Waves was the album that I was most impressed with back in the 1970ies. It used to be my preferred listening during lonely summer nights, when the twilight lingers on for hours in my country, as dusk transforms to dawn.
But I was a teenager then, my horizon somehow limited. Many albums of that period, I have later revisited, suddenly asking myself how I could be so fascinated then. The music hasn't changed, but I have, and what used to sound new and fresh, feels worn-out 30 years later.
So now, after learning that Waves was reissued, I have been curious to find out if it has faded, too, or how much, during the more than 25 years that have passed since I last time heard it.
I am happily surprised! I don't think it has faded even a bit.
But I owe to inform you that I listen mostly to classical music now, so I am not the best to know about the present state of this kind of musical art. In 1975, this album was at least state of the art when it came to engineering and the making of soundscapes. It don't think, say Pink Floyd, is any better, although of another idiom. Jade Warrior never became a commercial success, for reasons I don't understand. The tunes don't lack sweetness, so much is sure. The music is very pleasant, though perhaps too introvert to appeal to a broader public? The mix of romantic film music, progrock, jazz, dreamy ambient music, even some simple polyphony, a wide range of etnic influences, African, South American and Oriental, a unique blend, made it difficult to label. Jade Warrior made crossover, fusion, world music, new age... A fascinating aspect of Jade Warrior is how some voices are distant and other closeups, making a deep and wide soundscape, multiinstrumental, although lots of flutes, guitars and percussion dominates.
Brian Eno acclaimed Jade Warrior's former album Floating World; well, I think Waves is as sophisticated, if not more. Waves features Steve Winwood and some other guests, but the duo Tony Duhig and Jon Field was Jade Warrior at that time.
As the title suggests, Waves is a conceptual album. It is a vision of the sea. Most of it is very romantic, rather sweet, not avantgarde or any thing like that, anyway more skillfully put together than I can suggest here. From the notes we read things like "7 half speed flutes", "backwards piano", etc. Layers of sound are put on other layers, creating an orchestral impression. Or as Jon Field said it 20 years later, in 1995, speaking with the BBC: «We had tunes, but tunes were always easy, tunes aren't it. It's the atmosphere, it's always atmosphere. It doesn't matter how wonderful a tune is, if there's no atmosphere there - it won't work. You know, you can get an ice-cream band to go in and play a sequence of notes, which is what a tune is - but if there's no atmosphere there, it doesn't mean anything.» And about dynamics: «I think it's on Waves where we got it about as far back as you could go, to have it worthwhile to have it - which makes the BANG really loud. As you know, black and white - your blackest black and your whitest white, that's what you're dealing with, that's what we're dealing with in our records. Dynamics are extremely important. The loudest moment you can get, is only loud by dint of the quietest moment you can get. If it's all loud, then it's all normal.»
Part 1. To some faraway music, a huge whale rises to the surface - it sounds like an enormous wave is crushed at a shore. The next section is quite dreamy, with a distant electric guitar solo on layers of accoustic guitars, a the piano enters, quite sunny, jazz-like before everythings fades away. Then more dynamic jazzlike music, some kind of jazzy Cuban fusion perhaps, but by all means, it is composed, put together with great care, concluding in one more of these apparently simple melodies, before the piano jazzes it all over again, then the electric guitar, the flutes tema returning and everything concludes with the meditative silence transforming to another theme, beautiful layers of polyphony, simple counterpoint, but still... It is difficult to tag this music as jazz, ambient music, etnic, because the crossover is original, don't forget this is 1975! Part one ends with a simple rythmic melody, but so artfully put together, this is pop music, and how I love it!
Part 2. Rain forrest, rain, exotic birds, jungle, drums, congas, how Jade Warrior here makes the birds collaborate with the music, being a part of ut. An alarming tune of electric guitar, fading into the dreamy japanese zen-garden atmosphere so often encountered by Jade Warrior, a garden made of flutes. Meditation-like repetitions, inconclusive. Then a longer section, named Groover, where the music is taken to a rougher level, the most groovy, jazzrock-like section of Waves, sustained by electric guitar and moog. Then a short section of very peaceful music, idyll, all those flutes speaking together! After this sweet soundscape of sunset over the ocean, we end up by the whales, communicating to each other. (This is only a rough outline of about 45 min. of music.)
It is increcible what Jade Warrior managed to create more than 30 years ago, with no computers, no samplers. This CD is obligatory to anybody interested in so called progrock from the 1970ies, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Brian Eno. The question is if Waves doesn't deserve a wider audience.
The remastering is good. The only thing I dislike about this reissue is that Waves is divided in only two tracks on the CD, Waves part one and two, whereas at least part one on the original LP was divided into several tracks.
In my opinion, Waves is the most sophisticated Jade Warrior album. The very charming Floating World from the previous year (1974) was as original as Waves, but not so advanced, a rougher charm, featuring more progrock; I rate it almost as high as Waves however. After Waves, they made Kites (1976) which I find less substancial, though it is Jade Warrior's most oriental album to date; I will not exclude that I buy that one too, if not for other reasons, so for my personal nostalgia... Many consider Way of the Sun (1978) Jade Warrior's best album, but as it never appealed to me, I don't think it will do today either, so I leave it there.