on 7 April 2013
With so little good new music available in the 2010's, it is right that we re-appraise some of the greatest musicians that have been missed by the cloth eared music critics of the last 30 years or so.
As Crusaders fan since my late teens, I have been constantly frustrated by their apparent compartmentalisation as a bunch of studio sessioneers, or for their Pop-Jazz phase exemplified by Street Life. This band had so much more than this - and only now, with so little decent current music to compare; does it really show what a world class outfit they were, and what a brilliant vision of a blues/funk/jazz hybrid they introduced in the early 70's. Of course, only musicians with such gifts & calibre could deliver such a vision. And it is not an exaggeration to say that at this time (1970 - 78), they were probably the best set of groove musicians working anywhere.
When the band arrived in LA in the early 60's. they were known as the Jazz Crusaders, and were a jobbing Jazz & blues band that carved out a niche for themselves with good recordings; but without their star potential realised through a more commercial vision. At the end of the 60's, and with jazz in commercial disarray, they decided to drop the "jazz" moniker to find a more commercial ground as the Crusaders. They signed to BlueThumb/ABC and formulated themselves primarily as a groove band that could work in blues, jazz, pop and other R&B genres.
The results were extraordinary with the release of the first 2 double albums - Crusaders 1 and Secong Crusade. Of course, jazz crossover was now happening; but where Donald Byrd and Miles Davis were using the funk of James Brown and Sly Stone as their groove base - the Crusaders found a different blueprint from their Texas blues roots. The focussed on their world class rhythm section (Sample, Hooper, Felder) who could rock out better than anyone.
Second Crusade was probably better than the first album due to it's consistently high quality tunes - but you also need to remember how incredibly prolific they were at this time. Indeed, of their first 4 albums - three were doubles (Crusaders 1, Second Crusade and Sothern Comfort) only interrupted by the almost forgotten Unsung Heroes (still not released on CD amazingly).
Second Crusade had so many gems, but I am here to describe only one - the staggering Tomorrow Where Are You written by Wilton Felder. It would take most jazz, blues or R&B bands a lifetime to record such a groove, but the Crusaders pull this off effortlessly here. The song is almost tuneless .......just a straight chicken scratch groove interspersed with a 5 note horn chart - but the tune's build is fantastic. Even on first hearing, it is possible to anticipate the addition of bass, fender rhodes, guitar and sax, that form a thundering R&B groove that will get anyone bopping. I defy anyone not to get on down to this one. It shows that these world class musicians had paid their dues and could work up such a great sound that only comes from practice and skill. Other musicians should note.
Of course, Second Crusade (and Crusaders 1 and Southern Comfort) is much better heard on double vinyl - the analogue sound works much (MUCH!!!) better than CD - but collectors are hanging on to these wonderful recordings, so finding copies is tricky. However - you can be lucky to find them, I would recommend The GEMM.com, VinylTap.co.uk and Vinylrecords.co.uk as possible sources.
on 21 February 2010
Possessing 12 Crusaders CDs, one can reflect that they are really a fantastic jazz/funk/soul band. Possessing 12 albums is not about having OCD, but rather, a reflection of how good this band really is. The re-release of 2nd crusade is lifetime opportunity, with the previously issued CD or even vinyl fecthing some money. '1st Crusade, Southern Comfort, Chain Reaction, Those Southern Knights, Free as the Wind, Images' are all truly good albums. 2nd Crusade is their best, simply because the number of great tunes on this album outweigh the number found on other albums. That been said, it would be a mistake to think that their other album are not worthy of 5 stars too-they certainly are. Indeed, when a fellow vinyl junkie and I agreed to create our respective top 20 albums, I placed this particular crusaders' album in that list. This CD presently can be obtained rather cheaply, but I expect, fairly shortly that it will command high prices, as it has been out for at least a year already.
on 27 April 2010
I owned this album years ago when I live in Nigeria and it was one of the many items left behind when I relocated back to the UK. I thought it would be easy enough to replace the album. Unfortunately, I didn't remember the name of the album and for years I've had the tune of my favorite piece, 'Look Beyond The Hill' going round and round in my head for years. Then, one day my husband bought a compilation album of the Crusaders and their 'sound' reminded me of that tune. I did a search and there it was and I am thrilled to finally have this album back in my collection again.
Wonderful. Thanks Amazon.