the horn section begins to show itself with gentle accents. Guitarist George Benson is next with his jazz guitar (sans vocal mirroring)--for which the horns and winds combine to provide some dreamy, gentle support. I'm not really into this song cuz I'm looking for Jazz-Rock Fusion, not jazz.(8.5/10)   

3. "The Godfather (from the Paramount Motion Picture The Godfather)" (7:21) solo trumpet opens this one with a jazzy rendering of the well-known movie theme. Bassist Ron Carter gets the next shot--also tout seul--then pianist Keith Jarrett joins in and Ron steps into the support role as Billy Cobham's soft jazz drums (mostly brush and cymbal work) joins. Freddie returns to the lead as a bank clarinets add their support from the wings, later the horn banks. Keith Jarrett gets a nice solo in the sixth minute. Finishes off with a repeat of the solo trumpet opening. (8.5/10)

4. "Sky Dive" (7:40) a return to the world of electricity with a smooth, Latin-flavored song. Nice solos from Freddie (a really long one!), George Benson, Hubert Laws, and Keith Jarrett (again on electric piano) as well as really nice work from all of the support staff--especially Billy Cobham as well as some really smooth arrangements for horns and winds from Don Sebesky. (13.5/15)

Total time: 34:38

88.46 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice jazz album with a couple of fine Jazz-Rock Fusion songs (one funk-lite, the other Latin-lite).  

PEKKA POHJOLA Harakka Bialoipokku ("The Magpie") (1974)

Finnish composer and bassist extraordinaire's second coming out party--only this one is much more serious (more like a work party) as the young maestro works out some equations roaming around inside his head.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Pekka Pohjola / piano, bass, electric piano (6)
- Coste Apetrea / guitar (6)
- Pekka Pöyry / alto & soprano saxes
- Eero Koivistoinen / tenor, soprano & sopranino saxes
- Paroni Paakkunainen / alto & baritone saxes, piccolo flute
- Bertil Löfgren / trumpet (2,5)
- Tomi Parkkonen / drums & percussion (1-4)

1. "Alku ~ The beginning" (2:10) solo piano using modal chord progression like a John Coltrane or Magma song. (4.375/5)

2. "Ensimmäinen aamu ~ The first morning" (5:35) bright, cheerful j-r fusion of a proggy inclination--quite a little of a Weather Report feel. Where does Pekka find these great drummers? (I like that he gives them great sound.) The motif established in the second minute has a processional feeling to it--like a jazzed-up classical piece. The next run through the full motif everybody goes more jazz, blurring the "lines" of the original motif quite a bit, but then they all come back together for a tight recapitulation of the original processional. The fourth time through it's the horns (and Pekka's hi-rpm bass) who elevate the song into Zappa Land. So precise and tight! The last time through the band is more relaxed, the notes a little more subdued, yet it sounds so Zappa-like! Excellent composition! (9/10)

3. "Huono sää / Se tanssii... ~ Bad weather / Bialoipokku dances" (6:55) reflective piano-based song--in fact, an étude. The exploration of low end possibilities is the total focus throughout the first two minutes with the horns doing as much work as the piano and bass. It's not until the 2:20s that the melody finally reaches mid- and upper ranges. Another song that could almost be classified under the Zeuhl sub. Even when the music bursts into happy-county fair mode at 4:45 could it still be befitting a Magma or Present song--especially when it soon shifts again into a faster gear. (13.25/15)

4. "...ja näkee unta ~ Bialoipokku's war dream" (4:35) poppy Arthur-like Burt Bacharach music. Very bouncy with a very syncopated bass-and-piano led melody line over very steady rhythm section. Horns jump on board the melody providing volume and accents to the bass-and-piano lines while the drumming moves in and out of military snare work. Interesting and very mathematic. J.S. Bach would love this one, I'm sure. (8.875/10)

5. "Hereilläkin uni jatkuu ~ Bialoipokku's war" (4:42) piano turns CHCAGO! More mathematical jazz-rock of particular interest to those who love complex whole-group arrangements of music that is primarily intent on exploring odd time signatures. A big switch around 3:25 leads into a different-sounding yet-still-CHICAGO-like passage with bass and soprano sax performing the most attention-grabbing duties. Impressive if not as enjoyable or memorable as one would like. (8.875/10)

6. "Sekoilu seestyy ~ The madness subsides" (4:18) rich Fender Rhodes sounding as if it came out of a Smooth pseudo-Jazz pop album like Art Garfunkle or Stephen Bishop. Rich rolling electric piano play matched by melodic bass play beneath supports Coste Apetrea's fine Jan Akkerman-like electric guitar play over the top. Again there is more of an étude feeling to this one--even after 2:55 when it becomes a lone electric bass solo there seems to be some kind of mathematical problem being worked out in Pekka's mind. (8.875/10)

7. "Elämä jatkuu ~ Life goes on" (6:42) a kind of laid-back swing--like the theme for the end of a long day--where Pekka is still working his heart out while the tenor and alto saxes are the only ones that are allowed to loosen up a bit. (8.875/10)

Total Time: 34:57

Compositionally this album is amazing: Pekka is really stretching his wings. Performatively-speaking it's top notch all around--from everyone though the standards are never so high as those Pekka places on himself. But there is less room for playful improvisation within these very tightly written and disciplined songs. Even the melodic--and especially the harmonic--sensibilities are impressive and often quite catchy and enjoyable--it's just that the album has much more of a cerebral feel to it. Hopefully Pekka will have a patch in the future where everybody can just have fun. 

88.39 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent album of artistic "problem solving" of the Jazz-Rock Fusion kind, one that is only lacking a bit in the fun and memorable melody departments. 

CORONARIAS DANS Visitor (1975)

Danish band with 4/5ths of the membership of SECRET OYSTER. This is their second and final studio album.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Friis Nielsen / bass, double bass [electric double bass]
- Ole Streenberg / drums
- Claus Bøhling / electric guitar
- Kenneth Knudsen / electric piano, piano

1. "Se Det" (5:15) a song that opens as a kind of dreamy bass and Fender Rhodes duet with both musicians wandering rather aimlessly around their instruments for 90 seconds before settling into a pattern that the drummer and guitarist can join. Then it's keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen leading the way with his electric piano while the bass and drums gather momentum from beneath. The foundational pattern (especially the repeated bass riff) gets rather monotonous and, eventually, annoying. I wish Peter Friis Nielsen would change it up or at least embellish--at least a little bit! Ends with a Eumir Deodato-like dreamy chord overlay. (8.75/10)

2. "Morning" (8:13) thoughtful bass play over an open space which is soon permeated by equally gentle, almost wind-chime-sounding electric piano play. Bassist Peter Friis Neilsen sounds very much like Eberhard Weber: mysteriously floating over his long-neck fretboard, producing notes that seem to say so much more than that of a single pitch. Around the four-minute mark drummer Ole Streenberg's contributions (on mostly cymbals) begin to become more noticeable--as do those of Kenneth Knudsen's electric piano, with the keyboard eventually, slowly, supplanting the bass as the lead instrument. A not-unpleasant song that sounds nearer to free jazz but also has some of the palette of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi-era music. (13.25/15)

3. "Esrom" (1:47) Peter Friis Nielsen's solo bass sounding like any bass solo ever despite his use of near-Eberhard Weber effects. Cool when it gets doubled up near the end. (4.375/5)

4. "Don't Know" (5:10) high-speed Jazz-Rock of the Mahavishnu/RTF nature with sound quality that reminds me more of CERVELLO's Melos: the effects used to process the lead guitar are already dated while the rhythmatists beneath the soloing electric guitar (including a track dedicated to wah-wahed rhythm guitar) have a bare Mwandishi-like sonic field. Nice discipline and skills on display. The foundational groove gets a little monotonous after … a minute or two--more like numbing. (8.875/10)

5. "Visitor" (3:23) more skills exhibitionism from the bass and drum players while Kenneth Knudsen wanders around his treated (wah-wah) Fender Rhodes and guitarist Claus Bøhling occupies the spotlight up top. Again Claus is using that odd combination of effects on his axe making him sound similar to some of Larry Coryell's sound incarnations. (8.75/10)

6. "Tied Waves" (5:24) gentle waves of sustained electric piano chords and fills spaciously (and melodically) open this one sounding like a pensive Herbie Hancock while Ole and Claus feel their way around from beneath (the latter sounding a bit like Eberhard Weber). There's actually something profoundly engaging about this--especially in the combination and interplay of the aqueous sounds coming from Peter's bass and Kenneth's keyboard. For some reason I have to give this unusual song a top three song commendation. (9/10)

7. "Sagittarius" (1:10) bumpin' electric piano over fully-formed "Latin" rhythm track. I respect Peter, Ole, and Kenneth for their attempt at infiltrating Chick Corea territory. (4.375/5)

8. "Which Witch" (8:48) opening with some angsty aggression, this one kind of awkwardly straddles a pseudo-funky rock style that sounds like some of the fusionary experiments of early Larry Coryell. The guitar is once again in the lead position while everybody else (including a track of wah-wah rhythm guitar) tries to keep the train running a top speed (without derailing). Definitely representative of an earlier, more formative stage of Jazz-Rock Fusion (like three or four years earlier). It's pretty good if you like to hear long soloing by a single instrument over some disciplined and nicely coordinated rhythmatists working hard beneath. In the final minute the straight-running train is given the signal to slow down, something the band does in an interesting, very cool way. (17.75/20)

Total time 39:10

Interestingly, there are several songs in which I can barely notice the presence of a guitar, which makes me wonder if this was really a trio with only occasional sessions using the credited guitarist. 

88.38 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent display of creative, textural early-Seventies Jazz-Rock Fusion from some pretty talented and disciplined musicians. 

MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew (1970)

I've been listening to this album with great attention for the past couple years, trying to fully comprehend the accolades it has received over the years--especially from a prog perspective--as well as in the context of Miles' own personal evolution. What I've truly come to appreciate, more than anything else, is Miles' amazing, almost unique desire to grow, to absorb all that he hears, to gather, listen to, and integrate the leading innovators of the younger generations around him. His track record is truly astounding (and perhaps a bit of a psychological issue: feeding like a vampire off of fresh, young blood and then taking all the credit). For fifteen years Miles had been learning how to command and squeeze the best out of his studio musicians in as little time as possible, and Bitches Brew offers yet another example of this.
     After a year of introduction to modern psych-pop culture via socialite wife Betty Mabry, the changes in Miles manifest in everything from clothes, food, and cars, to music, social circles, and concert attendance choices. Miles was now hep to Hendrix, Sly Stone, James Brown, The Byrds, Aretha Franklin, and Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach. Then came the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival in July. Witnesses say that after that--after seeing James Brown staged next to Frank Zappa and the Mothers and Dave Brubeck and Art Blakey, as well as a roster that included Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Roland Kirk, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans and Freddie Hubbard, B B King, Sly and the Family Stone, Led Zeppelin and Blood, Sweat and Tears--Miles was super stoked to get back into the studio. (His first funk-infused album, In a Silent Way was already in the can but would not be released for another three weeks!) He was itching to try out some of the musicians and styles and recording techniques that he'd been hearing, seeing, learning about. Over the course of three days in August, using a kind of revolving door of musicians and multiple instrumentalists at each main instrument (three keyboard players, two drummers, two bass players [one acoustic, one electric], four drummers [not all at once; two at a time], and three percussionists, three horn players and electric guitarist John McLaughlin, the expanded or "new style big band" ensemble rehearsed and laid down six long tracks, only one of which had been composed and performed before ("Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" was one of the songs he played in his 24-minute set with his quartet at Newport--which may be one reason that song occupied all of Saturday, August 20). Then it was Miles' permission given to producer Teo Macero that led to much of the magic that we hear in the final release as he used many editing techniques in the post production, including tape loops, tape delays, reverb chambers and echo effects as well as splicing and micro-edits. In effect, it is the production work of Teo Macero that really brought Miles' work and Bitches Brew into the realm of modern sound recording and, thus, the attention and adulation of experimental rock and jazz musicians. While not the start of the jazz-fusion movement (that honor would have to be wrestled for between Gary Burton, Herbie Mann, Don Ellis, Larry Coryell, and Jimi Hendrix [this latter due to his influence on The Soft Machine), Bitches Brew was certainly the album that blew open the floodgates for musicians EVERYWHERE to experiment and dabble in the "dark arts." For me, the contribution of Bitches Brew is more in the story, the lineup, the production, the rather noticeable (some might say "drastic") shift in the direction of Miles' sound, not in the songs, per se. I find the songs interesting but none have ever found their way into my jazz-rock/jazz fusion playlists. Thus my four star rating: while the entire album is fascinating and essential for the observation of the evolution of Miles Davis, I would not recommend any of these songs as introductions to the world of jazz-rock fusion.

Line-up / Musicians:
Bass – Dave Holland
Bass [Fender] – Harvey Brooks
Bass Clarinet – Bennie Maupin
Trumpet – Miles Davis
Drums – Don Alias, Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White
Electric Guitar – John McLaughlin
Electric Piano – Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul (tracks: A to C1, D2), Larry Young (tracks: A, C1 to D1)
Percussion – Jim Riley
Soprano Saxophone – Wayne Shorter

A "Pharaoh's Dance" (19:25) the long, slowly developing opening is kind of unusual for its meandering, amorphous way, but eventually the band members seem to get into their own individual grooves. One can easily sense that the trumpet player is in command with each other soloist getting a nod of permission for their turns in the spotlight, no more. The song chugs along, moving but never really getting anywhere; it's like a 19-minute video clip of a train motoring through Wyoming. (35/40)

B "Bitches Brew" (26:45) this one is quite a bit more diversified and dynamic than the opener: with enough twists and turns, stops and gos, to keep it interesting. (48.5/55)

C1 "Spanish Key" (17:30) definitely a more rock-oriented rhythm track, which is probably why the keys and guitar (and drums) are more aggressive and abrasive. (31/35)

C2 "John McLaughlin" (4:23) If this was Miles' nod to John, why didn't he let the guitar innovator use more of the distortion and other effects he was using on his other State-side shows and recording gigs?  (8.75/10)

D1 "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down" (14:03) just a little too much on the bluesy side of R&B for my tastes, though I actually love the perfect recording and mix of all the instruments in the weave. My favorite part is the tenth and eleventh minutes when the Chick Corea's dirty Fender Rhodes and Larry Young's organ (as well as the bassists) go bat shit crazy--not a typical phenomenon in a Miles song. (26.5/30)

D2 "Sanctuary" (10:54) opens with rich Fender Rhodes support of Miles' plaintive, almost-tender trumpet play. I love it when Dave Holland and Bennie Maupin join during the second minute, Bennie trying to second Miles' melody line (but being a bit off). Until the song gels into its "solid form" at 3:!5 the drummers feel as if they're just warming up, each in their own universe. Joe Zawinul also has a rather unusual way of play off the beat (Teo Maceo's choice?) and yet, this is probably the album's most accessible song for me and, thus, my favorite. (18/20)

A little more exciting, diverse, and dynamic than its predecessor, In a Silent Way, I still have great difficulty understanding what people see in this album's music that elevates it to such high ratings. I understand the landmark it represents historically in the rise and development of that which will become the Jazz-Rock Fusion sub-genre, but there are very few moments on this album in which my blood gets pumpin' or my brain gets blown away by the solos, duels, or interface of these expanded lineups and their "new and exciting" electrified instruments. I mean, had I heard them in the day--in the context of what was going on sonically, evolutionarily, at that time, sure I would probably have been impressed. But, would it have made me inspired to become a musician? Would I have been blasting these songs across the Quad from my dormitory windows? Would I have been wearing out the grooves of my vinyl copy because I was playing it so much? I seriously think not! 

Total Time: 93:00

88.29 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a ground-breaking album, as they say, but to me this is just a rather messy conglomeration of highly creative musicians who have been given a certain amount of instruction, a little more freedom, and a lot of time.

BERITS HALSBAND Berits Halsband (1975)

This Swedish house band recorded this album live in the studio on a two-track tape recorder! 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Göran Frost / bass
- Michael Lindqvist / drums
- Jonas Lindgren / electric piano, violin
- Mats Anton Karis / flute
- Olof Söderberg / guitar
- Per Lejring / piano
- Thomas Brandt / saxophone
- Tommy Adolfsson (ARCHIMEDES BADKAR) / trumpet
- Bengt Ekevärn / trumpet

1. "Myror I Köket" (11:45) Very brave and unique jazz-rock fusion with electric foundation and great Spanish/Latin-sounding trumpet play. Very engaging foundation and rhythm track as well. A delightful downshift at 5:40 allows space in the upper end for flute to be heard. Too bad these guys didn't get a few more chances to practice and refine this (or have multi-tracks for overdubbing). (23/25)

2. "Elhamokk" (9:45) the drumming is excellent, the coordinated delivery of lines and chords by the rest of the band quite extraordinary--like the synchronic timing of a big band. For some reason I hear a very strong hint of both Spanish and Balkan melodic traditions in this music. I also feel a bit of the high school band class in the performances--which makes the song get a little old and dull over it's ten minute length. (17.333333/20)

3. "Halvvägs Hildur" (19:00) has quite a Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock feel to it with its sprawling length and excellent solos from guitarist Olof Söderberg and trumpeter Tommy Adolfsson (along with the consistently impressive drumming of Michael Lindqvist). Still hard to believe this was all recorded live, in one take, with no layering or overdubbing. The stylistic shift in the eighth minute into a more drummer-driven cruise machine makes a big difference in its power and engageability. Nice electric piano work and accents from the horn section. Again, the drumming is most impressive: it feels like a cross between Billy Cobham and Tony Williams. A full stop-and-shift in the 11th minute turns into a more pregnant earworm of a rhythm track over which horns and electric guitar begin an attempt to carry a melody forward together. Lot's of angular riffs thrown into the spaces between phrases as the bottom cruises along unperturbedly. The end is a bit of a disappointment. I liked that middle section the best. (35/40)

4. "Flaxöras Hemliga Återkomst" (8:40) a song that takes a little too long with its drawn out introductory motif to develop and turn into anything interesting--and then turns out to be a little more avant-garde than expected. Too bad the rhythm track wasn't allowed to develop a little more. (17.25/20)

Total Time 49:10

Too bad these guys A) didn't stay together (the bulk of the band members did reappear for one song ["Peter Yogurt = Peter Yoghourt"] as Berits Halsband on a 1980 Ton Kraft Records compilation album entitled Levande Music Från Sverige = Live Music from Sweden), B) didn't have a quality studio, engineer and/or producer for this album, C) didn't have the chance to polish and perfect their music, cuz this is wonderful stuff! It's not as exciting or rock-dynamic as Return To Forever or Mahavishnu Orchestra--rather, more mellow and melodic as was the habit of much of the northern Continent at the time. Too bad the solid and engaging rhytm tracks were often stifled into remaining so constant for so long.

88.17 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent if rather raw exposition of fresh if under-developed Jazz-Rock Fusion.

WEATHER REPORT Black Market (1976)

Though the band had long been established--inspired by Miles Davis' Bitches Brew sessions in the summer of 1969--ths is one of the band's most popular albums. While the sounds or stylings of Joe Zawinal and Wayne Shorter never really wowed me, the ensemble sound, unusual (and engaging) melodies, and great performances from the extraordinary Weather Report rhythm section always drew me in. Here we are graced with various combinations of contributions from bassists Alphonso Johnson and Jaco Pastorius, drummers Narada Michael Walden and Chester Thompson, and percussionists Don Elias and Alejandro "Alex" Acuña. What a treat!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Joe Zawinul / Yamaha grand piano, Rhodes electric piano, ARP 2600 & Oberheim Polyphonic synths, orchestrations, co-producer
- Wayne Shorter / soprano & tenor saxophones, Computone Lyricon, co-producer
- Alphonso Johnson / basses (1,3-5,7)
- Jaco Pastorius / fretless bass (2,6,8-10)
- Narada Michael Walden / drums (1,2)
- Chester Thompson / drums (3-7)
- Don Elias / congas & percussion (1,6)
- Alejandro "Alex" Acuña / congas, percussion (2-5,7)

1. "Black Market" (6:30) (8.5/10)

2. "Cannon Ball" (4:40) the band's first contribution from Jaco Pastorius (9/10)

3. "Gibraltar" (7:49) (13.5/15)

4. "Elegant People" (5:03) the percussionist's treat (9/10)

5. "Three Clowns" (3:27) (8.5/10)

6. "Barbary Coast" (3:10) Jaco's first compositional contribution to the band. This is Jaco doing Jaco while the band supports. (8.5/10)

7. "Herandnu" (6:38) Alfonso Johnson penned this final song of the album--and a beauty it is! For me this is the band at their most dynamic and joyful. Very Steely Dan-like. (9/10)

Total Time: 37:17

While the performances are masterful throughout this album, I don't feel that the compositions are as strong or as memorable as those from other WR albums. Four stars.

88.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent acquisition for any Jazz-Rock Fusion lover and a landmark album in the discography of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter's band

GEORGE DUKE Feel (1974)

George's second solo studio album release of 1974, this one containing a few guests who were not present on Faces in Reflection.

Line-up / Musicians:
- George Duke / keyboards, synth bass (1,5,9), vocals (2,4,10)
- Flora Purim / vocals (8)
- Frank Zappa / guitar (2,6)
- John Heard / bass, double bass
- Leon "Ndugu" Chancler / drums & percussion (3)
- Airto Moreira / percussion

1. "Funny Funk" (5:18) George experimenting with more new sounds. (8.75/10)

2. "Love" (6:06) a partly vocal song featuring Frank Zappa using Ernie Isley's guitar tone. (8.75/10)

3. "The Once Over" (4:39) a spacey, moody HERBIE HANCOCK-like start before a mood change occurs in the second minute prompting a reset into rhythm-oriented foundation. The return to reverberating Fender Rhodes chords at 2:20 is interesting, but it remains a percussionist's song untill its RTF-like final second flourish. (8.875/10)

4. "Feel" (5:40) more vocals--this time with electric piano and synths backing them. At the end of the first minute the rhythm section joins in as George flies through a short but effective synth solo. Then we settle into a gentle, syrupy pop song that predicts the smooth R&B jazz pop music of GEORGE BENSON, NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN, and MICHAEL FRANKS. More extraordinary synth soloing over the Fender Rhodes-led rhythm track. Definitely a top three song despite its lack of jazz orientation. (9/10)

5. "Cora Joberge" (3:50) dynamic electric piano with delay effect eventually gets support from flourishes from synth and drums before funkified bass and steady cymbal play join in. Poor recording of "dirty" effected electric piano. There are parts of this that remind me of Terry Riley or somebody else in the pioneering phase of electronic keyboards. (8.75/10)

6. "Old Slipper" (5:41) funky jam with multiple keys filling the sonic field as well as serving as lead instruments. The multiple personalities of George Duke! Perfect syncopated support from Ndugu and John. Interesting but not very noteworthy. An unstable" synth note introduced around the three-minute mark signals the upcoming transition into a proggy and then Parliamentarian passage--the latter of which find Frank Zappa's very-distorted guitar jumping in and shredding away. (8.75/10)

7. "Tzina "(2:01) dreamy/spacey keyboard play from multiple keyboard instruments/tracks (including some strings emulator) results in a kind of cinematic interlude. (4.375/5)

8. "Yana Aminah" (4:33) Airto's wife, Flora Purim, graces this Latin song with her vocal tracks, singing in English. Too bad the lyrics weren't more poetic nor the layered vocal tracks more polished and better synchronized. Overall this sounds very much like a song Stevie Wonder would have written for his wife, Syreeta Wright. Still, it's a pretty decent song; George could very easily have had a career in writing/producing pop songs. (8.75/10)

9. "Rashid" (3:36) starts out as a KOOL & THE GANG or CAMEO kind of funk song, then turns a sharp left at 1:49 onto a speedway for a hyperspeed synth solo that plays out for the rest of the song. (8.66667/10)

10. "Statement" (1:15) another pretty little cinematic interlude sounding like something from Patrick Moraz's solo album, I. (4.5/5)

Total time 42:39

More of the same sound issues I had with Goerge's previous album (from the same year). I have to say that there has been a slight improvement in performance contribution from both Ndugu and John Heard. 

87.96 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; another excellent album to add to any Jazz-Rock Fusion lover's music collection. Not quite as good as his other 1974 release, Face in Reflection, but still worthy of listening to (and enjoying).  

WEATHER REPORT Weather Report 

The international conglomeration that is to be known as "Weather Report" makes its debut. Fun to see two Central European-born collaborate on a successful jazz-rock fusion band. (Joe Zawinul was born in Austria and Miroslav Vitous in what was then Czechoslovakia.) The band seems to have been very sure to evenly distribute the compositional duties (or credits) between its three principle songwriters as three are attributed to Joe, three to Wayne, and three to Miroslav. 

 Line-up / Musicians:
Joe Zawinul – Electric and acoustic piano
Wayne Shorter – Soprano saxophone
Miroslav Vitous – Electric and acoustic bass
Alphonse Mouzon – Drums, voice
Airto Moreira – Percussion

A1 "Milky Way" (2:30) an atmospheric mood-setter by Joe and Wayne. (4.375/5)

A2 "Umbrellas" (3:24) an almost-funky (Miroslav does not quite have the comprehension for that which makes funk bass play yet) composition from the three principle songwriters is saved by a sharp turn in the final 45-seconds. Drummer Alphonse Mouzon and percussionist Airto Moreira are, surprisingly, not much better at bringing the funk. (8.66667/10)

A3 "Seventh Arrow" (5:20) an interesting song that seems to succeed despite not really hitting the funk on all cylinders nor presenting any melodies worthy of "earworm" status. I like Joe's use of experimental sounds from his electronic keyboard (a proclivity that he will continue to feed for the rest of his life). (8.75/10)
A4 "Orange Lady" (8:40) soft and spacious (and drumless) sax and Fender Rhodes interplay for the first 3:30. Then spacey electric bass and playful percussives are allowed to join in. Interesting. Alphonse's wordless vocalese can be heard far in the studio background starting at the end of the sixth minute. I don't know if this was composer Joe Zawinul's intention, but the song has a simple, naïve lullaby-like feel. (17.25/20)

B1 "Morning Lake" (4:23) another spacious impressionistic lullaby--this time coming from the mind of Miroslav Vitous. Joe's creatively playful electric piano play is especially noteworthy. (8.75/10)

B2 "Waterfall" (6:18) a composition credited to Joe Zawinul, this one presents a whole-band weave that is the most satisfying on the album for its solid form and generous melody-making. (8.875/10)

B3 "Tears" (3:22) A Wayne Shorter tune, this one actually kicks in and moves--for several teasingly brief passages, dropping back to complete stops every 30-seconds or so each time it does. Alphonse Mouzon's very pleasant voice (again wordless vocalese) works very well here. Nice tune! (9.125/10) 

B4 "Eurydice" (5:43) the only things that set this Wayne Shorter composition apart from more conventional jazz songs is its prominent placement of both Airto Moreira's playful percussion work and Joe's equally-prominent placement of his electric piano track despite its mostly-support role. Miroslav's walking bass lines are constant and perhaps more critical to driving the song forward than Mouzon's drum play. (8.75/10)

Total Time: 39:55

One of the things that really set Weather Report on its own is present here, from the very start: that is, the lack of guitars. Obviously, Joe and Wayne really wanted to be considered more jazz-oriented (which seems a bit ironic with so many atmospheric/impressionistic songs to their credit) than rock plus, I'm sure, they wanted the sound experimentations of their own instruments to garner all of the attention. Too bad that the electric piano Joe used predominantly at this time sounds so much like that of children's television host Fred Rogers. And too bad that both Kenny G and Najee chose to use Wayne's soprano sax as their main tools.

87.70 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice exposition of fresh ideas from this group of idealistic breakaway artists--two of whom had found a partner for fruitful collaboration that would last for quite some time.  

TERJE RYPDAL Terje Rypdal (1971)

It had been a few years since Terje's previous solo album, his incredible debut, Bleak House (1968) as he'd been studying in graduate school under George Russell--a man whose album George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle (recorded in October of 1969 and released locally as "Jan Garberak with Terje Rypdal's Esoteric Circle"--considered by some as Jan Garbarak's debut album--but it was not published internationally until late 1971 by Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label) is considered one of the most important and influential albums in the history of Norwegian music. George was an American-born jazz musician who had chosen to make his home in Oslo in the early 1960s where he even became a professor at Norway's Conservatory of Music--where Terje and Jan Garbarek, Jon Christensen, and Arild Anderson all met and played in the school's jazz orchestra that recorded George Russell's Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature (recorded April 28, 1969; released January 1, 1971).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Terje Rypdal / guitar, flute
- Inger Lise Rypdal / vocals
- Bobo Stenson / electric piano (1, 2, 4, 5)
- Tom Halversen / electric piano (3)
- Jan Garbarek / tenor sax, flute, clarinet
- Ekkehard Fintl / oboe, English horn
- Arild Andersen / bass & double bass (1-4)
- Bjørnar Andresen / bass (5)
- Jon Christensen / percussion

1. "Keep It Like That - Tight" (12:10) spacious-yet-steady syncopated bass and drums over which Terje issues strums of odd distorted electric guitar chords for five minutes. Then there is a dramatic shift (spliced?) into a slightly more straightforward section of same palette, different rhythm pattern, over which Jan Garbarek's tenor sax screeches and wails. At 8:49 the electric piano of Bobo Stenson suddenly rises into the middle of the mix (a blocked track that is now 'faded in'?) but it's Terje's distorted guitar that soon takes over in the lead position with some aggressive and abrasive soloing over the more-Miles Davis-like sound palette. Even some of the rhythmic and palette constructs feel as if they're direct imitations of In a Silent Way and some of Bitches Brew.) (17.25/25)

2. "Rainbow" (7:05) bowed bass and triangle and nut shell shakers open this one with a sinister feel. Oboe and clarinet join in to make a soundscape that feels like an outer space version of a Paul Winter Consort piece. Interesting, eerie, and cinematic. I'd love to see the music charts for this one! (13/15)

3. "Electric Fantasy" (15:45) more "space symphony" music using different instruments to create an initial sonic field to the previous song: drums, electric bass, Herbie Hancock Mwandishi-like electric piano, reverb-effected winds, fast-reverbed (and/or flanged) wah-ed electric guitar chords and even vocalese (courtesy of Inger Lise Rypdal) offer sound into a vacuum: the notes/chords fast-fading off into the distant stars as soon as they're issued. Very cool effects but about as memorable, melodic, or engaging as the previous song--even in the 11th-minute when the release of aggression and volume are ramped up (which all ends in the 12th-minute as everything goes back to the space music of the opening). Weird to claim one's highlight to be the vocalise from the female voice. (26/30)

4. "Lontano II" (3:10) more sinister music, this time feeling more industrial: as if music coming out of the mouths of tunnels or holes in the Earth. Bowed and effected bass and strained guitar chords, finger percussion, but mostly a show of engineering effects. (8.666667/10)

5. "Tough Enough" (4:45) solo electric guitar opening: some fast picking turning into gentle John McLaughlin-like chords, played off of by bassist Bjørner Andresen and Jon Christensen's drums. Though I don't really like this guitar sound and its blues-rock nature, the instrumental play and mix is my favorite on the album: there's actual motion and as if a story is being told as opposed to the spacious generations of soundscapes of all of the previous songs. These guys can play! (8.75/10)

Total time: 42:57

87.41 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; not my favorite Terje album or sound exhibition. 


Featuring the contributions of yet a third defection from Ian Carr's Nucleus in the personhood of uber-talented Karl Kenkins, the band is now rocking as a quartet with absolutely no vocals.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Karl Jenkins / oboe, baritone & soprano saxes, electric & grand piano, celesta
- Mike Ratledge / organ, electric & grand piano, celesta
- Hugh Hopper / bass, sound effects (15)
- John Marshall / drums, percussion

LP 1 - Live Album (41:45) 
1. "Fanfare" (0:42)
2. "All white" (4:46)
3. "Between" (2:24)
4. "Riff" (4:36)
5. "37 1/2" (6:51)
6. "Gesolreut" (6:17)
7. "E.P.V." (2:47)
8. "Lefty" (4:56)
9. "Stumble" (1:42)
10. "5 from 13 (for Phil Seamen with love & thanks)" (5:15)
11. "Riff II" (1:20)

LP 2 - Studio Album (34:40) 
12. "The soft weed factor "(11:18) Mike Ratledge and Karl Jenkin's minimalist motif on multiple tracks of electric pianos. Nice weave but it's no Phillip Glass or Steve Reich. Bass and drums kick in during the fourth minute, then soprano sax and organ doubling up the melody line over the top. Seems there are nice multiple contributions from each of the band members but the song never really amounts to much besides a jazz-rock weave with the original minimalist tracks--which alone cover the final two minutes. (17.5/20)

13. "Stanley stamps Gibbon album (for B.O.)" (5:58) a more aggressive and sinister motif based once again on a minimalist piano arpeggio turns a little funkier in the second half of the first minute and yet Ratledge's left hand of his piano continues to maintain a short, two-part arpeggi as the song's foundation for the whole of time that Karl Jenkins solos with an heavily-treated/effected soprano sax (three plus minutes)--or is it a celesta keyboard? (8.75/10) 

14. "Chloe and the pirates" (9:30) a mild sonic landscape that definitely perpetuates a Canterbury sound and sound over the spacious three minute opening. Karl Jenkins' treated oboe is the lead instrument on this one while Mike maintains a free and frisky support from his seat at the electric piano. John Marshall's drumming is simple but nuanced and supplemented by some conga and other percussion additions while Hugh Hopper's bass is rolling and deep as if perhaps fretless or using extra thick strings. At 6:46 there is a glitch leading into what feels like a loop/repeat of two note electric keyboard riff while the organ rises and performs just beneath the oboe. A "Tomorrow Never Knows"-like reverse track of some instrument also rises to the top, actually ending the song as the lead and only forward sound. Interesting. (17.5/20)

15. "1983" (7:54) nefarious and slightly-bombastic dual pianos and bass play a cinematic motif of suspense while John's heavy ride cymbal play and Hugh's weird "speeded up" bottle-metallophone riff gets repeated to death on top. (13/15)

Total Time: 76:25

With my distrust and aversion to live recordings, I make it a habit to not review live albums, so only LP 2, the studio recordings, earn my attention here.

87.31 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a fairly good though consistently experimental Still, the studio LP of this release feels as if the boys were very curious and somehow satisfied with releasing to the public the results of their curiosities and experimentations with little regard for any kind of "finished song" product.  

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way (1969)

In a way, a more accessible album than Bitches BrewIn a Silent Way offered the Miles listener a gentler show of transition from the exclusive world of jazz into the world of pop-rock-funk-jazz fusion. Enlisting the contributions of hot shot young bloods Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, and Joe Zawinal, Miles continued to rely on bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Wayne Shorter as well as recent band stalwart, Chick Corea. The biggest development with In a Silent Way came in the form of giving Columbia Records producer Teo Macero the green light to employ engineering thus taking the "live" sound out of the music and creating a fabricated, even stylized and/or fabricated music. (Teo was a big fan and student of classical music formats, thus the three movements, exposition, development, and recapitulation, used in the reconstruction of Miles' band's studio recordings.) The music here is surprisingly sedate and accessible for such a "revolutionary" and "innovative" album. Nothing is offensive or repellant but then nothing, to my ears and mind, is neither particularly mind-blowing or ear-catching. I guess it's more of the fact that there are two side-long pieces presented here--something bands like The Soft Machine, Colosseum, Magma and other jazz and jazz-rock bands picked up on fairly quickly. While many hardcore jazz musicians turned their thumbs down to the new commercialized jazz coming out of Columbia and Miles, many others found inspiration and a new freedom to explore--many of them members of Miles' own studio sessions. The two songs are great if subdued, with my favorite performances on "Shh/Peaceful" coming from Dave Holland (bass) and Larry Young (organ) and on "In a Silent Way/It's About That..." from Miles and Wayne Shorter and the funk of Dave Holland and the keyboard players. Tony doesn't get much time to shine and John's guitar is so subdued without any effects enhancements that it sounds quite dull and even tame. I guess what we're really all in awe of is Teo's shaping of the music into pop-like songs (despite 19 minute lengths).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Holland / Bass
- Tony Williams / Drums
- Chick Corea / Electric Piano
- Herbie Hancock / Electric Piano
- Josef Zawinul / Electric Piano, Organ
- John McLaughlin / Guitar
- Wayne Shorter / Saxophone [Tenor]
- Miles Davis / Trumpet

A "Shhh / Peaceful" (18:17) nice clarity and definition in the soundscapes but the only fire is coming from the keyboard players. And shame of Miles for forcing Tony to play hi-hat for 18-minutes straight! (35/40)

B1 "In A Silent Way" / B2 "It's About That Time" (mixed together by Teo Maceo) (19:53) opens like a variation on some national anthem or famous folk song. (a Civil War dirge?!) as a Fender and John McLaughlin's guitar reverently move their way through. In the third minute Wayne's soprano sax takes the lead. In the fourth Miles' trumpet. The splice into "It's About That Time" at 4:05 is fairly smooth, though one can tell that the IATT jam was well under way in the place that Teo chose to start it. Repeating frog-like bass "ribbits," rim shots and light cymbal play from Tony, gentle evenly spaced Fender Rhodes chord progressions, delicate guitar flourishes and occasional organ chords, second drummer at the end of the eighth minute as the tension slowly builds to the point at which bass and organ start up a "Birdland"-like melody. Then everybody slows down for a little reset around 9:10 before the multiple keys start a discordant interplay of the same chord presentations. Soprano saxophone takes the lead for the next couple minutes. Again, I would think if I were Tony Williams I would have been totally incensed and humiliated over the task that bandleader (a penalty/punishment for his wanting to go solo? If not, certainly the impetus for his leaving the Miles Davis fold. Miles finally enters in the thirteenth minute. Teo somehow splices into a new section in which the band is cooking on a different level (with Tony given a little freedom, finally) but this is quickly ended in favor of a scrimped down, more staccato version of the "Birdland" motif as Miles continues to hold the lead. In the 16th minute everything slows down and finally comes to a stop--where Teo splices in another section of the "In a Silent Way" Civil War dirge with John and the Fenders painstakingly making their way through the fields of fallen dead as before. Miles enters at 17:45 to give the battlefield his Aaron Copeland-like version of "Taps." Interesting but shamefully void of volume, dynamic diversity, or flashy displays of instrumental virtuosity. (34.75/40)

Total Time: 38:12
Personally, I don't understand why this album is given such acclaim: the music is okay, the musicianship fine, and, yes, there are electronic instruments used and the expanded lineup with three artists covering the keyboard positions is rather novel, but the sound production and compositional dynamics are completely devoid of any of the fire and passion that define the jazz-rock fusion subgenre. Are we giving credit just for the novelty of three electric keyboard players, a dynamic drummer, and a tamed- and toned-down guitar lion? I mean, musically there is very little on this album to excite me in the way that John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra, the latter-day Mwandishi lineup, Italy's Area, later Return to Forever and Weather Report, and Jean-Luc Ponty will generate.

87.1875 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a surprisingly dull and suppressed 38 minutes of music from a lineup that had incredible potential. In the military we would call this "unrealized potential" or "a dud."

HERBIE HANCOCK Sextant (March 30, 1973)

The band is loose and funked up, maybe having more fun now that they're all so comfortable with each other, and with Herbie really going out there with his experimentations into electronic keyboards and sounds but, on the other end, there seems to be less attention to quality sound engineering on this album than on Mwandishi and Crossings.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Herbie Hancock / Steinway piano, Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, Hohner D6 clavinet, handclaps
- Bennie Maupin / soprano sax, bass clarinet, piccolo, cabasa, kazoo
- Eddie Henderson / trumpet, flugelhorn
- Julian Priester / bass, tenor & alto trombones, cowbell
- Patrick Gleeson / ARP 2600 & Soloist synths
- Buster Williams / electric (with wah-wah & fuzz) & acoustic basses
- Billy Hart / drums
- Buck Clarke / congas, bongos
- Billy Bonner / Fx

1. "Rain Dance" (9:18) lots of experimental sounds here (mostly synthesizer generated). Drums and bass are probably the two most prominent and loyal to their acoustic origins than any other instrument here. As a matter of fact, there is very little input from the horn players on this one. Interesting for the fact that it previews the later world of computer sounds and sequencers but not really a song that I enjoy or wish to hear repeatedly. On the outlying edges of what I'd call music. (17/20)

2. "Hidden Shadows" (10:12) funky with quite a variety of keyboards under Herbie's hand (including Mellotron!), there is quite a bit more dynamic range in this sonic presentation of this song than that of the previous Mwandishi albums. (18/20)

3. Hornets (19:31) I wouldn't doubt that this song was the inspiration for the famous SNL "Killer Bees" sketches a year or two later, as trumpet, clavinet, kazoo, ARP, percussion, and other crazed sounds coming from Bennie Maupin all contribute to a serious attempt to reproduce the chaotic busy-ness of the eusocial wasps known as "hornets." Crazy yet brilliant, chaotic yet so disciplined and focused. Just like hornets. Though Herbie and Billy Hart make a strong play for the title, Bennie Maupin, however, is by far the craziest hornet of them all. Entertaining and fun/funny, historically important, but not really a song that draws me back. (I wonder if the band were able to replicate this song live, in concert.) (34.5/40)

Total Time 39:02

86.875 on the Fishscales = B; four star; a solid piece of progressive rock music from the domain of experimental jazz-rock fusion--where it may be deserving of more acclaim and accolades. 

ASSOCIATION (Pierre Courbois) Sun Rotation (1971)

Another go round with Pierre, Toto, Jasper, and, this time, all Siggi (who's picked up the electric bass). After the previous year's Earwax, I am very excited!

Line-up / Musicians:
-Jasper van't Hof/ E-Piano, Orgel (electric piano, organ)
-Toto Blanke/ Gitarren (guitar)
-Sigi Busch Bass/ Kontrabass (bass)
-Pierre Courbois/ Schlagzeug (drums) 

1. "Idee A" (4:30) engineered far more toward the accentuation of the electrified elements of the music than anything on Earwax (8.75/10)

2. "Suite":
a) "Scorpion" (6:47) spacey experimental soundscapes of a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like cinematic disorder opens up this suite as everyone in the band busies themselves with some unrestricted free-form play--yet there is a flow and tempo and even the shadows of some structural elements including harmony and interplay. The second half goes (13.25/15)
b) "Neuteboom" (5:42) buoyed by a very repetitive bass and circus-organ arpeggio line, guitar and electric piano are sent soloing while drummer and bandleader Pierre Courbois messes around with perfect timing beneath. Interesting--and a little annoying after five minutes of the same bass line--though not quite so much when Toto and Jasper begin to try to weave their way into the bass and organ's line. (8.75/10)
c) "Scorcussion" (5:56) Pierre is left alone to express on his drum kit. At the end of the third minute of Pierre's soloing Toto starts to inject some noise burst from his fuzz guitar while Jasper adds a spray of chords, flourishes, and crazed hits from his electric piano. At the end of the fifth minute everybody backs off to zero before Toto is given space for some target practice for his alien space ray gun. Despite my understanding the band's effort to take Herbie Hancock's spacey experimentation further, this is just not my cup of tea. (8.5/10)

3. "Silence" (0:18)

4. "Don Paul" (3:09) more jagged, angular jazz musings and exercises in cohesion and cooperation, this one opens a little too aggressively and then just as suddenly and quickly moves into a solo of Siggi's double bass. Eventually, he's joined by brushed drums and dissonant chord play from Toto's un-effected guitar. These guys are obviously so comfortable and proficient at their instruments that they can easily and smoothly do just about anything, but this is not the type of musical listening that I choose to come back to: there's just too much of the crazy Tony Williams Lifetime Emergency! avant garde experimentation going on here for my liking. (8.375/10)

5. "Totemism" (16:45) These guys are obviously so comfortable and proficient at their instruments that they can easily and smoothly do just about anything, but there's just a little too much of the crazy Tony Williams Lifetime Emergency! avant garde experimentation going on here for my liking. (Didn't I already say that?) Luckily, about two minutes into it the quartet gels into a forward-moving, single-direction motif over-and within which all of the individual musicians still find the freedom to move about and pave their own way. Having heard enough of Toto Blanke's guitar playing now to appreciate his skills, I have to say that when he plays like this--like 1960s jazz guitar with an experimental edge-- I am not a fan: impressed, yes, but not a fan. Jasper van't Hof is experimenting with way too much distortion on his electric piano which gives it a very "dirty" sound than I also do not like. This would probably be a very fun song to experience in a live jazz club scene but it is really not my kind of jazz (or jazz-rock fusion)--and here they're forcing 17-minutes of it down my throat! (30.375/35)

6. "Frau Theunisse"n (1:10) a FOCUS-like jam that seems to be coming out of some other jam (it's faded in to get started) but then is over far too quickly. (4.5/5)

Total time 44:17

86.84 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a very good display of experimental, loosely-performed avant garde electrified jazz that feels like a detour down the wrong (but, I get it: necessary) direction. Check it out for yourself but this is no album that I will return to soon--maybe ever.

WEATHER REPORT I Sing The Body Electric

I have a bit of a problem with 45% of this album's music coming from Live concert recordings as I am never happy with live recordings or live performances of music intended for studio recording. The band's sophomore album sees the exit of the percussion duo of Alphonse Mouzon (gone to work with McCoy Tyner) and Airto Moreira (to work with some solo ideas as well as in lineups with Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Antonio Carlos Joabim, Johnny Hammond, Hubert Laws, Flora Purim, Gato Barbieri, and Grover Washington, Jr.), here replaced by Eric Gravatt and Dom Um Romão. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Joe Zawinul / electric & acoustic pianos, ARP 2600 synth (1)
- Wayne Shorter / reeds
- Miroslav Vitous / electric & acoustic basses
- Eric Gravatt / drums
- Dom Um Romão / percussion (2)
- Chapman Roberts / vocals (1)
- Joshie Armstrong / vocals (1)
- Yolande Bavan / vocals (1)
- Andrew White / English horn (1)
- Hubert Laws / flute (1)
- Wilmer Wise / D trumpet & piccolo (1)
- Ralph Towner / 12-string guitar (2)

1. "Unknown Soldier" (7:57) a great mood-setter, manipulating the listener's emotions as a cinema soundtrack is supposed to. Would that all WR music would do this as masterfully. Eric Gravatt's cymbal play is key, as are the spacious playing of the other three principle musicians. So disciplined! Once the drums go military-snare, the enlisted support of other musicians begins--and the principles go off into a frenzy of free-jazz. I've never heard Wayne Shorter go so fast! In the sixth minute the music returns to the more disciplined, spacious play as the opening. Very interesting--and surprisingly dynamic--song! (13.5/15)

2. "The Moors" (4:40) picked notes from Ralph Towner's 12-string guitar open this one, soon bursting into John McLaughlin-like runs of remarkable speed as well as a flurry of syncopated strumming of muted and unmuted blues chords and harmonics. At 1:44 soprano sax, percussion, and bass notes join in before drums and keys also kick in, creating a fast-moving jam over which Wayne holds long, smooth notes. It is very surprising to me how much the performers packed into this little 4:40 song! (9/10)

3. "Crystal" (7:16) spacey wind-synth sounds with slow conga beat open this one before multiple saxophones enter, obviously recorded on different tracks. Keys support. Drums add some stuff here and there but it's really Wayne's multiple saxes and Joe Zawinul's multiple tracks of keyboards that are doing all the movement. Heavily-distorted bass joins in during the fourth minute, going off on his own direction--as have all three of the principle musicians at this point. The mix really doesn't sound very good. Drummer Gravatt has moved to percussion: he keeps trying to join in with his congas but it really doesn't fit, so he gives up and moves to wind chimes with some additional ride cymbal. 
     Early experimentation with multi-tracking. It just feels like warm ups--as if it should never have been committed to tape/vinyl. Should we forgive them? (12/15)

4. "Second Sunday in August" (4:09) piano, percussion, distant drums, more horrible-sounding distorted bass, and spry and upbeat soprano sax. I like the piano and sax; the rest you can dispose of, thank you very much. (8.66667/10)

5. "Medley: Vertical Invader / T.H. / Dr. Honoris Causa" (Live *) (10:10) (/20)
6. "Surucucus" (Live *) (7:41) (/15)
7. "Directions" (Live *) (4:35) (/10)

Total Time: 46:28

* Edited from recordings at a concert January 13, 1972 in Shibuya Kokaido Hall, Tokyo, Japan.

86.333 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a fair representation of studio songs which show the engineering and sound experimentation the and was going through. I do not review recordings of live performances. 

Other Decent J-R Fuse Albums:

AREA Caution Radiation Area (1974) An album that upset and disturbed a lot of people who had been blown away by the band's debut the year before, Arbeit Macht Frei. Caution Radiation Area put on display too much edge, too many aggressive and experimental sounds and constructions--often fully going over to the realms of jazz-rock fusion and even avant garde music.  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Demetrio Stratos / vocals, organ, harpsichord, steel drums, percussion
- Paolo Tofani / guitar, flute, EMS synthesizer
- Patrizio Fariselli / piano, electric piano, ARP synthesizer, bass clarinet
- Ares Tavolazzi / bass, double bass, trombone
- Giulio Capiozzo / drums, percussion

1. "Cometa Rossa" (4:00) employing some Arabian folk instruments and melodies, the song does a great job of setting up Demetrio's astounding a cappella vocal in the middle. (9/10)

2. "ZYG (Crescita zero)" (5:27) pure instrumental jazz tending toward the crazed world of avant garde. BUT the musicianship is incredible and performed so tightly. Astonishing! (10/10)

3. "Brujo" (8:02) an extended foray into unstructured musical chaos--like a long ELP, GENESIS or TODD RUNDGREN intro--the jazz musicianship of the song in the fourth and fifth minutes is quite CHICK COREA/RETURN TO FOREVER-like (though it also sounds like the crazed section of YES' "Gates of Delirium" between the 8:00 and 13:00 minute marks). The final two minutes of eerie synth-supported cave-like vocals does little to make the song more endearing. (12.5/15)

4. "Mirage" (10:27) opening with four minutes of free-form sound experimentation, the rhythm section finally kicks in with a hard-driving structure over (and beneath) which the synth and horn experimentations continue. At 5:45 everything cuts out and we're exposed to multiple tracks of Demtrio's whispering voices, gutteral word recitations, and haunted ghost screams. Breaking glass at 7:10 stops the vocal mayhem, unleashing, instead, a cacophony of instrumental mayhem. ("Ahem! A little humanity, please!") Droning synths, fast-running double bass, underscore the out-of-control guitar shredding before Fender Rohdes enters to bring in some calm and order--within which sax and Demetrio vocalise scat. Ends with some Tibetan-like monastic chants. Weird song that retains little significance this many years later. (16/20)

5. "Lobotomia" (4:23) an instrumental synth solo of electronically-distorted sound waves. Interesting but four and a half minutes of this? But, heck! Many other mainstream artists were doing it! (E.g. Todd Rundgren, Keith Emerson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Larry Fast, Jan Hammer, and George Duke). (8/10)

Total Time: 32:19

85.38 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful example of the kind of experimentation going on within music and particularly progressive rock music in 1973-4.

THE SOFT MACHINE Fourth (1971) If one had never heard the previous albums with their quirky beginnings in psychedelia one might enter into the world of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt, and Elton Dean thinking that these guys are 1) serious jazz musicians and 2) great masters of their instruments. The only problem is:  There is very, very little here that feels or sounds like Canterbury style music--a little in "Kings and Queens" and "Virtually part 3." That's it. 
     While Dean's saxes will become more refined and creative in his more free-form future, the playing here of Robert Wyatt is the first and only time that I found myself thinking that "this is a really impressive musician." Ratledge and Hopper are really good and the addition of double bass from NUCLEUS founder Mike Babbington is awesome. Also, I still think it rather unique and brave of the band to go without a guitar player.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mike Ratledge / Lowrey organ, Hohner pianet, piano
- Elton Dean / alto sax, saxello
- Hugh Hopper / bass guitar
- Robert Wyatt / drums
- Roy Babbington / double bass (1,3,4,6)
- Mark Charig / cornet (2-4)
- Nick Evans / trombone (1,2,4)
- Jimmy Hastings / alto flute (6), bass clarinet (1,6)
- Alan Skidmore / tenor sax (1,6)

1. "Teeth" (9:15) Jazz! Free jazz! At least, from the saxophone. From the opening notes this song presents the band as a jazz band with little or no ties to its previous incarnations. It's too bad as this is not one of the album's better songs--even the recording mix is "off." (15/20)

2. "Kings and queens" (5:02) slow and melodic with the gentle waves of keys, toms, and cymbals to support. Ratledge is brilliant in his support and Wyatt and Hopper and Dean are impressive as well. (8.75/10) 

3. "Fletcher's blemish" (4:35) pure free-form jazz in which the musicians exhibit some great control and, surprisingly, cohesiveness. (8.5/10)

4. "Virtually part 1" (5:16) jazz, pure and simple, with some nice structural experimentation. The barebones-ness of this piece gives each instrumentalists plenty of space in which to shine. (8.5/10)

5. "Virtually part 2" (7:09) enter the Lowrey organ--the last vestige of the Canterbury sound--and multiple tracks given to Elton Dean for his two instruments. Great instrumental performances--especially true of Robert Wyatt--but nothing very special melodically or emotionally. (12.5/15)

6. "Virtually part 3" (4:33) sees a step back from pacing and walls of sound as the drums check out and everybody else goes into "tuning mode." The electric bass of Hugh Hopper takes the lead while everybody else offers a kind of gentle support. It's actually kind of pretty music despite the fuzzed bass up front. (8.75/10)

7. "Virtually part 4" (3:23) smoother and more cohesive, even melodic. My favorite section of the album and the one that allows me to keep this album in the list of Canterbury favorites. (9.5/10)

Total Time: 39:13

84.12 on the Fishscales = B-/low four stars; a nice jazz album for its time but not a very glowing representative of the Canterbury Scene. 

AREA Maledetti (1976)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Demetrio Stratos / vocals, voice filter (4), Hammond organ (2-4,6), piano (6), bells
- Giampaolo Tofani / electric guitar, (Serge) Tcherepnin synth (3,4,7)
- Patrizio Fariselli / piano (4,6), electric piano (3,4,6), prepared piano (7), ARP Odyssey synth (3,4,6)
- Ares Tavolazzi / electric (3,4) & acoustic (2,3) basses
- Giulio Capiozzo / drums (3,4)
- Eugenio Colombo / kazumba ? (1)
- Steve Lacy / soprano sax (2,3,7)
- Paolo Salvi / cello (5)
- Giorgio Garulli / contrabass (5)
- Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli / violin (5)
- Armando Burattin / viola (5)
- Hugh Bullen / bass (2,6)
- Walter Calloni / drums (2,6)
- Anton Arze /txalaparta (3)
- Jose Arze / txalaparta (3)
- Paul Lytton / percussion (6,7)

1. "Evaporazione" (1:45) a wonderful and powerful introduction to the crazed and unique mind and world of Demetrio Stratos. (4.5/5)

2. "Diforisma Urbano" (6:18) 
slightly discofied jazz-rock fusion of the funky kind being churned out in the second half of the 1970s by such bands as JAN AKKERMAN, SBB, STOMU YAMASH'TA's GO, JAN HAMMER, GEORGE DUKE, LENNY WHITE, and JEFF BECK. Excellent for that fare. (8.75/10)

3. "Gerontocrazia" (7:30) Demetrio, soprano sax, and an African marimba open this one with a very African folk feel until cello takes over at 2:40 as sole companion of Demetrio's singing. At 3:36 the full electrified contingent joins in though carrying a North African melody as its standard. Then at 4:20 we get another drastic shift into a more JAN HAMMER/MAHAVISHNU-like passage in which jazz-rock drums support multi-instrumental presentation of high-speed melody-noodling. A minute later the whole-group presentation breaks down to allow for singular soloists to present their interpretations. At 6:25 the passage ends and we are bridged back to the North African melody section for the song's finish. Interesting! (13.5/15))

4. "Scum" (6:30) piano-based WEATHER REPORT, JOE SAMPLE or even DONALD FAGEN-like jazz fusion with fretless bass in the initial lead and synths and electronic keys adding their voices after a minute. Nice, virtuosic DON PULLEN-like piano solo in the third minute continuing on until the ELP/YES-like 4:23 mark. Experimental synth noises take over, setting the stage for a Demetrio Stratos political vocal recitation (oddly, electronically treated). (9/10)

5. "Il Massacro Di Brandeburgo Numero Tre In Sol Maggiore" (2:20) a BACH string quartet with a little organ support from Demetrio. (4.5/5)

6. "Giro, Giro, Tondo" (5:55) Single note synth drops support a multi-track, multi-voice Demetrio onslaught before drums and keys smash their way into the song at the one minute mark. By 1:45 there is a full-band jazz-rock tapestry playing out over which Demetrio sings a fairly straightforward (for him) impassioned vocal. (8.75/10)

7. "Caos (Parte Seconda)" (9:00) a sonic free-for-all in which every band member is set loose in the studio with the intention, it would seem, to pluck and strike, clink and clank, wah and wang, fizzle and fazzle, strafe and staccato anything and everything they can A) come in contact with or B) imagine and invent. Methinks Demetrio, saxophonist Steve Lacy, and all percussionists had the most fun during this one. I'm guessing that only the most patient, most curious, 
or else detached and unexpectant listeners will find enjoyment in this one. (14/20)

Total Time: 39:18

84.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; another wonderful, well-produced display of the kind of politically-charged experimental music being done within the progressive rock movement in the mid-1970s.

I am now learning that I am a being in which Heart and emotion are more valued and valuable than Mind and intellect. 
Melody crosses straight into the Heart/emotion conveying warmth or pain.

Technical skills and complexities like Mathematics (form and structure) provide information that the Mind/intellect can appreciate and enjoy.

Language is the tool of deceit and persuasion by which we either give our power away or try to take it from another (or our Selves).

Therefore, let the information I receive be that which feeds my Heart (which is, in many cultures, a more direct line to the Soul & Spirit).  

Outlier Bands / Albums
(that is, whose sound cannot quite be considered Jazz-Rock Fusion) 

MANEIGE Les porches (1975)

The Québecois band of serious musicians take a step forward from their previous album, their self-titled debut, in both compositional freedom and sound production. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alain Bergeron / piano, flutes, saxophone
- Jérôme Langlois/ piano, guitar, clarinet, string arrangements
- Yves Léonard / electric bass, tuba
- Gilles Schetagne / drums, percussion
- Vincent Langlois / percussion, piano solo (1e)
- Denis Lapierre / electric guitar (3)
- Raôul Duguay / trumpets & vocals (1f)
- Peter Schenkman / violin
- Albert Pratz / violin
- Walter Babiak / violin
- Bill Richards / violin
- Paul Picard / bongos & xylophone (3a, 3b)

1. "Les porches de Notre-Dame" (19:14) The opening epic is so refined and majestic--opening with a section that feels as stately as a Russian nationalist song. (It's not very proggy, though; more classical.) "Suite I" is so gorgeous, sounding very much like the modern day Greek Prog Folk band, CICCADA. Suite II sounds and so French! Like Ravel, Fauré, or Debussey--with its piano, flute and tubular bells/vibraphone trio format, while "Suite III" shows the band's sound beginning to take on a jazzier, more-MIKE OLDFIELD sound palette while the arrangements and melodies harken back more to folk traditions. (Province-mates CONVENTUM sounded a bit like this in 1979.) The "Déscouverture" section is more classical (using an upright piano?) The final section "Les porches" is the first to use any electrified instruments--including a vocal addition in which a quite unusual male voice sings. The effect is quite romantic and emotional! The song wends its way into a three-chord major-minor-minor "Stairway to Heaven" blues-rock end progression and pace while piano, electric guitar, trumpet, and, later, saxophone weave their individual noodling to the song's end. 
Other than the closing movement, there is very little jazz or rock in this suite, but it is absolutely awesome, start to finish! (40/40):
a) Ouverture (3:03)
b) Suite I (2:34)
c) Suite II (0:45)
d) Suite III (3:25)
e) Désouverture (2:48)
f) Les Porches (6:50)

2. "La grosse torche" (1:24) folk melodies given a bit of a symphonic prog sound. (4.375/5)

3. "Les aventures de saxinette et Clarophone" (15:41) This is far more straightforward jazz with a little jazz-rock à la THE SOFT MACHINE than the opener--and it's a kind of B-level jazz-less-rock at that. It has a prolonged opening section in which nothing is really established or developed (other than sound palette). The middle section ("Chapitre I, épisode 2") finally establishes a structure rhythm and repeated chord progression over which vibes, saxes, and clarinets take turns soloing. About ahlfway through an electric guitar enters to solo a bluesy solo before the suite moves into the next movement. With "Chapitre II, épisode 1" the music becomes sax-dominated--even into the next section, "Chapitre II, épisode 2," where it gets really weird: with some crowd noises before a section which feels as if the listener is shut in a closet. (Why? To avoid the crowd? To think? The thoughts may provide one great idea, but that idea is quickly forgotten and left behind in lieu of the usual banal patterns and habits of the day. Weird.) The final section is much more disciplined and cerebral before falling into the sway of a friendly little folk melody.
A fine effort full of character, wit, beauty, and creativity, and excellent performances, but, personally, I prefer the band's self-titled debut album over this one. (27.5/30):
a) Chapitre I, épisode 1 (3:47)
b) Chapitre I, épisode 2 (5:16)
c) Chapitre II, épisode 1 (1:31)
d) Chapitre II, épisode 2 (2:34)
e) Chapitre III (2:33)

4. "Chromo part I" (2:36) now this is jazz rock! Kind of cheesy bass play but great flutes and reeds. (4.375/5)

5. "Chromo part II" (1:37) part two of the Chromo suite, this one has some of the pretentiousness of a Canterbury act but then flies into some serious jazz-rock territory. (4.375/5)

Total Time 40:32

French jazz fusion band Maneige's most highly acclaimed album opens with a superb side-long folk-classical epic, "Les Porches de Notre-Dame" but then falters a little with two brief pieces that feel more like practice études and one other strange epic, "Les aventures de saxinette and clarophone." The band's winds section and tuned percussion players are deserving of superlatives.

95.59 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a certifiable masterpiece

DR. DOPO JAM Entrée (1973)

Wonderful theatric psychedelic avant-garde jazz music from Roskilde, Danemark.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lars Bisgaard / vocals
- Lars Rasmussen / lead guitar, violin
- Kristian Pommer / rhythm guitar, piano, Moog, vocals, composer & arranger (excl. 6)
- Anders Gaardmand / tenor & soprano saxophones, flute
- Poul "Skak" Snitker / trumpet, flute, bass, composer & arranger (6)
- Vagn Hansen / bass
- Niels "Vejmand" Christensen / drums
- Bent Clausen / drums, vibraphone

1. (25:04) a very entertaining and enjoyable adventure in musical theatre. I have to admit to being quite surprised at how well it flows, how well recorded it is, and how engaged I remained throughout. I love the forward mixing of all the instruments and the stellar clarity and definition of each and every instrument. The music does get a little too-rock 'n' roll at times--especially in the Elvis-like final movement. (47.5/50) 
- a. Opening "HELLO"
- b. Essentia I, Sanquine
- c. Essentia II, Choleric
- d. Essentia III, Melancholic
- e. Essentia IV, Phlegmatic
- f. Qvinta Essentia: VITA
- g. Overture: Absorbia
     g.a. Heart-Theme, Solaria
     g.b. Brain-Theme, Lunaria
     g.c. Liver-Theme, Jupiter
     g.d. Kidney-Theme, Venus
- h. VI: The Complete Pentagram

2. "Samelam-Samelam" (4:10) blues-rock feeling as if resuscitated from the late 1950s. Great in the instrumental portion after Lars says, "Sock it to me, Baby." How can I help but not like this music?!(8.875/10)
3. "Entree's" (3:54) a little 1960s game show theme music or else an overture to a peppy moralistic hippie-happy stage musical. Whatever this is, it's delightful! Keyboard artist and band leader Kristian Pommer should get more credit for his wonderful clavinet playing here. The rhythmists Bent Clausen and Niels "Vejmand" Christensen as well. Heck! Everybody is spot on with this one! (9.25/10)

4. "Spring-Theme-Summer-Theme" (3:55) a delightful piece of music very much in the vein as Billy and Gene Page's big 1964 hit, "The In Crowd." (9.3333333/10)

5. "In The Morning" (2:01) another gorgeous piece that feels as if it would be a perfect fit for the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, Hair. (5/5)

6. "Desserts: Forest-Flower-Picking-Preludium" (7:29) sounds very much like something SUPERSISTER would have been putting out at the same time: quirky yet sophisticated and driven by the attention span of someone with Attention Deficit Disorder. Nice extended lead (fuzz) guitar work from Lars Rasmussen Probably the weakest total package on the album (it feels like a bit of studio jamming filler)--both compositionally and sound engineering-wise--but still better than 95% of the stuff out there! (8.75/10)

Total time 46:33

While never too complex musically, the ideas are quite wild and expressive in an almost-spontaneous way. All the music is actually quite melodic, pretty, and even quite danceable. Well recorded and engineered, lead singer/vocalist Lars Bisgaard is quite talented--blessed with a beautiful voice and a perfect English accent. The comparisons to the music of both Frank Zappa and the Canterbury Scene artists are quite warranted as well as Brass Rock bands like Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. The musicianship is quite high with all instruments being present with absolute confidence and competency.
      I'm going to have trouble grouping this album with the true jazz-rock fusers yet the amazing number of styles and sounds experimented and fused with here definitely deserve some kind of major recognition, however, at the same time, I will understand all of the people who will exclaim that if I admit this album into my J-R Fuse compendium then Frank Zappa's stuff should be as well. Maybe I will!

93.38 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; an excellent masterpiece of chameleonic music theater from some pretty focused musicians.

P.S. I will not be including the band's follow-up album, Fat Dogs & Danishmen in my compendium because I feel that it shows the band "overstaying their welcome" in the Frank Zappa world of inanities:

I find this album far less satisfying than its predecessor mostly due to the feeling of conceit and ego coming from the singer and sound. It's as if the band now knows how clever, refreshing, and unique they are and are basking in the glory and attention. Also, on a similar trajectory to that of Frank Zappa, the slide into "potty humour" I find rather cheap and unnecessary. Silliness for the sake of laughs and shock and silliness is just not my cup of tea: it's one of the things that turned me sour on our own beloved and late Colin Tench as well as The Beatles and Frank Zappa. The sound production is still quite nice, the musicianship a little more relaxed and "easy," while the band retains its admirable stylistic flexibility. Don't get me wrong: I still enjoyed the music quite a lot; it's just that I fail to find the joy or purpose in producing this kind of music. I mean: Do these humans, now fifty years on, look back with any kind of pride at this album? Or does it cause more of a cringe/embarrassment factor? They can be proud of their musicianship and, I'm sure, revel in the good feelings of comaraderie for the times and compatriots involved in the creation of these times. 

Chase (1971)

If the Don Ellis Orchestra produced Blood Sweat and Tears and they composed for Broadway musicals.

Line-up / Musicians:
Bill Chase - trumpet
Ted Piercefield - trumpet, lead vocal on "Handbags and Gladrags" and "Boys and Girls Together"
Alan Ware - trumpet
Jerry Van Blair - trumpet, lead vocal on "Hello Groceries"
Phil Porter - keyboards
Dennis Johnson - bass guitar, vocals
Angel South - guitar, vocals
Jay Burrid - percussion
Terry Richards - lead vocals

1. "Open Up Wide" (3:48) amazing full-throttle brass rock. (8.875/10)

2. "Livin' In Heat" (2:54) a little Broadway musical feel to this one (as well as BS&T). I guess the lead vocals hear must be attributed to Dennis Johnson. (8.875/10)

3. "Hello Groceries" (2:56) R&B brass rock. Jerry Van Blair's lead vocal is pure R&B. (8.75/10)

4. "Handbags and Gladrags" (3:23) slowed down New Orleans funereal music start turns into New York City open air style jazz-rock. Love the wavy, layered horn arrangements in the back ground. Lead vocalist Ted Piercefield sure sounds like David Clayton Thomas. (9/10) 

5. "Get It On" (2:59) (8.666667/10)

6. "Boys and Girls Together" (2:56) Ted Piercefield again in the lead vocals. (8.666667/10)

7. "Invitation to a River" (14:13) so much like the soundtrack and arias from a single act of a Broadway musical. Even so, it would be considered great, moving theater music. (27.75/30)
a) "Two Minds Meet" - Dennis Johnson again on lead vocals?
b) "Stay" - slow and atmospheric with choral background vocals supporting Dennis' plaintive lead. 
c) "Paint It Sad" - there's that David Clayton Thomas sound and feel again.
d) "Reflections" (ad lib) -  Astounding horn play--especially from lead trumpeter Bill Chase.
e) "River" - more akin to the slow and plaintive music and lyrics of the second movement.

Total time - 33:09

The horn play is amazing throughout this album--so crisp and clear, creative and powerful--but the songs aren't always as engaging and are rarely inventive or forward-thinking (except for the horn arrangements) as some of the other J-R Fusion artists of the day. I feel that Bill and company's compositional and stylistic orientations are quite similar to the music Stephen Schwartz was doing for musical theater.

91.02 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of theatric brass rock. 

DREAMS Dreams (1970)

Jazz-infused rock music in the CHICAGO/BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS vein from New York City. 

Line-up / Musicians:
Michael Brecker - Tenor Sax & Flute
Randy Brecker - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Billy Cobham - Drums & Percussion
Jeff Kent - Keyboards, Guitar & Vocals
Doug Lubahn - Bass & vocals
Barry Rogers - Trombone & Wagner Tuba
Edward Vernon - Vocals
John Abercrombie - Lead Guitar

1. "Devil Lady" (3:33) a very concise BS&T-modeled song. (I get the very distinct feeling that the iconic LaBelle song, "Lady Marmalade" pretty much lifted the music from this song,.) Solid song that might have deserved radio airplay. (8.75/10)

2. "15 Miles to Provo" (3:01) a more mainstream pop-oriented song of the CHICAGO, Jimmy Webb or Eric Burden orientation--except for the elaborate play of the horn section that joins in (and dominates) late in the first minute. Besides the dynamic (though oddly engineered) horn play, I like the organ play here from Jeff Kent. (8.75/10)

3. "The Maryanne" (2:25) a very pretty strummed-acoustic guitar-based love song, bass and horns join Doug Lubahn and Edward Vernon as the song progresses. Nice. (9.25/10)

4. "Holli Be Home" (5:42) delicate cymbal play with electric guitar harmonics makes for a very pretty opening. "Distant" horns join in before Ed Vernon takes the lead in vocals. He's mixed a little into the back of the mix--sounding like a song from Broadway's Godspell. The horns are so amazing in support--even getting lead time third minute's instrumental passage (with electric guitar and Tenor Sax). Such a well-constructed song; too bad the sound mix is a little off. Nice song! (9.25/10)

5. "Try Me" (5:10) hard driving jazz-infused rock music with Sly Stone-like vocals, very tight, dynamic, and essential horn play, solid bass play, and emphatic drum play. Watch out world: here is Billy Cobham! (9/10)

6. "Dream Suite: Asset Stop/Jane/Crunchy Granola" (15:21) the first movement is a totally-R&B groove with tenor sax to start it out before the band chimes in and supports vocalist Edward Vernon on a very David Clayton-Thomas-like bluesy-rock performance. The wild horn interplay in the brief instrumental passage in the fourth minute is quite remarkable--and it continues after Ed's next soulful passage. (A great vocal performance here, by the way.)
     The transition into the second movement, "Jane" is quite murky--almost uneventful as the band members just seem to peter out. At the end of nearly a minute of this nebulous amorphous pool the band reemerges with a more blues-oriented song. One simply cannot help but notice the dextrous skill of these musicians in so many instances of this album, here Billy Cobham's lightning fast fills and the horn players' remarkably precise accents. 
     The third and final movement of this is hard-drivin' jazz-rock fusion, "Crunchy Granola," sounds like it could come from Side One of CHICAGO's 1969 debut album, Chicago Transit Authority--the most accomplished and jazz-rock side of that wonderful album. Billy really gets to shine here beneath all of the funky elements interplaying above. It presents as a long high speed jam until the final two minutes when the music again devolves into the kind of soup of malaise that occurred at the end of the first movement--but is now rescued by an impressive Billy Cobham drum solo. Cool! Wish it had all been as catchy and dynamic as that first movement. (26.5/30)

7. "New York" (5:43) announced by a repeated horn bank chord before dynamic bass, drums and keys jump in--with choral vocals singing a very engaging melody with anthemic lyrics. Great organ and tenor sax performances in the first instrumental passage, trumpet in the second, electric guitar in the third. Such a great, lively tune! The horns, bass, and group vocals are the definite winners here! (9.75/10)

These musicians are so well-adapted to one another --and the horns are incredibly tight when they need to be yet incredibly skilled when they contribute as individuals.

90.278 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of incredibly well-performed jazz-infused rock music from a veritable all-star lineup of future Hall of Fame artists. 

KORNI GRUPA (KORNYLANS) Korni Grupa (1972)

An early fan-favorite from Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Zlatko Pejakovic / lead vocals
- Josip Bocek / electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals, arrangements (1)
- Kornelije Kovac / organ, piano, electric piano, harpsichord, vibes, backing vocals
- Bojan Hreljac / bass, percussion
- Vladimir Furduj / drums, congas, tambourine

1. "Glas sa obale boje" (4:27) except for the two tracks devoted to THIN LIZZY-like "twin" guitars, this song sounds like a song from a GRAND FUNK RAILROAD album of this time. Nothing Jazz-Rock Fusion about this bombastic prog-related song. (But it may have been popular in Yugoslavia). (8.5/10)

2. "Put na istok" (14:20)  (26.66667/30):
- Prvi dan - more solid proto-prog like blues-rock sounding like something coming from Latin America at the same time. (8.5/10)
- Drugi dan - shifting a bit into slightly more funk and jazziness--and then TRAFFIC-like, then back to blues-rock with a little more power. (8.6667/10)
- Dilema - the BANCO MUTUO SOCCORSO (or AREA) comparisons are warranted for this gentle little baroque keyboard-centric movement. (4.5/5)
- Zemlja - AREA might be the more appropriate band to compare the final movement to--especially dute to the hard-infusion of Serbian/Balkan/Ottoman music. (5/5)

3. "Moj bol" (10:27) more disciplined jazz-rock with true jazz foundations, electric instrumentation as well as Serbian percussion play. Vocals joining in during the second and third minutes again feel very RPI-like--the whole song's vibe becoming much more BANCO-like from here on despite some very TRAFFIC/"Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" passages. Nice searing electric guitar soloing in the eighth minute. Quite an excellent and deeply satisfying song. (18.5/20)

4. "Bezglave Ja-Ha horde" (6:46) more nice-flowing Jazz-Rock Fusion that is a  vehicle for vocals from the very start--again giving it a very RPI sound and feeling. But it's so good! The vocalist has the voice and talent quite like AREA leader DEMETRIO STRATOS! If this had appeared on an RPI album during the same year it would have been an instant classic! (14.5/15)

5. "Tata Ko i mama Spo" (4:12) opening like a GEORGE HARRISON song, guitars (acoustic strumming, "weeping" electric soloing in the background). Full band joins in as vocalist starts to sing his powerful. voice--this time reminding me very much of LOS JAIVAS' lead vocalist Eduardo "Gato" Alquinta on the Pablo Naruda album. It's okay for a 1960s blues/folk rock song. (8.5/10)

Total Time 40:12

Not pure Jazz-Rock Fusion, more of an eclectic run through early blues-rock prog rock with some jazz-infusions and, more, lots of local ethnic melodies and styles as well as ethnic Serbian instruments. There are more instances of the band showing its being inspired by Grand Funk, Traffic, Santana, and Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso than any jazz-rock fusion band. 

90.20 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of early but eclectic (and imitative) prog music.  

CHICAGO Chicago Transit Authority (1969)

The debut album by the group from the city of its name--a group whose seven founding members would stay the same through ten years and eleven studio albums (one a "greatest hits")--until the tragic death of singer-guitarist Terry Kath (one of Jimi Hendrix's most respected and studied guitarists). A pretty remarkable phenomenon.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Terry Kath / electric & acoustic guitars, lead (1,9,12) & backing vocals
- Robert Lamm / piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond, Hohner pianet, maracas, lead (2-11) & backing vocals
- Lee Loughnane / trumpet, claves, backing vocals
- James Pankow / trombone, cowbell, brass arrangements
- Walter Parazaider / saxophones, tambourine, backing vocals
- Peter Cetera / bass, lead (4,9,11) & backing vocals, agogo bells
- Daniel Seraphine / drums, percussion

LP 1
Side One ("The Jazz-Rock Fusion Side")
1. "Introduction" (6:35) a mostly-instrumental song that does exactly what the title says: introducing the band and its complex, multi-layered Jazz-Rock Fusion orientation. The displays of time signatures, variety of mood motifs, with some very complex layering and stellar individual performances fully demonstrate the virtuosity of the collective which, then, reflects on the talents of all of the individuals as well. For me it's the playing of drummer Daniel Seraphine, bass player Peter Cetera, and trombonist James Pankow that really stand out. The septet is so tight! Absolutely brilliant! What an album opener! (9.75/10)

2. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" (4:35) Robert Lamm's jazzy solo lounge piano in the opening 75 seconds is definitely misleading for what is to come. What a big, anthemic song it becomes! Lee Loughnane's trumpet looms so big over the top! And then there are the timeless lyrics as sung so powerfully by Robert Lamm. (Great b vox, too!) And then, of course, there are the iconic horns. Wow!(9.5/10)

3. "Beginnings" (7:54) one of the best/my favorite J-R Fuse songs of all-time. Terry Kath's acoustic rhythm guitar performance is one of the strongest you'll ever hear. The horns are perfect throughout--even moreso in the closing jam--as is Peter Cetera's rock-solid bass and Daniel Seraphine's drums--but the closing jam's vocal chant and percussion play is so rollicking fun: as infectious as anything Santana ever played on stage! (15/15)

Side Two ("The Blues-Rock Side")
4. "Questions 67 and 68" (5:03) A very cool composition that is, in my opinion, flawed a bit by the incongruity of Terry Kath's dirty-distorted (though dynamic) lead guitar play with the pristine clarity of the piano and vocals of Peter Cetera. The bass and horn blasts are a good match for Terry's lightning guitar runs, and the song, overall, is quite engaging--especially with sections like the "Up, Up and Away" motif in the third minute--but there are inconsistencies. (9/10)

5. "Listen" (3:22) blues rock with Latin percussion arrangement. This song feels as if was written five or six years before and revived for this album as one of the final fillers to make it a double album. One of Robert Lamm's raspy-raunchier vocal performances. The musicians just don't do enough to elevate it to the level established by the first three songs. (8.5/10)

6. "Poem 58" (8:35) interesting that this little-considered song is the band's longest of the first disc of their debut album. Rooted in R&B, Terry Kath, Peter Cetera, and Danny Seraphine set themselves up as a little power trio à la CREAM or the BAND OF GYPSYS so that Terry can show off more of his guitar skills and ideas. I imagine this to be one of the songs to have earned Jimi Hendrix's notice and adulation. At 4:50 the band's palette and orientation changes quite radically as the rhythm section opens up and slows down and the horns join in. Vocals and background vocals take over the foreground for a minute before Terry's searing blues-rock lead moves into the very front of the song while the other instrumentalists maintain their support with a James-Brown-like motif. And to think that, lyrically, this turns out to be a love "poem" just strikes me as odd and incongruous. (There is a little incongruity and unaddressed, even subliminal, conflict within several of the Chicago songs.) (17.5/20)

LP 2
Side One ("Terry Kath's Side")
7. "Free Form Guitar" (6:47) I was always fascinated by this song in my early teens: first of all for its experimental sound(s), but also for the fact that a band and record company would allow a song like this to A) be recorded, B) be considered for representation on an album to be published, and B) finally included on the internationally-published and marketed vinyl product. The cajones! Musically, this is mostly listenable as a curio, a time-capsule representation of the skills and technological experimentation and capacity available in 1968-69. (13/15)

8. "South California Purples" (6:11) I got to know and love this song because I played this side of CTA to death: I LOVED "I'm a Man," was fascinated by "Free Form Guitar" and really enjoyed the DEEP PURPLE-like simple bass, guitar, and drum pattern and the solos that could be played over and within it. (8.875/10)

9. "I'm A Man" (7:43) an absolutely iconic cover of Steve Winwood's famous song originally released by the Spencer Davis Group in January of 1967. Terry Kath's performances--on both electric guitar and vocal--are nothing short of ground-breaking--and the percussion work, organ, and background vocal performances are not far behind. (14/15)

Side Two ("The Political Side")
10. "Prologue (August 29, 1968)" (0:58) Led by the famous "The whole world is watching" crowd chant from the Democratic National Convention hosted by the city of Chicago in 1968, the band then tries to make sense of the events through song and lyric with the following song.

11. Someday (August 29, 1968)" (4:11) The band's processing of the events of the crowd demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. (8.75/10)

12. "Liberation" (14:38) the album's longest song, 7:45 of it is a power rock guitar jam, the second part turns more bluesy but that ninth minute seems to revert into a vehicle for more of Terry Kath's free-form guitar --or at least it threatens to do so: this time the rest of the band members are right on board with Terry, presenting their own creative sounds to try to match or support Terry's acid-psych tripping. Then, from 11:30, the music breaks down into very lovely gentle blues-rock jam. (Is this where some of Dutch band FOCUS got their ideas?) I love the genuine emotion of Terry's "Thank you, People" before the frenetic Chuck Berry finale. (26.333333/30)

Total Time: 76:36

This album had/has such a different feel than any/all other Chicago albums (even the half-jazzy VII or the avant/RIO II); it is a true collection of experimental/progressive songs--many of which are on the jazz-rock side of the spectrum. From start to finish each song is testing boundaries, pushing composers' and performer's limits. The fact that radio play was achieved by any of these songs is miraculous cuz they're all long songs (much longer than the proscribed 2-3 minute AM pop standard), yet I heard over half of these songs on the FM radio in my home town of Detroit. (Thank you, WABX!)
     The double album's first side is it's most thorough and complex whole-band rendering of some very advanced compositions--truly befitting of the new jazz-and-rock fusion movement. Side Two presents three songs that sound much more representational of an older, more foundational "blues-rock" incarnation of the band. Side Three seems to bend/cater to the band's most experimental member, guitarist Terry Kath. (I think they all understood what a genius they had in the form of Terry.) Side Four seems to allow the band to express the angsty zeitgeist of the Vietnam/Civil Rights/Nixon times. This does not make a fully or even partially perfect "jazz-rock fusion" album, but there are definitely lots of musical elements being fused into this album's whole.

89.45 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; rated up for creativity and sheer guts; a minor masterpiece of early or proto-jazz-rock fusion.

WIGWAM Fairyport 

The the this is the founding quartet's third album since forming in 1968, it is their first to fully satisfy all of the requirements of inclusion into the Jazz-Rock Fusion and/or Progressive Rock music categories. Their version of jazz-rock fusion is far simpler, far more melody-driven and even pop-friendly than the stuff coming out of Herbie Hancock or the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jukka Gustavson / vocals, acoustic & electric pianos, organ
- Jim Pembroke / vocals, harmonica, piano (2,12), electric piano (14)
- Pekka Pohjola / bass, violins, acoustic guitar (10), piano (8-9), celeste & harpsichord (9), backing vocals (3)
- Ronnie Österberg / drums, congas, percussion, backing vocals (3)
- Jukka Tolonen / guitar (2,7,13)
- Eero Koivistoinen / soprano saxophone
- Pekka Pöyry / soprano saxophone
- Tapio Louhensalo / bassoon
- Risto Pensola / clarinet
- Hannu Sexelin / clarinet
- Unto Haapa-aho / bass clarinet
- Ilmari Varila / oboe

1. "Losing Hold" (7:06) though the whole band plays tight, cohesive music throughout this song, it is the Canterbury-like keyboards of Jukka Gustavson that lead and draw the most notice. The lead vocals (assuming they're by Jim Pembroke due to their being English) are quite similar to those early vocals of prog icons Peter Gabriel and Roye Albrighton. I love the melodies of this song if not-so-much the bluesy-organ-rock style. Prog Hall-of-Famer Pekka Pohjola's bass prowess really shines in the instrumental second half. (14.25/15)

2. "Lost Without A Trace" (2:29) delicate vocal with piano accompaniment--all by Jim Pembroke. (8.75/10)

3. "Fairyport" (6:53) theatric Elvis Costello-like vocals over piano with the combo in relatively sedate attendance; this is truly a pop song. It's not until the 2:20 mark when a lounge-jazz piano style takes the band into a lounge jazz style not unlike that of Vince Guaraldi. When the lead instrument becomes a dirty organ at 3:25 the music turns full blues-rock--old blues rock. Too bad. Luckily it turns another corner at 5:05 into a. chamber/folk type of music with oboe and clarinet before reverting to the Elvis Costello motif for the final minute. (13.5/15)

4. "Gray Traitors" (2:48) a song that starts out sounding very much like a vehicle for one of PeterGabriel's weird little stories, eventually turns symphonic instrumental for the next song to continue. (8.875/10)

5. "Caffkaff, The Country Psychologist" (5:22) piano and voice, with the piano chords following the vocal melody almost note for note--at least for the first 90 seconds. Then organ joins in but can't quite extricate the main melody/motif from those note-for-note piano chords. It feels more like a bare-bones practice for a song intended for a stage musical. At 2:39 the percussion and electric piano, then organ, try to hijack the music over to a jazz idiom--unsuccessfully for the first 45 seconds but then accomplished, moving the mood into a more DAVE BRUBECK "Take Five" like motif. Pekka's bass playing finally gets to shine a little bit despite the three keyboards maintaining dominance over the solos. (8.75/10)

6. "May Your Will Be Done Dear Lord" (5:28) this one seems to be based over a CAROLE KING-like piano chord progression. Organ, flute, bass and drums are not, however, being forced to follow along--are given freedom to fill space with their own melodious lines. The vocal is more plaintive, less confident and theatric. The sax and other wind instruments' contribution in the fifth minute is awesome! A very engaging song that ends up being a bit too loose and unpolished for high marks. (8.875/10)

7. "How To Make It Big In Hospital" (3:01) The band's attempt at either the Rolling Stones or Velvet Underground?! Nice bass work from Pekka. (8.6666667/10)

8. "Hot Mice" (3:19) a very nice, melodic lounge music that has the trademark changes of late 1960s Broadway musical--like Steven Schwartz or Burt Bacharach. (9/10)

9. "P.K.'s Supermarket" (2:20) polka style rhythm tracks over which barrel-hall piano plays. Sounds very French--though it's also very light and happy-go-lucky. I really like this! (4.75/5)

10. "One More Try" (3:26) more music theatre storytelling with voice paired up with piano, chord for chord. It's engaging and intimate, but then after the 1:30 mark the music takes a turn into post-Beat jazz with congas and Hammond organ being accompanied by drums and Pekka's great bass play. At the end of the third minute the music switches back to the opening motif but stays instrumental--never returns to vocal message-carrying. (8.875/10)

11. "Rockin' Ol' Galway" (2:27) sounds like something from Dr. John or the quirkier side of Peter Gabriel ("Counting out Time," "La Dolce Vita," or excuse me) as well as something like but too melodic and pretty for Frank Zappa. Once again Pekka Pohjola's bass play is quite remarkable. (8.875/10)

12. "Every Fold" (3:07) multiple voice vocals carry this tune over piano, bass, and drums. Distant organ and heavily-effected NEKTAR-like voice join in the background during the second minute. It ends up sounding almost like a BEATLES song. (8.75/10)

13. "Rave-Up For The Roadies" (17:20) * now this is different: the band really jamming like a JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE song--for seventeen long guitar-dominated minutes (raunchy electric guitar play courtesy of guest Jukka Tolonen). Though multi-themed and not too far off from the sound and musical style of the PINK FAIRIES, this is really not my cup of tea. (30.33333/35)

* Recorded Live at Hämis Club, Helsinki, 6th June 1971

Total Time: 65:35

88.94 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent progressive rock album; I'm not going to be able to include this in my Jazz-Rock Fusion lists due to its much greater pop-orientation. This is more like a cross between lounge jazz, 1960s Off-Broadway Music Theater, and Canterbury Style: playful, melodic music for the masses. 


The Finnish band's fourth studio album but first since several members had flown off to try solo projects of their own (Pekka's 1974 release, Pihkasilmâ Kaarnakorva being the most notable). A collection of songs that show the band members' (Jim Pembroke's) movement away melodic, mainstream music theater toward a more humorous and satirical Frank Zappa and Canterbury form of musical expression. The first four songs of Side One flow one song into the next without formal breaks, giving the impression of a conceptually-sequenced suite. The music is far more sophisticated than those on their previous albums--jazzy but more quirky and prone to very sudden--and quite frequent, unannounced--melodic and stylistic shifts. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jim Pembroke / vocals, voice, piano (3,10)
- Jukka Gustavson / vocals, piano, organ, Mini-Moog & VCS-3 synths
- Pekka Pohjola / bass, violin, piano (4), Mini-Moog (7)
- Ronnie Österberg / drums, percussion, backing vocals (3)
- Taisto Wesslin / acoustic guitar
- Unto Haapa-aho / bass clarinet
- Paavo Honkanen / clarinet
- Pentti Lasanen / clarinet, flute
- Juhani Aaltonen / solo flute
- Erik Danholm / flute
- Kai Veisterä / flute
- Pentti Lahti / flute
- Seppo Paakkunainen / flute
- Pekka Pöyry / soprano sax, flute
- Ilmari Varila / oboe
- Aale Lingren / oboe
- Juhani Tapaninen / bassoon
- Jukka Ruohomäki / VCS-3 assistance
- Erkki Kurenniemi / VCS-3 assistance

1. "Proletarian" (2:10) (4.375/5)
2. "Inspired Machine" (1:25) back to music theater? cabaret music? (4.375/5)

3. "Petty-Bourgeois" (2:58) like something straight out of a HATFIELD AND THE NORTH album--only with the vocal theatricity of Peter Gabriel. (8.875/10)

4. "Pride of the Biosphere" (3:15) pure vocal theatre--all performed over solo theatre organ. (8.875/10)

5. "Pedagogue" (9:11) definitely music that could have come from one of the Canterbury Scene's vocal masters: The early Soft Machine, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North or Caravan--perhaps more this latter band, though the vocal sounds more like something IAN ANDERSON would've done around this same time with Jethro Tull. (18/20)

6. "Crisader" (4:47) the next song sounds like a little more organ-dominated continuation of the previous song. (8.75/10)

7. "Planetist" (3:08) an instrumental in which the wind instruments play a huge role. Very FOCUS-like.  (9/10)

8. "Maestro Mercy" (2:32) flowing straight out of "Planetist," Jim's vocal here seems to harken back to some late 1960s blues-rock psychedelia--the organ-based opening like PROCOL HARUM. (9/10)

9. "Prophet" (6:11) another more-vocal/lyrics driven song that has some very nice music to fill the copious spaces between the lyrics. Nice to hear the vast improvements in sound engineering as well the band members' new instrument acquisitions. (8.875/10)

10. "Marvelry Skimmer" (2:32) another song that launches without break straight out of the previous song, this one is much more blues-centric as the organ and LEON RUSSELL-like vocal lead the way over the fairly straightforward 1960s blues-rock dirge. (8.75/10)

Total Time 38:09

I would have to categorize this music as more consistent with the parameters of avant/RIO music vocal or early vocal Canterbury music (à la Robert Wyatt or Kevin Ayers). The music is all ver ypleasant--very melodic--and highly entertaining, and the musicianship of the contributors is top notch (which is necessary to accomplish such demanding, sophisticated song structures). I love the band's improved sound engineering as well as the assorted new instruments they've added to their repertoire--and I love the confidence Jim Pembroke has gained in his quirky vocal storytelling as well as the band's new proclivity for more complicated time and key signature shifting. There are a lot of significant steps forward the band has made to get here--for which I offer my sincerest admiration and congratulations.  

88.875 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; of all the WIGWAM albums, this is easily my favorite. However, it is another album that I won't be able in good conscience to include in my Jazz-Rock Fusion lists--not because it's not prog: no! It's pure prog but far more of a Canterbury or avant garde/RIO nature than J-R Fuse. Still, highly entertaining and highly recommended.

MANEIGE Maneige (1975)

 The Québecois scene of progressive rock is really catching fire at the time that these six gentlemen are coming together for their first studio album.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Denis Lapierre / acoustic & electric guitars
- Jérôme Langlois / piano, organ, clarinet
- Alain Bergeron / flute, saxophone
- Yves Léonard / acoustic & electric basses
- Gilles Schetagne / drums, percussion
- Vincent Langlois / percussion, piano (4)

1. "Le Rafiot" (21:22) Any fan of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway's "The Waiting Room" will be loving the opening four minutes to this great side-long epic. After that exhibition of percussion interplay, the band members' classical training really comes out (though there are slight hints of folk and jazz influences). The pianist, Jérôme Langlois, seems to be the leader (Is he using an upright piano?), but the contributions of the bass guitarist, flutist, and tuned percussionist(s) are not insignificant. There are similarities to Dutch band FOCUS' more acoustic-grounded songs, as well as to British proggers, RENAISSANCE, but there is also so much from classical and folk traditions: at times I feel as if I'm hearing a small orchestra's coverage of some obscure AARON COPELAND piece. More technically accomplished than emotionally-appealing, this does deserve high marks for performance and composition. (36/40)

2. "Une Année Sans Fin" (6:39) a kind of cabaret or vaudevile jazz piece that has real suggestions of avant garde/Rock-In -Opposition intentions, this one becomes more melodic and engaging in some of its short-lived motifs used during the second and third minutes. Nice JON CAMP-like electric bass play. I have to admit that I am quite surprised at how central the flutes and xylophones are. (8.75/10)

3. "Jean-Jacques" (4:13) barrel-hall piano that is trying to sound classical, is soon joined by bass, xylophone, drums, and flute. There are classical, folk, and jazz elements used throughout this one. Again, the electric bass has a familiar JON CAMP feel to it while some of the main motifs feel like 21st Century Greek artist, CICCADA. (8.875/10)

4. "Galerie III" (7:50) drums and xylophone open like something orchestra but then woodwind horns give it a whole other texture. A brief section of heavy bass chords in the second minute let you know that this song is not going to be but rather something quite more oriented to the avant-garde stylings becoming explored in England, France, and the Low Countries at this time. There are several extended parts that are more melodic, more mellow, offset by several more heavy-rock parts. An interesting song. Like its title, I think we're catching snapshots of several disparate styles just as one might if you moved from room to room in an art gallery. An odd thing to try to make into a song! (13/15)

Total time 40:04

88.83 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent debut album of avant and classical-founded music coming from some very well-trained French-Canadian musicians. Though this album is definitely on the more-classical and even jazz-oriented edges of the 1970s prog scene, it's just not jazzy enough to qualify, in my opinion, for the Jazz-Rock Fusion lists.

HANNIBAL Hannibal (1970) 

A jazz-rock one off from Birmingham. The musicians were obviously inspired by COLOSSEUM, CHICAGO, and BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS as well as PROCOL HARUM, The SPENCER DAVIS GROUP and even Andrew LLOYD-WEBER.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alex Boyce / vocals
- Adrian Ingram / lead guitar, composer
- Bill Hunt / Hammond organ, French horn
- Cliff Williams / tenor saxophone, clarinet
- Jack Griffits / bass
- John Parkes / drums

1. "Look Upon Me" (6:13) Oh! The bluesy kind of jazz-rock, not really what I'd call fusion. The music shifts to BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS territory for the second motif and chorus (part of which sounds as if it is intentionally lifted from Andrew LLOYD WEBER's Jesus Christ Superstar: Jesus' emotional performance in the "Garden of Gethsemane" scene (and song). There's quite a little of The Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" in there, too. Nice musicianship and pretty good sound reproduction throughout. (8.75/10)

2. "Winds of Change" (7:26) more music that feels as if it's on the verge of going PROCOL HARUM or ANIMALS with some nice (and original) melodic singing over the top of interesting, subtly shifting and changing instrumental performances beneath. The slower middle section sounds a lot like The SPENCER DAVIS GROUP, even when it picks up. The sound of the Hammond organ is so domineering despite the wonderfully performed and mixed bass and drums. The guitar and horn accents are pretty cool, too. The final sections up the tempo while letting the instrumentalists go unrestricted for a bit. Great blues-feeling song. (13.5/15)

3. "Bend for a Friend" (10:27) opens with a guitar and bass riff that sounds like a Sergio Leone film score. The rest of the band joins in and proceed to set up a motif that is quite stereotypic for what we consider "Indian music"--that is, the music of Native Americans (as depicted, of course, in the soundtracks of film and the occasional Indian-themed hit song). At the three-minute mark the motif switches to a different, more strident and jazzy interpretation of yet another fairly familiar N.A. melodic theme. Guitarist Adrian Ingram goes a bit crazy on his electric guitar, again bridging the jazz and blues-rock worlds throughout his solo: part Hendrix, part Johnny Mac (or Randy California). At the 5:30 mark there is another, rather radical thematic change--this one feeling as if we've started a completely different song. It's cinematic like something befitting a B-movie horror flick. At 6:30 we again stop to listen to a solo saxophone solo: that's right: a solo with absolutely no accompaniment. Finally, 45-seconds in drummer John Parker joins saxophonist Cliff Williams' chorused woodwind. Then in the tenth minute the rest of the band throbs their way back in before lining up to finish the song with original pseudo-Native American motif. Interesting song. (17.5/20)

4. "1066" (6:28) (a reference, I take it, to either the Norman Invasion or the Battle of Hastings.) opens with a bluesy motif beneath Alex's recitation of words and terms tied into the year 1066. But then the music turns anachronistic--almost "mediæval"--with flutes, bass, organ, and harpsichord and a Michael Giles-like drumming touch. I find this anachronistic motif the most interesting and favorite of the album. Next is a rather spacious percussion-dominated passage that is quite reminiscent of King Crimson's quiet passage in The Court of the Crimson King's "Moonchild." Bass and drums get their time in the spotlight here. Hearing this makes me wonder if Carl Palmer and Greg Lake heard this song before (finally) rendering Greg's 10-year old song "Lucky Man" to tape. A very interesting song that never really seems to gel into something consistent or cohesive. (8.875/10)

5. "Wet Legs" (4:44) a kind of jazzy intro morphs into another Blues-Rock riff-based alternating four-chord progression. In the second minute of this completely-instrumental song there is a temporary detour down a jazzy sidestreet, but then we return fairly quickly to the original motif for some funky organ play and slow ROBIN TROWER-like guitar soloing (ending in "The Note": a single guitar note that is held for 45 seconds of slow decay while the organ continues to bounce around rather excitedly). The two motifs cycle around a couple more times before the song cashes out. (8.875/10)

6. "Winter" (8:06) a song that sits on the fence from its very opening notes as to whether it's prog or J-R Fusion, soon reveals its (surprise!) blues-rock nature. Syncopated drumming is the only truly jazzy element over the first few minutes as a descending four-chord motif beneath vocalist Alex Boyce's R&B voice drives the song until the instrumental vamp of the fourth and fifth minutes. Here a different rock rhythm motif is played beneath Alex Ingram's guitar soloing. The dude has obviously had some training in both blues and jazz guitar play (and may revere artists like Wes Montgomery and John Mayall) as he unleashes a truly nicely evolving solo over the course of its three minute length. Then the band suddenly stops and lays down a very spacious, mellow, and gorgeous gentle JIMMY WEBB-like  motif to finish the song with. Great song though I wouldn't really call this Jazz-Rock Fusion--or even Jazz-Rock. (13.5/15)

Total Time 43:24

88.75 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent album of well-crafted, superlatively-performed, and nicely-recorded Blues-Rock-moving-into-Jazz-Rock songs. Highly recommended to all lovers of progressive rock--especially if you're into the origins and development of Progressive Rock Music.

EMERGENCY Entrance (1972)

An album of brass-enhanced pop jazz-rock music not unlike that of Blood Sweat and Tears: the band's lead singer John Redpath's voice is pretty much a dead ringer for that of David Clayton Thomas. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Hanus Berka / Saxophone, flute, keyboards, mellotron
- Frank Diez / Guitar
- Otto Bezloja / Bass
- Jiøí Matousek  / Keyboards
- John Redpath / Drums, vocals,
- Curt Cress / Drums

1. "Why Am I Doin' It" (7:50) built a bit more like CHICAGO's version of "I'm a Man" this one rocks, it rolls, and it blues-rocks, it even jazz-rocks a little. Nice Terry KATH/David CLAYTON THOMAS vocal from drummer John Redpath but the song does over-stay its welcome a bit despite saxophonist Hanus Berkas enthusiastic play. (13.25/15)

2. "Happiness" (7:00) piano-based blues rock that sounds very Southern USA like the Allman Brothers, Leon Russell, Dr. John, or even Van Morrison. (12.75/15)

3. "Journey" (7:30) a very-Sixties Bay area-sounding blues rocker built over a repeating three-chord piano arpeggi does ramp up for a bit in the third minute form some brass-rock before reverting to the original motif for some bluesy piano pounding. Nice recording engineering delivering clear tracks for each and every one of the instruments. Very solid. (13.5/15)

4. "Emergency Entrance" (11:20) opens with a nice weave of drums, percussion and bass before weird mosquito-like synth joins in with piano and rhythm guitar. Flute takes the next solo (I'm assuming that the mosquito-synth was intended as the first) with mostly-percussion backing. A bit like instrumental palette and sound beneath Van MORRISON's "Moondance"--or if it were extended into an instrumental jam. Organ, piano, saxophone (briefly), and electric guitar get the next solos, in that order--all of it pretty "raunchy" (though cleanly recorded). It's a nice song for displaying the capabilities of the band's individuals. The second movement of the song is pure blues--with saxes, low-end guitar, and organ takin' us into the Swamp. There is crescendos at in the tenth minute with some whole-band blasts and then some high-tailin' runnin' out for the final minute. (17.5/20)

5. "Killin' Time" (10:20) a two-part suite that starts out quite gently, even emotionally beautiful reminding me of some of NEKTAR's more tender moments. John Redpath's vocals are also very gentle--like BOZ SCAGGS on "Harbor Lights." But then the song jumps into a different gear, coming together for some more Southern Rock bordering on Chicago melodically. Here John's vocal is much more than something from an Allman Brothers or Blood, Sweat and Tears album. After a brief saxophone solo the song moves into its second phase: this one more organ-based and organ-dominated like something from an early Brian Auger or ROD ARGENT jam. Jiøí Matousek is a very talented organist! Sax takes the next solo--here reminding me of why I don't like this overgrown kazoo. I have to admit that overall this is a pretty cool song. (18.25/20)

Total time: 44:00

While I came here because of my deep dive into Jazz-Rock Fusion--something this album is NOT--I have to admit that I really enjoyed this experience. My several listens through Entrance has helped soften my rather dismissive "complex" against blues-rock. 

88.53 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent album of proggy/jazzy Blues-Rock music--one of the best of its kind that I've heard.

CHASE Pure Music (1974)

The third and final album from this stellar group of brass rock musicians.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bill Chase / trumpet, electric trumpet, flugel horn
- Jay Sollenberger / trumpet
- Joe Morrissey / trumpet
- Jim Oatts / trumpet
- Wally Yohn / keyboards
- John Emma / guitar, vocals
- Dartanyan Brown / bass, vocals
- Tom Gordon / drums
- Jim Peterik / vocals

1. "Weird Music No. 1" (5:38) as if trying to meld several style/traditions together at once--over a kind of Spanish foundation. Weird? Yes. Remarkable. Also yes. Great (and inventive) horn arrangements with the weird synth (and keyboard) work of Wally Yohn. I love the big horn build up around the four-minute mark before backing off for bass and tubular bells to fill beneath as more weird keyboard sounds gradually join in. Interesting. (8.875/10)

2. "Run Back To Mama" (3:11) a BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS revival/update song. (8.75/10)

3. "Twinkles" (7:12) swirling piano arpeggi with beautifully melodic flugelhorn soloing over the top. bass and drums join in in the second minute. At the four minute mark everybody backs out so that the bass player, Dartanyan Brown, can have an extended solo all on his own. The others slowly rejoin in the fifth  minute, at first in support but then merging into a variation of the song's original Alice Coltrane-like motif. (13.25/15)

4. "Bochawa" (5:47) uptempo blues-rock music with weird synth and support from the band of horns. Nice horn solos between two trumpets as the other trumpets accent and support from behind. The song builds and builds in intensity into the fourth minute before a very funky Hammond organ solo takes over the lead. The horn section gradually rejoin--at first as if far in the background, but then stepping closer and closer to the front. Pretty cool stuff! Did I mention how great the bass and drums are? It seems as if everybody is screaming at the top of their volume scales in the last minute. Great horns and solos over kind of standard musical foundation. (8.875/10)

5. "Love Is On The Way" (3:45) okay vocal song probably meant to be radio-friendly. (8.5/10)

6. "Close Up Tight" (7:36) built over a funk groove from the rhythm section that sounds as if it were lifted from CHICAGO's "Introduction" from their 1969 debut album, Chicago Transit Authority. Not up to the dynamic and enthusiastic standard set by the original. I love the experimental synth sound used by Wally Yohn in his extended solo in the fifth and sixth minutes: it may, in fact, have saved the song for me! (13.25/15)

Total time 33:39

This album sounds far more commercial and radio-oriented and far less Stephen Schwartz-like. 

87.86 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you love amazingly tight arrangements of top notch brass sections. 

FROM 0611 Cat Quarter (1971)

Early German blues-jazz obviously inspired by the new electric developments coming from New York City as well as the portable electric organ work of some of the extraordinary keyboard players who were pushing boundaries in the late1960s. One thing that makes this album stand out is that it is made up entirely of original compositions--mostly by saxophonist Gustl Mayr.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Gustl Mayr / tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, composer
- Dieter Von Goetze / electric bass
- Kurt Bong / percussion, drums
- Klaus Gobel / organ, composition (1) 

1. "Lollipop Mainliner" (4:22) sounds so Sixties-ish: like a mash up of "surf rock" and organ blues-rock. The construct definitely comes from the blues idiom. Interesting long slow down at the three-minute mark followed by the reprise-restart of the main theme to close. (8.75/10)

2. "Goose Pimples" (4:42) opens up sounding like a variation on Gerwshin's "Porgy and Bess," but then it goes full blues with some soprano saxophone soloing above the organ, bass, and drums. Organ takes over the lead soloing throughout the second minute before giving way to the sax again. (8.75/10)

3. "Chicks" (4:25) James Brown-like R&B--like "Mustang Sally" with a slight influx of surfer music. (8.5/10)

4. "Gargoyle" (4:46) the closest song to proto-prog Blues-Rock like something Brian Auger, Rod Argent, or even Keith Emerson might do. Gustl Mayr's wonderful soprano sax play is more akin to that of John Coltrane. This song really swings! My favorite song on the album. (9/10)

5. "Mood Blue" (4:10) a great movin' Jazz-Rock piece which really showcases Klaus Gobel's talents on the organ. The chorus bridge is a bit like the structure and chords of Steve Winwood's "I'm a Man." (8.875/10)

Side Two: "Fancy Suite" :
6. "Cat Quarter" (5:49) more organ and sax supporting jazzy R&B. (8.75/10)

7. "Dig It" (5:28) old-time blues construct that was probably very popular in the band's local beer halls. Sax gets the lead over the standard jazz drumming and fret-walking bass line but, of course, Klaus gets his time in the sun as well. (8.6666667/10)

8. "Fancy Soul" (5:15) opens with some adventurous bass play before sax, brushed drums, and sustained organ chords join in. This is jazz from the deep South: sad and emotive. Nice work from bassist Dieter Von Goetze and Gustl Mayr on the soprano sax--and I really like Klaus's restrained, respectful organ: giving full support and shine to Gustl. At the halfway point Gustl takes over the lead, mirroring Dieter's melody lines with great care and respect while still adding his virtuosic riffs and flourishes, and then Dieter is given the lead for the final minute and more. Nice! Another one of my top three songs. (8.875/10)

9. "Ruck-a-Sack" (4:10) another song that feels as if it would have been a great favorite in the local pubs and beer halls--it feels like an "old standard": full of simple catchy melodies and playing patterns. Nice cymbal play from drummer Kurt Bong. (8.666667/10)

Total time: 44:46

On the positive side, these songs are all recorded extremely well: with all instruments being rendered clearly and cleanly defined, but the soundscapes are a bit too sparse and spacious for my tastes. From a distance, this really is less Jazz-Rock Fusion despite its used of electric bass and organ; it's more jazzy Blues Rock.

87.59 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a beautifully-rendered collection of original music that all feels familiar in the way that popular jazz "standards" do. If you like melodic organ and sax play within a competent jazz combo, you might love this.

MOGUL THRASH Mogul Thrash (1971)

Recognize any of those band members' names? Right!?!? Was this an early "supergroup"? Not when several of the future superstars had not yet made names for themselves.

Line-up / Musicians:
- James Litherland / guitar, vocals
- Malcolm Duncan / tenor saxophone
- Michael Rosen / trumpet, Mellophone, guitar
- Roger Ball / alto, baritone & soprano saxes, brass arrangements
- John Wetton / bass, guitar, vocals
- Bill Harrisson / drums
- Brian Auger / piano (5), producer

1. "Something Sad" (7:32) Britain's answer to brass-rockers CHICAGO. (13/15)

2. "Elegy" (9:37) The GUESS WHO's "No Time." Melodic when it becomes vocal-driven like Canada's LIGHTHOUSE. Quite nice rock 'n' roll but this is no Jazz-Rock Fusion. (18.25/20)

3. "Dreams Of Glass And Sand" (5:07) nice drum intro is filled out with highly-coordinated and syncopated guitar, bass, and horns to support James Litherland's (and John Wetton's--in b vox role) vocal. Nicely composed and performed. Drummer Bill Harrisson is impressive. (8.875/10)

4. "Going North, Going West (part 1)" (5:00) a bit of an ALLMAN BROTHERS feel to this one due to rhythm guitar and James' lead vocal sound and melody style. Nice when the sax gets to soloing in fourth minute. (8.75/10)

5. "Going North, Going West (part 2)" (7:07) the slowed down, sparsely populated lull after the saxophone storm. The instrumental portion is pure TERRY KATH Chicago, the vocals toward the end a return to a kind of LIGHTHOUSE/ALLMAN BROTHERS sound. (13.5/15)

5. "St. Peter" (3:39) pure pop-rock. (8.5/10)

6. "What's This I Hear" (7:17) Led Zeppelin-like B-grade Blues Rock (The GUESS WHO); not even remotely j-r fusion--not even the gentle saxophone lull in the fourth minute can make it so. (12.75/15)

Total Time: 47:57

An album of far more rock-infused music than your serious American Jazz-Rock Fusionists (a term that had not yet been coined much less accepted in the music world), BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS, early CHICAGO and of course COLOSSEUM are the bands that come to mind as I listen to this. Great drumming and horn arrangements with some overplaying by aggressive bass player John Wetton (a problem I have with his bass playing throughout his career). 

86.97 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; good but not top notch by any stretch of the imagination--especially the further you progress into the album. 

DZAMBLE Wołanie o słońce nad światem (1971)

A very successful album release this Polish band that sadly disbanded soon after its publication. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Andrzej Zaucha / vocals
- Jerzy Horwath / organ, piano
- Marian Pawlik / bass, guitar
- Jerzy Bezucha / drums
- Benedykt Radecki / drums (10-12)
- Marek Ałaszewski / vocals (5,6)
- Marek Pawlak / vocals (5,6)
- Janusz Muniak / flute, soprano & tenor saxophone
- Zbigniew Seifert / soprano saxophone (6,7,9)
- Tomasz Stańko / trumpet (6,7,9)
- Michał Urbaniak / bass, soprano & tenor saxophone, violin
- Jerzy Bartz / drums (1,5,9)
- Józef Gawrych / drums (1,5,9)
- Kwartet wokalny / backing vocals (2)
- Kwartet smyczkowy / string quartet (7)

1. "Święto strachów" (5:10) (8.66667/10)

2. "Hej, pomóżcie ludzie" (2:45) a song with an anthemic chorus that sounds like it was probably a big hit in Poland. (4.5/5)

3. "Muszę mieć dziewczynę" (3:02) violin is prominent contributor to this one. (8.66667/10)

4. "Naga rzeka" (4:57) the flute-led instrumental passage in the middle is founded on a motif sounding very much like Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move." Nice song. (9/10)

5. "Dziewczyna, w która wierzę" (3:44) great Latin-oriented CHICAGO-like beat and rhythm track supports some interesting choral vocals that sound like something coming from a Cuban brass band! Once again the motif used for the instrumental section feels borrowed.  (8.75/10)

6. "Masz przewrócone w głowie" (3:28) sounds like a borrowed Aretha song usurped by macho men and a gospel choir. (8.5/10)

7. "Wymyśliłem ciebie" (2:59) half Bond cinema, half Chicago/Andrew Lloyd-Weber Jesus Christ Superstar. (8.75/10)

8. "Szczęście nosi twoje imię" (3:15) except for the John Coltrane-like soprano sax work, this one is very close/imitative of BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS. (8.5/10)

9. "Wołanie o słońce nad światem" (10:36) a not very successful blend of DOORS-like pop music with big band progressive jazz. I wish it weren't the case but this is the weakest song on the album--a blending of styles that feels more like a medley of hits than a prog/jazz suite. (17/20)

Total time: 39:59

More proggy and brass poppy than Jazz-Rock Fusion, it's very vocal-centric. I'm told that I would like this album much more if had command of the Polish language. Vocalist Anrzej Zaucha commands a very respectable voice sounding like a cross between Greg Lake and David Clayton Thomas. I don't like or approve of the band's habit of usurping music from big American hits for the instrumental passages even if they do have good taste in the song motifs they "borrow." It's masterful but hardly indicative of a band that wants to create their own compositions and sound--more like that of a cover band in the process of converting to/experimenting with original compositions.

86.67 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; a creative and synthesizing band of pop-oriented rockers whose music draws a bit too much from other artists. As musicians they are very good. Their excellent vocalist would go on to achieve martyr-legendary status after an early death.

DEMON FUZZ Afreaka (1970)

An odd cornucopia of blues-rock, brass-rock, jazz-rock, Afro-rock music that gives the listener the feeling that this band was still forming, still trying to figure out the direction it was going to go with its music.

Line-up / Musicians:
Sleepy Jack Joseph / Bass
Ayinde Folarin / Congas
Paddy Corea / Congas, Flute, Saxophone
Steven John / Drums
W. Raphael Joseph / Guitar
Ray Rhoden / Organ, Piano
Clarance Brooms Crosdale/ Trombone
Smokey Adams / Vocals

A1. "Past Present And Future" (9:50) heavily-distorted rock bass play with the accompaniment of cymbal play opens this one before sax, trombone, and electric guitar join in acting as a kind of horn section. W. Raphael Joseph's guitar takes the first solo, a brief one, before Ray Rhoden's organ takes over while the bass and percussionists below keep the momentum moving forward. Sleepy Jack Joseph's two note bass line gets rather annoying so I feel quite relieved when the music shifts at 4:20 to a more R&B-oriented parade plod. The horns feel as if they're supposed to be the featured sound in this section but they don't do anything exciting or adventurous. Then a little bridge at the six-minute mark signifies a shift into a keybaor-less section in which Raphael solos again (again briefly). Then the organ returns and another very monotonous four-note rhythm track is established to support a trombone solo. This music is so very simple! Even the drumming sounds so rudimentary (not to give the drummers rudiments a bad name). (16.5/20)
A2. "Disillusioned Man" (4:58) nice conga rhythm track opens this one before Keith Emerson-like organ joins in, leading the in-rushing of the rest of the bands, this time with sax acting more alone. Vocals start before the end of the first minute, a kind of Soulful variation of the BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS shtick. Smoky Adams has a nice voice: he pulls of some nice melody-making with some thoughtful lyrics over some very interesting music. The now-interesting near-minimalist weave then supports an extended soprano sax solo from Paddy Corea. (His instrument sounds much like an Irish Uilleann pipes.) A much more impressive song than that sad opener. (8.875/10)
A3. "Another Country" (8:28) after hearing the opening of this, the album's third song, I had to check back with the year of publication of this album: its rhythm tracks sound so 1969/70 Blood Sweat & Tears/Chicago Brass Rock! More singing on this one--a song that is more complicated musically, which makes Smokey Adam's job more difficult (finding a catchy, smooth-flowing melody to fit this herky-kerky music would be tough). A big shift into a different motif occurs in the third minute to what will become the firm but gentle support for an extended tenor sax solo. The new motif, while quite simple, is in actual fact quite hypnotic. Weird! (17.5/20)  

B1. "Hymn To Mother Earth" (8:10) what begins as a kind of a turns into a rather plaintive ballad of hope Luckily, it turns back into a driving, though still simplistic, blues-rocker with some nice work from the rhythm section--especially drummer Steven John. At the halfway point another brass-led motif bridges us into a nice, hypnotic rhythm pattern for a sax solo. The music returns to the ecologically-motivated vocal motif around the six minute mark and thereafter continues flowing in and out of the dynamic and slow motifs--like a Jimi Hendrix Experience song style. Overall, this is a very interesting song--especially in its construction but also for the fact that Smokey Adams can manage a fairly successful, even-keeled vocal over the top. (13.25/15)

B2. "Mercy (Variation No. 1)" (9:20) Opening with an obnoxious riff of organ arpeggio played with a slightly more interesting rhythm track from the rest of the band which then gradually straightens out to provide support and guidance for trombone and saxophone solos over the next few minutes. The percussion play within this one makes it, in my opinion, the only song that treads across the ocean into some native African sounding musical territory. Nice work Aynde Folarin, Paddy Corea, Steven John, and Sleepy Jack! Organist Ray Rhoden tries to inject some Egypt into the mix with a stereotypic Black Land arpeggio in the final minute. An okay song that still could have been better--more dynamic and energetic as so many drum-and-percussion-oriented African traditional musics are. (17.5/20)

Total time: 39:46

I do not feel or hear any profound or obvious connection to African music other than the possibilitiy of the performers being likely African-American. I do, however, hear a very slight Jamaican/Reggae inflection in a lot of the songs. Overall, this is a very pleasant, almost innocuous album to listen to, but there is nothing here that I feel is very fresh or innovative.  

 86.62 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a fair album from musicians that can obviously do better--especially compared to that lame opening song. Would that the Side One had been more like Side Two--and Side 2 been more adventurous.