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 musicians he could think of:Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck and David Sancious alone (never mind the presense of Raymond Gomez and the glorious Cissy Houston) all make their presense known, even if Narada is always the star attraction.’Garden Of Love Light’ is not an album of ego-it’s an album of Narada-a great artist (as well as a great assembler of talent) drawing huge musical dynamics and creativity out of everyone playing along with him.This is especially true on the instrumentals “White Night”,”Saint And The Rascal”, the long and winding “The Sun Is Dancing” and Santana’s powerful “First Love” that all, like the vocal numbers feel more like ritual marriment than music at times.
Lyrically Narada encourages the listener to find the happiness in the music they are hearing,feel it’s power and enjoy themselves.It embraces the same positive additude of EWF of the same period and when Narada becomes involved in improvisation he includes the listener on the journey with him. So on ‘Garden Of Love Light’ instead of trying to find the funk groove in fusion Narada discovers how fusion grooves like mad very well on it’s own terms. And as far as melody goes he packs enough into every song (ESPECIALLY the instrumentals) to choke a horse.
Narada was laying groundwork for future classics on his own and with many other artists in the future and I must say that ‘Garden Of Love Light’ gets Narada off to a terrific start. ~ Andre S. Grindle