I never cared much for this album when it first appeared in 1969, its self-conscious blend of jazz & rock sounding rather stiff & artificial, compared with West Coast counterparts Spirit & Santana.
But it's amazing what time can do! Now, I appreciate so much about it:
- the full, rich horn sound,
- the polished production,
- David Clayton-Thomas's superb vocalizing,
- drummer Bobby Colomby's brilliant jazz technique - & tone,
- the precision-playing, all-round.
Why didn't I notice these things before? To be fair, I was only 18 at the time &, for someone weaned on Elvis, the Beatles & the whole rock & roll thing, this was just a bit too formal, I guess (most of their fans at the time did seem to be in their 20's & 30's, come to think of it). The fact that they didn't compose their own material was also a negative factor, though it doesn't seem to matter so much, now.
This must rank as one of the finest albums of the 60's - a milestone, in fact, paving the way for Chicago, Flock & later jazz-rock acts like Spyrogyra.
The 2 bonus tracks are no more than average. "More & more" features increased use of the guitar, while "Smiling phases" - all 18 minutes of it - has a long, slow introduction, then rather uninspired piano improvisation, without the tempo changes that made the album version so interesting - in short, more quantity, less quality.
NOTE: Although, as Amazon's heading indicates, this is an (Austrian) import, the sleeve-notes, including an extensive interview with Bobby Colomby, are in English (no lyric-sheet, though).