R.A.T.W. Page 9
The Honor Roll of Soul –
BARRABAS “Watch Out” Atco Sd 36-136
For those of us who enjoy a latin influence in R&B and disco or are up to date on the little known subject of jungle rock, Barrabas has long been a mainstay. This New York group has released three interesting albums, the newest, Watch Out, being the most progressive and perhaps confused.
Barrabas has an all too common habit shared by many artists black and white, of producing three to four sensational cuts per album and then lowering their standards. After listening to “Women,” “Wild Safari,” “Mellow Blow” and a few other choice cuts it’s difficult to rationalize the varying level of excellence on past Barrabas L.P.s.
Watch Out is a step further towards many of the jazz personifications laid down in Heart of the City. Barrabas is trying very hard here to spread out. There’s funk, a type of salsa and almost hard rock as well as their impeccable flute-sax satin sound, but where the album goes as a whole is impossible to grasp.
“Desperately” is undoubtedly the best cut. “Broadway Star” a kind of rock-disco. “Better Days,” an offshoot of “Along the Shore.” The rest of the album is a hodge-podge. Again the female vocalists (some of the best) get next to no credit.
Pyramid PY 9003
Some four months ago in the more fashionable New York discos a few D.J.’s began to play a song which became popular very quickly. That song, ‘Cathedrals,’ was written and recorded by an unknown white artist who had been paying very close attention to two things; one, David Bowie’s breathy vocals via “Fascination” and two, the advent of black pop as a mainstream in American music. The result. an album. Cathedrals by D.C. Larue.
Though his name belongs to the genre of Disco Tex, there is a well balanced combination of camp and sincerity here. Side one, a fourteen minute tribute to Donna Summers blends in and out on a very simple lyric casually peaking and then subsiding with the help of synthesizer, strings, and heavenly black female vocals. “Cathedrals.” the album’s strongest statement, is poetically and musically a high point. Mr. Larue reveals himself. delivers in a mature suggestive way.
For those interested in the white artist’s approach to a black medium, Cathedrals should prove an amusing if not positive experience. As a first attempt, a surprising effort.
“Where the Happy People Go” Atlantic SD 18172
Where The Happy People Go is the third in a progression of Trammps albums that has put this Philly based group at the tip of the R&B—Disco spearhead. The faithful who danced and listened to the likes of “Love Epidemic,” “Stop and Think” and the “Trammps’ Theme,” have once again been moved by the incredible momentum generated from first to last cut. Marvelously thought out and executed, this disc rates as one of the finest works released this year.
Tom Moulton of Gloria Gaynor fame has mixed the seven tracks with startling finesse and fullness. His treatment of each Baker, Harris & Young production is to say the least masterful. From “Soul Searchin’ Time” to Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety Nine and a Half– the Trammps evoke such a feeling of euphoria that nobody but nobody can keep still.
Few disco albums are listenable all the way through, so that when one comes along and promises to transcend the trendy here-today-gone-tomorrow format of today’s black pop scene, people are swayed they stop and think expand their horizons maybe even remember the words.
THE SUPREMES “High Energy”
A few weeks after Dianna Ross released her Love Hangover album and the air waves were saturated with her refusing the cure, an album appeared with two cuts that rivaled the intensity of her disco-lament with every note. That album was High Energy, naturally enough by The Supremes.
“Only You” was perhaps the most viable cut from the last Supreme’s contribution. The album is beautiful. but very much and little else, pure Supremes. High Energy seems to have taken off from there. In many ways its sound is completely new, focused, crisp and at times incredible. There’s something rewarding in a group like the Supremes moving on to new places.
The title song “High Energy” seems so completely non-Motown that it’s hard to believe Brian Holland is producing. The vocals are high and completely on key. a few notes astound, the music is at times celestial. “I’m Going to Let My Heart Do the Walking” is in short a disco gem. The rest of the album is just as good if not better though often returning to more traditional style. The Supremes—R&B at its best.
In the late sixties a fresh sort of energy came racing through the pop music scene. Many cult figures rose and many of today’s figures were still paying their dues as sidemen. Young people had something else to hear other than A.M. radio. At that time, young players were coming up with a different bag—they were adding horns to their sound. The horns made the music forceful.
New bands were coming down the road such as The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Chicago Transit Authority, Tower of Power, Mother Earth. The Buddy Miles
Band, and Lighthouse. These bands were sending their own type of musical vibration our way. In time, the music started to get funky. The funk lent itself to jazz. Rock thunder was also an undiminished component of this new sound. Basically, that sound was America’s introduction to what we know today as JAll/ROCK.
Within its own perimeter JAll/ROCK is presented to us in many ways. Artists such as Weather Report, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin. and Larry Coryell give us Jazz with Rock. Artists such as Frank Zappa, Chicago, Steely Dan, and Manfred Mann give us Rock with Jazz.
Due to the cerebral, precise content of some Jazz, and the all-encompassing scope of classical music, I must say that the classics also play a major role in the total composition of all JAll/ROCK. The
music of Duke Ellington. Frank Zappa. and Chick Corea will bear this out.
In future issues this column will include some information, reviews, and interviews concerned with the past as well as the present and future of the musical genre known as JAll/ROCK.
JEAN LUC PONTY “Aurora”
Atlantic SD 18163
In “AURORA” Ponty gives us much musical food for thought. In a quintessential way, Ponty truly displays his multifold musical background. The music on this album appears to be very conceptual. It is not exactly clear how the titles fit together, but musically all the themes are closely inter-related, as one
composition seems to bear the next. All of the music on the disc is composed and arranged by Ponty.
Ponty fronts a band of four young, new-music disciples comprised of Petrice Rushen on keyboards (electric and acoustic), Darryl Stuermer on guitars (electric and acoustic). Tom Fowler on electric bass, and Norman Fearrington on drums and percussion. Ponty himself is an electric violinist extraordinaire. Ponty has also had other solo efforts which found him in conjunction with Frank Zappa and George Duke. as well as some recording with John McLaughlin as a mid-stream member of the now defunct Mahavishnu Orchestra.
In summation, “AURORA” projects a certain consistency of material, ideas, and feelings that truly separate the quality of this music from the works of others that would normally be called JAll/ROCK.
“Back to Back” Arista 4061
Randy and Michael Brecker, after affiliations with countless recording artists, have come out of the liner note credits and onto the front of their second album. Randy Brecker was a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears during their most inventive years. Randy and Michael also put together a two album band called “Dreams” circa 1970-71. That band, being a bit too progressive for the masses, died before it lived. That is to say, people in general discovered this JAll/ROCK
entity after they had disbanded.
On “BACK TO BACK” the Breckers bring together many aspects of the more commercial sounding JAll/ROCK mode. Initially, the album gets as funky as the cat’s pajamas. fronting solos by Michael on tenor sax and flute. Randy on trumpet and Hugel horn, and David Sanborn, the man who has made everybody sound good, on alto saxophone. Sanborn is one of the first horn players used by Paul Butterfield. He can also be found all over David Bowie (musically), as well as on countless sessions. He also has a gorgeous solo album to his credit.
At times. “BACK TO BACK” has a heavy brass sound. immediately reminiscent of some great Big Band influences. The Breckers also include several pop sounding ballads on this effort. The tunes on this disc are particularly varied in nature, possibly taking away from the general consistency of the material, but producing many different musical textures as a result.
The Brecker aggregation consists of Randy and Michael Brecker, Dave Sanborn, Don Grolnick on keyboards. Steve Kahn on guitar, Will Lee on electric bass and vocals. Christopher Parker on drums and about a dozen specialists on various tracks.
In light of the fact that this disc gives us funk direct from the cat’s pajamas. Big Band ala Maynard Fergusen, several ballads, and some heavy rock guitar, bass, and drum work, “BACK TO BACK” definitely establishes the Breckers as new music people.
• Jazz/Rock Rundown