With the greatest respect to the incredible Bob Beldon, Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Shorter, this Box Set should contain a warning.
The warning is simple: If you already own most of the stuff in this collection, don't bother. If you're completely new to Weather Report, buy it.
Coming from someone that's seen the band perform every year since 1972 and own all their official and quite a few "other" releases, I was really disappointed with this project (except for the booklet).
Here are a few things that are puzzling:
1) A Weather Report Box Set includes three songs (two composed by Zawinul and one by Shorter) that were never released by Weather Report:
a. In a Silent Way. released by Miles Davis
b. Super Nova, released by Wayne Shorter
c. Experience in E (Excerpt), released by Cannonball Adderly
(I agree with the liner notes that point to these songs as pre-cursors, but mentioning them would have been enough - they are all in print)
2) An incredible typo stating that Alphonse Mouzon was the drummer on "Unknown Soldier"
3) Including a barely improved version of Nubian Sundance that has been in circulation for many years from "other" sources.
4) Including another "better than, but not by much" version of the "other" sources for the 1978 Rockpalast concert on DVD.
5) Not remastering any of the original recordings. The tape hiss from the Live in Tokyo (I Sing the Body Electric) songs is still clearly heard and not upgrading those old recordings is just plain unacceptable in this day and age.
6) Finally, the cover itself - I have no words, except to admit "I don't get it".
Having said all that negative stuff - Weather Report remains the dominant "creative machine" of the Jazz Rock Fusion era and those that missed it should buy this without hesitating. If you're a long time Weather Report fan - there's absolutely nothing to get excited about here. The DVD was especially disappointing to me. I have had that concert on VHS tape for many years and now on DVD (all from "other" sources) and was shocked to see such incredible video noise on the official version. Zawinul's black and white keys look like polka-dots in many places. (I played the DVD in 5 different players; two TV's and my computer monitor to make sure it wasn't my equipment). I should have paid attention to the PR person at Sony that told me the concert was taken from a re-broadcast of the show and NOT from the master tapes. It's my own fault for having unrealistic expectations. I should probably clarify that while the DVD is in fact clearly better than the "un-offical" version, IT STILL LOOKS LIKE A BOOTLEG! Sad...
It is of some significance that this "review" is the first time I've chosen to speak out about something in Fusion that was less than flattering. It should also be noted that my disappointment is aimed directly at CBS/Sony/BMG and not the musicians/producers.
I'm still amazed that this record company can see fit to release this and hold back the already remastered Mahavishnu Orchestra Live in Cleveland Cd that was supposed to be released in 2004.
Lastly, let me make it perfectly clear that Zawinul, Shorter, and Beldon are musicians and people I personally hold in the highest esteem with Zawinul and Shorter being musical divinities as far as I'm concerned. While my review is an obvious personal venting, and I realize that Zawinul and Shorter gave this project their stamp of approval, I think that shouldn't be mistaken for a personal attack. My remarks are simply observations with some attitude directed at CBS/Sony/BMG.
By Rick Calic
Jazz Rock World