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Reviews Written by
R. J. Heath "djaitch" (Loughborough, Leics, UK)

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Price: £12.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, there is humo(u)r in music, Mr Zappa, 14 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Grotesk (Audio CD)
What a wonderful album and why did it take me so long to find it? This is one of those rare albums that has hardly been off the home and car CD players since I received it about 6 weeks ago from Amazon. The only fault I can find: the record should be longer - but there is 'Toons Tunes' to explore.

So what got me, and admittedly most of my friends who I allowed a chance to sample the record? This trio of French musicians, Morglbl ("Morgalball"?), have produced an excellent fusion of jazz rock, metal shred, great hooks, Gallic humour (both in daft, scat lyrics, and their choice of tunes/arrangements - for instance I guess we given a couple of French folk songs duly treated), all played very well, very tightly and often with evident and infectious urgency. One guitarist friend felt the lead playing was influenced by Steve Vai, but I hear those Holdsworthian touches slipped in too. The sense of fun is enhanced further with the instruments being made to "talk" to each other, so a conversation seems to impromptually breakout midway through a couple of tunes - a practice more common in straight jazz than jazz rock, surely?

"Grotesk" answers Zappa's question: "is the humo(u)r in music?", and with a resounding YES! Would you expect otherwise once you've seen the artwork on the CD insert?

If you enjoy this then you will enjoy the compilation of their two earlier albums plus outtakes, issued by Laser Edge Records, "Toons Tunes From The Past". Btw why do so many independent American labels make the effort to release European acts, too often ignored at home?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2009 3:19 PM GMT

Actual Fiction
Actual Fiction
Price: £14.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Nu.fusion for the moment, 1 Sept. 2008
This review is from: Actual Fiction (Audio CD)
Here's one to bemuse.

Former Tribal Tech bassist takes on nu.fusion with a distinct American hard edge. The listener, if a jazz purist, would not be amused ("hey I can't hear any jazz"), while the trip hop/drum'n'bass enthusiast could be confused ("hey , ain't this guy jazz?"). For those who have followed Gary Willis's career Tribal and Tech and post TT, will be aware of his interest in holding down a strong groove. And those who have followed really closely would be aware of a near-unique approach Willis and the rest of the cast of Uncle Moe's Space Ranch have shifted jazz fusion - new beats, turn tablism, etc. etc.; but note the 2nd Uncle Moe's SR album was recorded after this one.

And then this is not that unique, as Wayne Krantz's rhythm section moonlighting as Boomish demonstrated about a decade ago - and the jazz sampling then did at least provide that link back to, ah hem, jazz. With the closely related mix of drum'n'bass, samples and groove funk tracks, 'Actual Fiction' is an album which is aimed squarely at the jazz-dance floor - but is there a vinyl edition available for sampling? However, like a lot of modern dance albums, there is the inevitable question: if we remember this album in ten years time, and if then we play it, how dated and "nougthies" will it sound? So perhaps an album for immediate danceable pleasure but alas probably not for long term listening pleasure, for all the crafted bass riffs used. And then Norwegian nu.fusionists, Nils Petter Molvaer or Bugge Wesseltoft, do it more subtlely.

3 and half stars really for undeniable energy of the album.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standing on the shoulders, 19 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Dodovoodoo (Audio CD)
Dodovoodoo is one of the best bit of jazz rock I've heard this year - and it hasn't been a bad year so far for jazz fusion releases. Having taken the bait of a couple of reviews drawing parallels with Soft Machine, I found myself purchasing the album after hearing something different in the samples available.

So over the last 20 days I have played this album hard, and have been strongly reminded why I got hooked by jazz rock in the late 60's, and then stayed a firm fan with its development through the first half of the 70's and to this day. Each track is different from the next, and the variation of styles and then the relative complexity within most tracks will have some folks going back to relisten and hear some different on each play. Certainly there are echoes coming from several references taken from the classic period of jazz rock, 1968 to 1975. But don't expect wholesale pillaging, rather a multiplicity of short samples (for want of a better term) which continually tweak the memory, inserted expertly into heavy, modern jazz fusion. Whilst I would happily mark the first review here 5 star, and indeed agree with much of the general analysis of Elephant9's musical references, when it comes to the specific naming of jazz fusion bands as reference points, I find myself largely at variance. So let's point out what I hear and what I don't.

The opening track spits Tony Williams Lifetime (`Turn It Over' period), minus John McLaughlin: in particular, the Hammond and the dirty bass, echo Larry Young and Jack Bruce. However, elsewhere the Hammond smacks of other players, e.g. Greg Rolie in Santana's high period of jazz fusion (e.g. `Caravanserai', or `Welcome'). BTW I also hear Wayne Horwitz (check out Michael Shrieve's `Fascination'), and even the metal jazz fusion of Jonas Hellborg Group's `e'. But the electric piano features almost as much as the Hammond, and processed with a ring-modulator effect I'm hearing echoes of Chick Corea around 1970 (e.g. Miles Davis `Fillmore East' album). About the only point I agree is that one track has a strong suggestion of Zawinul and Weather Report. The allusion to Billy Cobham is misleading - and I dare not take my reference to Lifetime and Tony Williams too far either - since the fast and powerful drumming lacks the subtlety of either of these master jazz fusionists. Even so, it vigorously underpins, providing great energy as the very best rock drummers do. But as for Soft Machine, I don't think so.

In summary, this is a great album, which is likely to spark off different memories of different albums from the heyday of jazz rock, in different folks. But it is also an album of the 21st Century - jazz rock fusion grows still on what went before.

Floating Point
Floating Point
Price: £14.63

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McLaughlin's best for quite some time, 28 May 2008
This review is from: Floating Point (Audio CD)
I've have been a keen fan of Indo jazz fusion after hearing, perhaps the first recording in the genre, Joe Harriott/John Mayer's Double Quintet's "Indo-Jazz Fusion", in 1966 or `67*. Compare the music and ideas on that with those found on "Floating Point", and you should get a clear idea how the music has progressed and evolved in the intervening 40 years. Where once you had the exotic sound of a sitar or tabla, playing a westerner's idea of raga to punctuate 60's modern jazz, you now have musicians from both western jazz and Indian traditional musics, coming together in more senses than one. A coming together with each having loved and absorbed both cultures' music, and now playing out a seamless hybrid of the two. For the most part you really don't need to ask the question: 'am I hearing jazz or raga?', since there is little to provide any clear demarcation - personally, this is how I want it nowadays. Instead let the best fusion for quite some time, take you for 60 minutes plus ride into real grooving and novel pleasure.

I very much agree with what the previous reviewer has written. McLaughlin is the master Indo-jazz fusionist, and with him are two Indian musicians on keyboards and drumkit who love jazz, creating music without borders. The young French bass guitarist, Hadrien Feraud and a Indian percussionist, complete the list of five who are the common denominators through the whole album. The challenge is to guest musicians (one western saxophonist, the others playing instruments associated with India, percussion, flutes, slide guitar and electric(!) zitar (their spelling)), not to lose this relatively subtle balance when making their individual virtuoso contributions, or otherwise tip the fusion into straight Indian or straight jazz playing. They succeed and at the same time produce a music which is exciting and in no small way new to most listeners. One example, the tune 'The Voice' in 8 or 9 minutes, swoops free and easy across the east/west boundary without emphasising one over the other. I've read comments made that Indan musician playing the slide guitar (btw, the DVD reveals this to be an ornated decorated, multi-stringed instrument played on the musician's lap), could readily show the talented Derek Trucks a thing or two.

One minor moan is John McLaughlin's use of guitar synthesiser on a couple of the opening tracks. To my ears whether Mac or Holdsworth or Metheny play the guitar synthesiser, the result sounding like a poor man's keyboards, or trumpet or whatever, leaves me wishing the guitarist would play those bars and make them sound like a guitar. However, on the second hearing of "Floating Point" I stopped hearing the synth as something awkward to my ears, but rather integral to the whole.

McLaughlin is on record saying this the best recording he's made. I'm not sure whether I would got that far straightaway, but it has grabbed me like no other McLaughlin recording for over a decade, in way that the much praised "Industrial Zen" didn't. Equally I found the recently released "Miles From India" album, seemingly content to stick with a 70's concept of Indo jazz fusion playing (notably with the exception of McLaughlin's contribution there) - and to my ears sound old fashioned. "Floating Point" in comparison is cutting edge.

I also recommend the accompanying DVD John McLaughlin's "Meeting of the Minds" (the making of "Floating Point"), which gives plenty of insights into McLaughlin style of arrangement, production and cooperation with fellow musicians, building ideas to the point that a tune is ready to be recorded.

Finally, praise must go to the specialist record label, Abstract Logix for releasing yet another excellent jazz fusion album with "Floating Point" - every one of their small catalogue of albums is worth sampling.

*The latest edition of Jazzwise magazine, June 2008, includes an 6 page review of Indo-jazz fusion, predating the start of the genre by a few years. A discography will point you towards other Indo-jazz fusion, many of which I have discovered are available through Amazon.

Strange Pleasures: Further Sounds Of The Decca Underground
Strange Pleasures: Further Sounds Of The Decca Underground
Price: £14.66

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Legend of a mind: part 2, 12 May 2008
Decca have done it again, with a second 3 CD box set as a follow-up to 'Legend Of A Mind'. 'Strange Pleasures' also comes with copious notes and illustrations in a fat little booklet - and the current price at Amazon.UK (mid May 2008) is a real bargain at less than 13 quid.

In the intervening 5 years, the Eclectic label (now Esoteric) have released a number of gems from the Decca/Deram archives, so now you might cynically said 'Strange Pleasures' is cheap sampler from some of those reissues (remastered for the most part) albums - but you can't go too far with that thought. Simply there is a lot of material which you will only find on 30 or 40 year old vinyl.

Whilst 'Strange Pleasures' is equally good or better than some of the competing labels' efforts to jump on the 'Legend Of A Mind' bandwagon, this isn't quite as good or balanced as 'Legend'. The compiler has again selected more than one track from the better known bands, so we once more get a couple of Caravan tracks (which IMHO are good choice), but the two TYA tracks are far less memorable, and two Moody Blues are disappointing. Elsewhere we are taken back to forgotten recordings (e.g. minor hit singles) which smack of pop rather than underground. There are number of other obscurities i.e. bands forgotten or never heard of, (even by the few of us old enough to have been around when first released): these are a mixed blessing. Some lack music creditability for this type of sampler, as not being strongly representative and/or weak musically. However, the good news, there are others I'm most pleased to see here: the early brass rock of Satisfaction (I complained at their absence from `Legend'), the Taste spin-off Stud (experimental rock of 1970, parallelling Patto or Skid Row at the time), Darryl Way's Wolf (the first example of John Etheridge's guitar with violin, here with band leader Way) and too an echo from Decca's 1969 sampler 'Wowie Zowie', Touch's "Down At Circe's Place". I must comment as a devoted Touch fan, the biography of the band in the booklet is the best and most detailed I've read. But I also note that between the CD sets `Legend' and `Strange Pleasures', these still have not completely duplicated those tracks found on `Wowie Zowie' - does the compiler have some problems with straighter jazz and some blues rock?

Because of some poorer/less satisfactory choices than before, I felt especially with the first album of this set that I had to wade through 2 or 3 undistinguished tunes before getting back to a track that wowed me. So I guess in the end, once you are familiar with this recording you will become selective in choices, with the weak tracks destined never to be played again.

Rating: 3.5 stars having previously marked 'Legend of A Mind', a superior set, 4 stars. Admittedly I have to reassess the star ratings I've given to couple of those competing box sets issued since 2003. In particular, 'Strange Pleasures' is a box set for those with fond memories of the period, or might use this as evidence(?)of musical changes occurring 1966 to 1975.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2011 8:00 PM BST

Stud ~ Remastered
Stud ~ Remastered
Price: £11.18

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Acquired another taste, 9 May 2008
This review is from: Stud ~ Remastered (Audio CD)
At last a CD, indeed a remastered CD*, of a neglected early 70's album.

Stud were in reality the residue of Taste after Rory Gallagher went solo. However, whilst Rory had gone to further his career in excellent Irish flavoured blues rock, these guys were musically more broad minded. There were other Irish bands in competition, the early version of Thin Lizzy and the original Skid Row, and number of these players had notched up years on the road (e.g. Irish show bands and beyond). Hence high levels of music skill and potentially a willingness to flex new muscles in musical adventure. Richard (Charlie) McCracken and John Wilson were joined by John Cregan (ex Blossom Toes) and the Stud album came after a few months.

The album kicks off with one of my favourite tunes from the period, 'Sail On', best described as a great example of Irish rock and this some time before Thin Lizzy were selling out stadia with their variant. But then there is only one other song in that style on this record. Instead most of the album is a musical exploration - which was very much in vogue in 1970 - where few rules existed whilst unusual music hybrids were being tried out, some retained and some thrown away. Indeed songs here are long so it seems permitting experiments to be worked through, e.g. deliberately having a major change in composition part way through, so ending up with a tune in 3 or more movements. You can hear Skid Row ('34 Hours') doing this, as were Patto (the eponymous and 'Hold Your Fire' albums), and it might be argued the first Faces album. But then so were a lot of bands that subsequently were to be known as mainstream progressive rockers - but with my named examples you have those that came out of the period as mainstream rock bands or as in the case of Stud, folded. So away from the shorter tunes expected to hear Stud working out their music as the tapes rolled, there's jazz, there's rock, inevitably a touch of Irish folk but also you find discord, odd time signatures and maybe a little atonalism. Not music for everybody (hence the 3 star rating) but an excellent example of the step changes that were occurring through 1970 as a number of bands were seeking out new forms of music to play.

* I have to say how frustrating it gets, having the Deram LP of Stud since 1970/1 and having to wait until 2008 for the CD issue. In fact less than 4 months ago I patiently recorded my LP, putting the output through software to remove surface noise. If I say myself, with a good quality vinyl pressing, the results have been pretty good. However, never as good as somebody starting with the master tapes and knowing more fully what they are doing in the clean-up process. More frustrating that this is the third time I've subject LPs to audio clean-up only, to discover I might have catalysed commercial CD remastered releases within a few months!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2015 4:22 PM BST

Miles From India - A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis
Miles From India - A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis
Price: £17.00

36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Miles apart, 16 April 2008
This double CD represents a large project with numerous musicians, in a number of combinations, and playing a number of Davis's more popular compositions from the 60's and 70's. So admittedly it is difficult to take in just in one go. Whilst rating it as "good/3 stars", Miles From India has not instantly become one of my favourite Indo-jazz fusion albums or likely to be. Why: because of a number of petty annoyances it carries with it, neither does it have the degree of integration of two distinct musical styles, and instead the joins show on a number of tracks.

So I offer a number of questions and observations:
a) whilst appreciating cost limitations, does recording at a several locations on the planet and with musicians not in face to face contact, make for rapport? For instance, I hear Indian musicians laying down percussion, and I hear jazz musicians doing their own things - (to borrow from Kipling) "never the twain do meet" that often, since rarely does this album reflect the sophisticated Indo-jazz fusion of Shakti, Jonas Hellborg, Fareed Haque, and many others nowadays.
b) At least at one point the lack of seemless fusion, not so much reflects Indo-jazz fusion of the 21st century but rather where this movement started, with Joe Harriott/John Mayer Double Quintets' albums of the mid 60's. Indeed I thought the sitar solo on All Blue, sounded like a take from their first Indo Jazz Fusion album of 1966......
c) No doubt I've missed several points here. So I have to conclude that this is a modern "reiteration" of the music Davis was evolving post-Bitches Brew, without necessarily taking on the modern sophistication of Indo-jazz fusion.
d) I wonder if Miles would approve, in particularly of some of the playing - I'm sure he would growling in the ears of several of his former sidesmen something along the lines: "Less is more, MF".
e) Could more have been made of the Indian percussion, especially when it seems to compete and even get subsumed by the jazz or jazz-funk percussion? Is the tabla/tablas multi-tracked any stage - since in its busy-ness it morphs temporarily into what sounds like the Burundi Black Drummers - now there's an option for the next Miles Davis tribute?

Just Roll Tape: April 26, 1968
Just Roll Tape: April 26, 1968
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stills **** after all of these years, 10 Jan. 2008
I have to thank Sid Smith in his Postcards From A Yellow Room blog, for pointing me in this direction. At the end of December, Sid reviewed his favourite albums released in 2007, and included Steve Stills' Just Roll Tape album. On the strength of Sid's earlier review I bought the CD and can report it is my favourite non-prog, non-jazz whatever, recording of 2007.

Steve Stills' Just Roll Tape has languished, apparently forgotten, in the can for nearly 40 years but thanks goodness it has been discovered, remastered and now available for purchase. So with hearing this for the first time and hindsight, I find this album reinforces three things in the late 60's (with Stills being between Buffalo Springfield and CSN),
a) Steve Stills was at a creative height,
b) Steve Stills was a great musician, both vocally and as a guitarist,
c) Steve Stills was a great folkie - in the Greenwich Village sense of meaning, rather than the subsequent west coast rock sense.

What also becomes clear is that at the time Still's was enamoured with Judy Collins, who was breaking big then - two tunes here refer to Collins. Indeed the recording session for these demos, was the time found at the end of a formal recording session for Judy Collins, plus a little bribery of the recording engineer.

Part of energy of the music heard comes from the recordings being done in one take and in probability the lot being done in well less than 2 hours. You can hear Stills tuning up at the start of a couple of tunes, and retuning in the middle of the long take for Suite Judy Blue Eyes. However, a minor downside is that some over-miking occurs, clearly being lived-with and rectified as they went, presumably because of time limitations - but this audio defect doesn't detract, rather give the sense of the music being live-in-the-studio.

Several of the tunes demoed here eventually found their way onto Stills' solo albums as well as those by CSN/CSNY, but the rawness gives you something peculiarly new - although you could say the demo of Suite Judy Blue Eyes is aching for the inclusion of Crosby and Nash to broaden the harmony vocals, in the definitive version some 9 months later.

A great discovery and now legitimate release.

Essential John Mclaughlin [Us Import]
Essential John Mclaughlin [Us Import]
Price: £13.63

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate John McLaughlin sampler?, 9 Dec. 2007
Unlike the recent release The Complete Eric Clapton, this compilation of another master guitarist has all the signs of having some thought and effort put into the track selection. The tracks have picked from McLaughlin's full career whilst being "borrowed" from a broad variety of recording labels. So the listener is exposed to McLaughlin from being part of Graham Bond's Organisation through Lifetime, Miles, Mahavishnu right on to McLaughlin's latest album, Industrial Zen. Therefore there are a very large number of musicians to be heard playing with McLaughlin here: indeed, a veritable who's who of the modern jazz scene. The liner notes are excellent by (the Jaco Pastorius biographer) Bill Milkowski, and there is also a pretty thorough set of details of the tracks used. And where necessary, apologies have been made either for the need for some track length editing of the original track (but still giving you approximately 88 minutes on each disc), or indicating where the compilers have not being able to access Arjen's Bag from the seminal album Extrapolation (because the record label didn't want to license - shame on them). But instead an alternative version has been found, to me an unknown version of the tune, known as Follow Your Heart, when McLaughlin was briefly part of a Joe Farrell group. You are moved from McLaughlin the bebop player of the early 60's, to the innovative jazz rock fusionist of the 70's, to his Indo-jazz rock and flamenco/Latin jazz fusion explorations and through to the modern day - and via the digression into modern serious music. One minor negative comment: perhaps more tracks representing his output from the 90's might have been provided? Nevertheless, as a starter for a music fan who comes to his music for the first time and wants to hear why John McLaughlin is seen and heard as one of the best guitarists in world, this double CD is an excellent place to start.

One final comment: I purchased this album via Amazon.UK's excellent Marketplace and at an excellent price...... but from an American supplier: why haven't we got a simultaneous UK release?

The Anti-Social Club
The Anti-Social Club
Price: £16.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best jazz fusion albums of 2007, 7 Dec. 2007
This review is from: The Anti-Social Club (Audio CD)
Alan Pasqua is best know as the keyboard player to Allan Holdsworth guitar in The New Tony Williams Lifetime in the 70's, but for a number of decades has been a teacher of jazz keyboards in California. His most recent public appearance has been in the US and Europe co-leading the Allan Holdsworth-Alan Pasqua Band; check out their DVD Live At Yoshi's. Maybe because of Pasqua reentering the public arena here in Europe, we are becoming more aware of his recent recordings, for instance here with the album Antisocial Club, recorded at the beginning of March 2007.

Inevitably in trying to anchor the music on The Antisocial Club with reference to what has gone before, thereby explaining why other folks should buy, I have been thinking who has done something "similar"? The title track and the tune 'New Rhodes' have faint echoes of Ian Carr & Nucleus and even some of the pre-jazz rock, new/avant British jazz of the late 60's , whilst 'Fast Food' kicks off with hints of Miles (Mike Stern period). But I must emphasise that use of the words 'hints', 'echoes' at best implies slight similarities, since obviously with this body of excellent seasoned jazz musicians (e.g. Nils Cline, Alex Acuna, Jimmy Haslip), there is much, much more that they bring to the party under the direction of Mr Pasqua, than what others have done previously. Just hearing a superb Fender Rhodes(?)solo by Pasqua in Fast Food or some the keyboard fills for other soloists, and you will realise what a major keyboard player we have and who perhaps has spent too much time hidden away in academia for the last 20 years. All of the compositions here are Pasqua's, and strong wrt themes , arrangement and playing - definitely encouraging the listener to go back to listen time after time and be rewarded with some new aspect of the music in these revisits.

I have to thanks to those who recommended this Alan Pasqua album at the Fusenet website: I too can now pass on those recommendations.

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