Jeff Beck – With The Jan Hammer Group: Live

Third chapter in Beck’s adventure in Jazz-rock land, this live album is probably his best (at least IMHO) and certainly an improvement of the preceding ultra-technical Wired and the too fusion-esque Blow By Blow. Indeed, this third try is probably the best suited to those searching for a conventional (but not boring) jazz-rock between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, while remaining accessible and out of the clichés.With the opening Freeway Jam, with its car honking intro, is a complete stunner and much better than the BBB version (IMHO). The following Earth (Still Our Only Home) is a very funky jazz track sung (Eeehmmm!!) by Jan Hammer, but Beck’s guitar shines brighter than a thousand suns. She’s A Woman is turned to a semi-reggae, semi-funk thing […]

Weather Report – Heavy Weather

Weather Report’s biggest-selling album is that ideal thing, a popular and artistic success — and for the same reasons. For one thing, Joe Zawinul revealed an unexpectedly potent commercial streak for the first time since his Cannonball Adderley days, contributing what has become a perennial hit, “Birdland.” Indeed, “Birdland” is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band. The other factor is the full emergence of Jaco Pastorius as a co-leader; his dancing, staccato bass lifting itself out of the bass range as a third melodic voice, completely dominating his own ingenious “Teen Town” (where he also plays drums!). By now, Zawinul has become WR’s […]

Santana – Borboletta

Starting on the same birdsong and sheep herd landscapes than its inspiration (but written by jazz-rock great Airto Moreira), you just know you will be in for another superb Santana ride as right after the intro, the first few mid-eastern scales of Canto De Flores directly lead you to heaven. As usual with Santana albums, happiness radiates from every pore of the vinyl record groove and Life Is Anew and Give And Take (both sung and hyper positive) are some of the better sung jazz-rock (I am usually not really a fan of that “thing”), and the vocals do help setting its own feel as opposed to its inspiration. On a lesser level, One With The Sun, while still lovely, is maybe one sung-track too […]

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire

Most of what we now recognize as Jazz Rock Fusion dates back to the first two albums by John McLaughlin’s MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, which ought to be enough reason to locate either on that (sadly, not very remote) Prog Archives plateau of certified five- star masterpieces. “Birds of Fire”, in 1973, was the second and more popular of the pair: a sizable crossover hit at a time when even casual music fans were a lot more adventurous than they are today. Significance aside, it was also an essential slice of unadulterated instrumental genius, allowing McLaughlin the chance to refine the lessons learned alongside Miles Davis during the legendary “Bitches Brew” sessions a few years earlier. Miles drew the blueprint; McLaughlin built the house, giving it some […]

Jean-Luc Ponty – Aurora

This 1975 high-powered fusion differs surprisingly little from the music that Jean-Luc Ponty has mostly played throughout the 1980s and ’90s. The violinist’s quintet (which includes guitarist Darryl Stuermer, keyboardist Patrice Rushen, bassist Tom Fowler and drummer Norman Fearrington) displays impeccable musicianship and lots of energy. The group was often so tight that the violin, keyboards, guitar and (to a lesser extent) the electric bass had similar tones, sometimes making it difficult to tell who was soloing at a particular moment. Listeners open to the sound of electronics and funky grooves should be very impressed by the spirited music which combines the adventure of jazz with the sound of rock. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Jeff Beck – Wired

Released in 1976, Jeff Beck’s Wired contains some of the best jazz-rock fusion of the period. Wired is generally more muscular, albeit less-unique than its predecessor, Blow by Blow. Joining keyboardist Max Middleton, drummer Richard Bailey, and producer George Martin from the Blow by Blow sessions are drummer Narada Michael Walden, bassist Wilbur Bascomb, and keyboardist Jan Hammer. Beck contributed no original material to Wired, instead relying on the considerable talents of his supporting cast. Perhaps this explains why Wired is not as cohesive as Blow by Blow, seemingly more assembled from component parts. Walden’s powerful drumming propels much of Wired, particularly Middleton’s explosive opener, “Led Boots,” where Beck erupts into a stunning solo of volcanic intensity. Walden also contributes four compositions, including the funk-infused […]

Return to Forever - Romantic Warrior

Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior

Originally released in 1976, Return To Forever’s Romantic Warrior could be described as the high-water mark of jazz fusion’s commercial popularity, reaching a spot on the Billboard charts and garnering the group a fanatical following of fans attracted to the band’s technical prowess and bombast. Released on the heels of the breakup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Romantic Warrior still sounds like a standard-bearer for jazz fusion, full of flashy solos and complicated arrangements that seem like collages of different moods, meters, and tempos. The album is much closer to the progressive rock of Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, or King Crimson than anything from the jazz realm. Return to Forever’s rhythm team of bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White, who gives the group a […]

Bill Bruford - Master Strokes

Bill Bruford – Master Strokes

Personnel: Bill Bruford (spoken vocals, drums, cymbals, percussion); Jeff Berlin (vocals, bass); Sam Alder, Anthea Norman-Taylor (spoken vocals); Allan Holdsworth, John Clark (guitar); Patrick Moraz (piano); Dave Stewart (keyboards). Producers: Ron Malo, Robin Lumley, Patrick Moraz, Bill Bruford. This stunning collection represents the best of the solo excursions by master British drummer Bill Bruford. After his tenure with the seminal prog-rock group Yes and between various regroupings of King Crimson, Bruford has found time to maintain an impressive solo career, mostly in the jazz/rock fusion vein. As this collection demonstrates, Bruford is as musically sensitive as he is adventurous. The main thread that runs through these works is that, although Bruford certainly provides plenty of rhythmic intrigue with everything he plays, this is not necessarily […]

Gong – Expresso!

Gazeuse! was the first in a successful line of strictly jazz-rock sessions for percussionist Pierre Moerlen and company — compositions that stressed jazz more than rock and which generally strayed away from lyrical content. This 1976 recording, also released under the title Expresso, was the band’s first completely instrumental album, a companion piece to the later, somewhat warmer Expresso II, which is quite similar in sound and structure. To say Gazeuse! is percussive is an understatement. Drummer Moerlen is accompanied by brother Benoit and Mirielle Bauer on vibraphones with Mino Cinelu playing other assorted percussion. “Percolations” is a showcase for this foursome: Part one, a display of beautiful vibes and xylophones; part two, a technically superb drum solo. Pierre’s playing is fierce in this second […]

Al Di Meola – Elegant Gypsy

Guitarist Al di Meola’s second record as a leader is generally an explosive affair, although it does have a fair amount of variety. With Jan Hammer or Barry Miles on keyboards, electric bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Lenny White (Steve Gadd takes his place on the “Elegant Gypsy Suite”), and percussionist Mingo Lewis on most of the selections, di Meola shows off his speedy and rock-ish fusion style. He was still a member of Return to Forever at the time and was a stronger guitarist than composer, but di Meola did put a lot of thought into this music. The brief “Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil” (an acoustic guitar solo) and “Mediterranean Sundance” (an acoustic duet with fellow guitarist Paco de Lucía) hints at di […]

Narada Michael Walden – Garden of Love Light

Fresh from his stint as drummer for the Mahavisnu Orchestra, Narada Michael Walden found himself in a musical age when gospel,funk,pop,jazz and rock were blending with cosmic,social and spiritual meanings in the lyrics. Writer Ricky Vincent calls it the United Funk era and for his part Narada had something special in mind musically for this new era. This 1976 debut ‘Garden Of Love Light’ is a funk-pop-fusion delight,heavier on the fusion then Walden would later become.Musically the mix is solid as it comes-the title song,”Delightful”,the wonderous “You Got The Soul” and the ballad “You Are Love” all tie together soul,pop,gospel organs and walloping jazz fusion drumming to perfection,in each case under five minutes. As is still typical for him, Narada had called in the best […]

billy-cobham-spectrum

Billy Cobham – Spectrum

One of the greatest jazz rock fusion albums of all time, recorded in 1973, remastered in 2001 from the original analogue tapes, and packaged in a digipack. Tommy Bolin at his absolute best surrounded by a truly amazing band. Tommy Bolin, guitar; Jan Hammer, keys; Lee Sklar, bass; and Billy Cobham, drums, percussion. Guests: John Tropea, guitar; Ron Carter, bass; Joe Farrell, sax, flute; Jimmy Owens, flugelhorn, trumpet; and Ray Barreto, congas. Mark – Audiophileimports.com

Santana – Caravanserai

Perhaps it’s far too easy for the younger generation to underestimate the enormous influence that Santana had on the direction of progressive music in the early 70s and that’s a shame. Maybe their well-deserved inclusion on this site will go a long way towards rectifying that situation. After establishing themselves as bonafied “Top 40” chart-toppers with their first three studio albums the group was expected to continue that trend with more of the same radio-friendly ditties.Instead, they shocked the listening public with an album that introduced the masses to the new and blossoming world of jazz rock fusion that was jetting across the planet just under the radar of popular acceptance. “Caravanserai” was a real trip for the average Joe and not all of their […]

Passport – Infinity Machine

Studio Album, released in 1976 Songs / Tracks Listing 1. Ju-Ju-man (10:04) 2. Morning sun (5:49) 3. Blue aura (3:02) 4. Infinity machine (5:12) 5. Ostinato (7:37) 6. Contemplation (6:39) Last album with the classic lineup – Curt Cress / drums, percussion – Klaus Doldinger / soprano & tenor saxes, Moog, keyboards, voice – Wolfgang Schmid / bass, guitar, harmonizer – Kristian Schulze / keyboards Not as good as previoous two albums, but title track is a real blowout. MarktheShark says ” It’s like ELP meets Weather Report with Klaus’s intense sax work and Kristian’s distorted Hammond organ along with Curt’s maniacal drumming and Wolgang’s thunderous bass lines.” Recommended!

Iceberg-Arc-en-Ciel

Iceberg – Arc-en-ciel

Here’s another unjustly overlooked band that never received the wider attention it deserved, a victim of geographic isolation (despite their English name, the group hailed from northeast Spain), or maybe the fierce competition between likeminded musicians for a loyal but dwindling fan base in the late 1970s.
ICEBERG played instrumental Fusion in the spirit of early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, …

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

This album is … absolutely essential … with songs like East St. Louis Toodle-Oo. To my mind, this song is the closest the Dan ever actually came to prog. Sure, it’s short, and every note was pre-written by the Duke, but their arrangement is as progressive as it comes. And check out Don’s piano solo! That song alone justifies the price of admission to this album. Elsewhere, however, what you’ll find are immaculate pop hooks. And you’ll find them all over the place. “Any Major Dude” and “Barrytown” are both feel-good songs, which may not necessarily have feel-good subjects (the former seems to be positive, the latter is about some kind of cult which did actually exist but with which I am not familiar). If […]

Atlantis – It’s Getting Better

Lineup: Inga Rumpf: lead vocal, acoustic guitar, percussion Adrian M. Askew: keyboards, vocals Alex Conti: guitars, vocals Karl-Heinz Schott: bass Ringo Funk: drums, percussionAtlantis was not only the name of the legendary island, the famous Greek author Plato mentioned, but also the name of a band formed by ex-Frumpy musicians Inga Rumpf, Jean-Jacques Kravetz and Karl-Heinz Schott, in late Summer, 1972.

thirsty-moon

Thirsty Moon – You’ll Never Come Back

Thirsty Moon’s second album is definitely titled as risque, mostly due to its title and rather ugly semi-erotic cartoon artwork, but the music proves the title wrong.

Sloche – Stadacone

4.5 stars really!!! With a slightly changed line-up (drummer being replaced and an extre percussionist also), Sloche made an incredible confirmation with their second album, the stunning Amerindian-laced artwork covered Stadaconé. Still headed by the double keyboard attack and having plenty of back-up by their guitarist and the rest of the band, Stadaconé is relatively close to their debut although more towards Mahavishnu and GG, than the debut. One of the odd thing about this album is that it is dedicated to Pierre Boucard who helped write the two epics and that the album was recorded intwo distinct sessions produced by Ouellet for one and Desbien (who had done such a great job on their debut).

Aera – Turkis

Third album from this German combo that was entering a more difficult phase, plagued with personnel problem and they had to wait almost three years since the release of their second album. I am not sure about this but the group might have disbanded during this time. By now (79), the Ihre Kinder and Embryo roots were long gone, and guitarist Muck Groh had departed (although he guests on one track), leaving wheelchair-bound saxman Kreuzeder a bit alone at the driving wheel. As he was the only remaining member from the previous two albums, understandably the group sounded quite different, especially that the JR/F scene had gone from jazz rock to jazz-fusion. Still released on the legendary Erlkonig label, this album (sporting a cartoon-like artwork) […]