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Solar Plexus / Belladonna CD
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Originally released in 1971 and 1972 respectively on the Vertigo label. On 'Solar Plexus' the all-star lineup (which reads like a who's who of British jazz) includes Kenny Wheeler, Harry Beckett, Brian Smith, Tony Roberts, Karl Jenkins and Chris Spedding. 'Belladonna' features Brian Smith, Dave Macrae, Alan Holdsworth and Roy Babbington among others, and was produced by John Hiseman Trumpeter, composer, author, educator and broadcaster Ian Carr is a major force in British jazz and since 1970 has been one of Europe's leading musicians. In 1969 he formed Nucleus, one of the earliest pioneers of electronic jazz-rock fusion, and their early albums had a wide seminal influence in Europe. Nucleus won first prize at the 1970 Montreaux International Jazz Festival and appeared that summer at the USA Newport Festival and the Village Gate, New York. In 1982, Ian received the Calabria (Southern Italy) award for outstanding contribution in the field of jazz, and in 1987 he was given Wire magazine's special award for services to British Jazz. In recent years, Ian has become almost as well known as an author; his 1982 book on Miles Davis remains the standard biography. He is now an associate Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he gives weekly lectures on jazz history.
Top Customer Reviews
-especially "Snakehips' Dream", which I wore thin. I actually preferred it to Miles' "post Bitches Brew" work of the time.
In retrospect, it represents the pinnacle of their early work, refining the techniques an ideas of the first two albums.
The only other Nucleus I bought on first issue was 1973's "Roots", with Dave McRae's compositions which gave it a different feel.
Good Though these are, It is to the eternal shame of the UK music industry that regular recording opportunity and promotion was not given to some of real UK jazz greats of that time such as Kenny Wheeler, Alan Skidmore, John Taylor, John Surman, Gordon Beck, Keith Tippett, and eventually Ian Carr himself, who for 20 years or more depended mainly on small European labels and promoters.
However, 32 years on, after hearing almost all Nucleus' work, I still think Solar Plexus represents their peak, as maybe they began to run out of ideas, although Belladonna still holds up well.
Solar Plexus is Ian Carr with an expanded Nucleus line up to give that extra dimension to the music. Everyone has a chance to blow too but somehow no-one dominates and the whole piece hinges upon group interplay rather than extended histrionics.
It is significant, and indicative of the quality of the personnel involved that this record was completed in just two days during December 1970. In fact this record and Belladonna were both recorded using to quote Carr himself "maximum use of minimum material".
Quite honestly Solar Plexus IS Snakehips' Dream. Just listen to the jazz-rock brilliance that is the lead in to this piece, and also bear in mind the innovation as well; the dual electric bass work of Jeff Clyne and Ron Matthewson, and the twin percussion of John Marshall and Chris Karan. Some thirty years on this is still an exciting and melodic theme to listen to, perhaps moreso than some of Miles's more excessive early '70's moments.
Belladonna is maybe less complete overall than Solar Plexus but is most definitely the most elusive and sought after of Ian Carr's Vertigo label vinyl releases. By the time this record was recorded only Brian Smith remained of the Solar Plexus line-up, but in the new blood recruited, Carr was able to instill that same kind of energy and spirit that had made the previous Nucleus recordings such critical (if not commercial) successes.
The title track in particular has that rhythmic quality not dissimilar to Snakehips' Dream, a kind of irisistable foot tapping almost danceable beat that is totally and hypnotically infectious from its percussive Ian Carr led intro to it's pure jazz rock electric mid section.
The piece Suspension is apparently Ian Carr's most satisfying studio track; one of those single takes that only happen once or twice in a career ... do I have to say more?
Solar Plexus was recorded in 1971 and featured Brian Smith, Kenny Wheeler, Karl Jenkins, John Marshall, Chris Spedding and Jeff Clyne. Belladonna came in 1972 with Smith, Roy Babbington, Allan Holdsworth, Gordon Beck and Dave Macrae.
Spedding became a minor pop star with the hit "Motorbikin." He later became an early producer of the Sex Pistols, and was accused of playing the guitar parts on their records. Four of the above became members of Soft Machine.
The first album I purchased was Elastic Rock, on a school trip to Scandinavia for 50p in 1972. I had previously seen them on a BBC TV programme about the state of British Jazz. As a teenager whose favorite bands included King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, I could not really relate to Derek Bailey or Iskra 1903 (still can't - where's the tune?). But Nucleus played music that was interesting and challenging.
Nucleus were not "cool" in the early seventies, and something of a guilty pleasure. Most jazz bands at that time, who tried to play rock, sounded as if they had bought their tinny guitars and tinkly electric pianos at Woolworths. It was a bit like watching your dad strut his stuff on the dance floor. However Holdsworth (Eddie Van Halen is a fan) and Spedding sounded like real rock musicians. This was also a time when British rock was enjoying its period of world leadership.
It is a mystery why Carr and Nucleus never got the credit they deserved from the jazz critics; the Penguin Guide to Jazz does not mention them. Maybe they sounded too much like a rock band.
Of these two Solar Plexus is easily the strongest, Nucleus at that point was chock full of the best of British and they play like there's no tomorrow, five stars easily. This was the third Nucleus album, and all the first three are simply a joy.
Belladonna is billed as a Carr solo album and lacks the spark/needle/tension or whatever of a band of equals pushing - I suppose its a bit like brainstorming. Whatever, it is missing in this one, and the album drifts some - it was always the least played of my Nucleus/Carr albums. There's still plenty of good playing of course, there would be with a cast like this. Three stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Have solar plexus on vinyl so CD updates my collection. Belladonna new to me and interesting.Published 15 months ago by RainhamRichard
excellent cd containing two original albums of brilliant 1970s british jazz fusion.worth every penny.anything by ian carr or nucleus is worth a tryPublished on 15 Feb. 2013 by S. Hutchinson