- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Overall, this album sounds a bit more subdued than "Turn It Over"... not to say it's laid-back or anything, but you won't hear much aggressive distortion-laden hard rock sound here. It's not gonna jump out and grab you by the throat (well, `Some Hip Drum Shit' will!). There is plenty of power, though, in a more subtle form. `There Comes A Time' is such a compelling elemental progression, in the vein of John McLaughlin's `Devotion', that Gil Evans soon began doing very long live performances of it. And the logic of the tension-and-release structure of `Mom and Dad' is just... perfect. Parts of this record-- especially `Two Worlds' and `The Urchins of Shermese'-- seem to anticipate the multi-percussive sound of Kip Hanrahan's first (and superb) album, "Coup de Tete". The lyrics here, as with that album, are highly personal and enigmatic. (Coincidentally [?], Jack Bruce, who contributes the vocal and probably the bass part on `Two Worlds', would later be featured on some of Hanrahan's records.) If you like lots of percussion, definitely check this CD! `Piskow's Filigree' and some of the other pieces will have you at hello.
It's been said many times before, but Tony Williams was one of the greatest jazz drummers we will ever have. His chops, his fills, his dynamics, his power... his FEEL! While not a musician myself, I've learned to appreciate those things much more from listening to Tony's playing. His choices of rhythms to play behind the solos are interesting and often unexpected, and he'll throw in sharp little punctuations, like the one at 1:39 in `Mom and Dad', just to keep you alert and keep the energy up. Sometimes listening to this CD I'll just close my eyes and swim around in the restless waters of his cymbal work. Love the repeated riff at the end of the last track: "Boom, boom, boom, boom, BAMMMMM!" What a loss to the world of music that Tony was taken from us way too soon...
...and Larry, too. What a master! He deserves and gets plenty of space on the second half of this album. Sometimes he's doing fluent jazz soloing, other times he's painting with sound to create eerie otherworldly moods. Had this "Coltrane of the organ" lived past his thirties, who knows how inadequate that description might have become?
I can't really agree with the reviewer who thought Ted Dunbar's guitar playing here is "almost amateurish". It sounds tasty and thoughtful to me. There is a big change from McLaughlin's hard-charging distorted sound heard on the previous albums, for sure. But on `Lonesome Wells' Dunbar does seem to channel McLaughlin-- his clanging electric chords from Miles' `Right Off'-- and adds a generous helping of feedback to boot. Come to think of it, albums have often been assembled from various sessions recorded at different periods, so it almost makes you wonder if...
The original recording had a fairly anemic sound, with a weak low end common to many LPs of forty-some years ago, and the mix didn't help by often putting Ron Carter's bass off to the side in one channel. With a beefier mix, this music (however idiosyncratic) would probably have gained more fans. Sadly, the CD mastering sounds like a straight reproduction and therefore does not correct these factors. So be sure to have some bass boost ready in your player to get more of the power of what's in here. (Note: The distortion in the guitar solo in `Circa45' is not from overly loud CD mastering; it can be heard on the original LP as well.)
The vocals: Well, Tony double-tracked himself on this one, and that seems to help-- somewhat. But he still sings sharp too much. Too bad nobody hired a vocal coach (or did they?), because his timbre seems to fit the lyrics well; I can't picture anyone else taking his place. Generally his efforts are adequate, especially if you concentrate on the note that he's TRYING to hit...
1) According to my notes (probably from an old copy of Down Beat), the percussion duties are divided as follows: Don Alias on congas; Warren Smith on tympani, marimba, shakers, etc. Sounds about right.
2) Near the finale of `The Urchins of Shermese', things begin to get loose and weird, with vaudeville whistles (I don't know what else to call them) and flute and other things thrown in. To top it off, at 5:30 to 5:35 there's an accidental tape glitch-- apparently an unerased backwards fragment of some rock song that was previously recorded on the master, perhaps by a band who had used the same studio and/or engineer. If you reverse the audio you can hear high-register male voices singing something like "our plan says" or "the iceman says". Maybe someone with lots of expertise in circa-1970 (Polydor?) rock records could identify this fragment, if the track ever got released on an LP. Or it might be the last ghost of a song that vanished into oblivion...