9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Jungle music before it existed
, 3 April 2008
This review is from: Pangaea (Audio CD)
Along with its' sister companion piece Agharta - both recorded on the 1st February 1975 - this is one of those albums you simply have to hear before you die type. Comprised of two songs spread on two discs, each lasting over forty minutes, its true that it's not for everyone, and obviously requires a lot of time and patience. And you can't really have this set as background music, as their are just so many subtle textures and sounds that require your full attention in order to appreciate it.
Starting with the first track, "Zimbabwe", this is an utterly relentless, mind-melting tour-de-force. Al Foster and Mtume on drums and percussion are like possessed demons, absolutely mammoth in providing a hard, fast rhythm that sounds like it's come deep from the jungles of Africa. Along with Reggie Lucas and Michael Henderson on rhythm guitar and bass respectively, they provide the background for Miles Davis, Sonny Fortune and the insane Pete Cosey to perform solos with their trumpet, saxophone and guitar for extended periods of time. If you don't feel alive or energized during this track, you're most likely dead.
The second disc is taken up by "Gondwana", a much more mellow, leisurely jam, with a beautiful flute solo to guide you in by the multi-talented Fortune. Some of Lucas' stuff on here is amazing if you listen closely, and there's one of the best solos that Davis ever played in his life in the latter part of this track, and the other band members know it, noticeably spurring him on. I particularly like some of the sound effects that occur intermittently, making the whole appear very natural, as if this is the ideal soundtrack for those nature documentaries. This cut reminds me a lot of "Maiysha" on Agharta, as even though it's supposed to be a gentle performance in principle, Davis surprises the listener as he always does by allowing the members to become vicious and scary-sounding at very short notice.
At first, I preferred Zimbabwe, as its impossible not to get sucked in by the voodoo grooves and dark funk that Davis is aiming for, and succeeds in reaching. Also, on casual listen, Gondwana can appear very meandering and aimless, but recently the latter has become my favourite, just for the atmosphere and originality it creates. One thing that amazes me about these two recordings is that at no point do the musicians appear to get bored with a particular groove and consciously try changing it into something else. Everything just seems to happen organically, as if there really is no other way these jams could have played out. If you're into either jazz or rock, and you like your extended, completely improvised instrumental jams, then there really is no better place to look. One of the best live albums available, and that is not an overstatement.
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