MASSIVE ATTACK – Mezzanine (1998)

Review by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Album assigned by: Christian Sußner

If you grew up as a music fan under the dominant sway of the music press during its three-four decade long heyday then you most likely know the desperate feeling that came from constantly reading about some hugely important influential record that, having been name dropped once too often, you were eventually forced to save up enough money to buy (yes, you read that right, you used to have to pay for music, which tended to really limit your options) and listen to over and over again – and that, after countless vain attempts to ‘get it’, to understand what all the fuss was about, you were forced to give up on and chalk up as a failure of imagination or music appreciation on your part. Actually it quite often turns out that years later, when you eventually return to such half digested masterpieces, that rather amazingly the pieces just seem to fall into place of their own accord without any additional effort on the part of the listener, maturity or a deeper appreciation of music in general having taken up the previous slack. For other records that never happens at all, ever, and you’re forced to conclude that either there’s some musical blind spot in your brain (and that maybe, possibly there’s a chance you just might get it in the end, on your deathbed maybe), or that the music press had in fact been actually selling you a massive pup all along. Ladies and gentlemen, Blue Lines by Massive Attack just happened to be exactly one of those personal bugbear records of mine. I mean I admired the album, and parts of it I really loved, but in the end and in spite of all that initial goodwill on my part, Blue Lines left me lukewarm. 

You see I get how the record might have won over the critics in the early 90s, its relentless privileging of style and hip over soul and substance and its achingly sussed on point musical allusions/borrowings served as a potent weapon against the earnest rockism that was still characteristic of the alternative music scene back in the days. But the fact is that no amount of studied cool could make up for the essentially pedestrian quality of the music. Indeed, trip hop taken as a genre – and aside from a handful of notable exceptions like Portishead or DJ Krush – tends to sounds much less impressive than it did in the mid-90s. Because it really had an untouchable, hazy green aura, of mystique surrounding it back then. Albums like Dummy or Entroducing felt epochal, significant, like a promise of much more to come. But in the end it all proved to be one big anti climax – and all those cruel jibes about trip hop being a safe, sanitised version of rap/hip hop without all that stuff about thugs and guns and violence and bitches that you could play at nice dinner parties without offending your guests seemed not to have been so wide off the mark after all. I listen to those old trip hop records again now 20 years on and after having, rather critically, had the chance to hear many of the original dub, soul and reggae records that were formative influences on the genre and I can’t help but notice just how cumbersome and actually dated trip hop sounds in comparison.

All of which egotistical rambling finally brings us round to Mezzanine, Massive Attack’s third album: the one where the band started to expand on their sound, developing an earthier, more rock-oriented style, and softening some of the hard, blunt edges of their first two albums. I mean in theory it should appeal a lot more to my rather more organic sensibilities, but to me it just sounds a lot like probably the best beer commercial soundtrack music ever. I still find an immense depthlessness to their music, a horrible anodyne quality that lurks behind the immediate surface allure, of which admittedly there is plenty. Angel and Teardrop, the two that everyone knows from the album, are completely worn out from over familiarity, like a frazzled imitation persian rug — and really I can’t even begin to separate out the music from its role as the incidental music or as the inspiration for the incidental music in a thousand different adverts or television productions. The images and visual symbols, the products, and the music all bleed into one another, one great trite miasma. Worse still whenever I listen to Mezzanine and start to really get into it, I reflexively think of where I’ve heard the same thing done better or where it’s felt far more genuine. There are, as always with Massive Attack, exceptions: moments when they triumph over their musical limitations, Risingson being one obvious highlight, although there are fewer of these than on Blue Lines. But (to my most alas) I still don’t get it; I just can’t overcome my by now decades long resistance to the group (6/10).

GREEN DAY – American Idiot (2004)

Review by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez
Album assigned by: Graham Warnken

My only memories of Green Day were when they were on the radio a lot around the release of “Dookie”, so for me they were always this young pop-punk band, so when I read in the press that they were doing a conceptual rock opera thing I was thinking “Huh? Are they the right band to do this? Wouldn’t it be boring? Pop punk only has so much diversity and when you go for a concept album you need musical diversity”.

Or course I was not being aware that 10 years had passed since “Dookie”, and another 12 have passed since they released “American Idiot” to the day in which I’m listening to it for the first time.

First of all, I will not comment on the plot and the concept, for one simple reason: I would need to pay attention to the lyrics, and that would be something for a time when I can focus enough on them.

I don’t know if in the time span between Dookie and American Idiot they had already transcended their old sound, but in this record they sound quite more diverse than simply punky pop (although “St. Jimmy” – actually the second half of “Are We The Waiting / St. Jimmy”; a lot of tracks come in pairs – is totally classic punk). But the energy is there, oh boy is it there. The guitars jump at you with classic rock abandon, the drums are precise yet lively and the bass holds the ground as it’s supposed to do. Check the title track for an example – it’s exhilarating.

Green Day asserted that they had done their homework and studied classic rock operas and it shows. They said their main inspiration was “Quadrophenia” and I can agree – but if anything, it sounds like Quad if Quad had been done by the Who of 1965 rather than the Who of 1973. But that’s not the only discernible influence; take the second track and arguably the tour de force of the album, “Jesus of Suburbia”, a nine minute monster in several parts. Not only there are very strong hints of Ziggy Stardust here and there, but the third section (“I don’t care”) is so much in the same rhythm as the “I have to know” part of “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar – and it’s so totally appropriate in a meta level – that it cannot be accidental.

Diversity is also a mark of the “paired” tracks: the “Are we the waiting” section of that track I mentioned above has nothing to do with the “St. Jimmy” section; “Give me Novocaine / She’s a rebel” repeats the trick: the first part is funky and acoustic, the second is punk pop at its most direct; “Holiday / Boulevard of Broken Dreams” sounds like the reggaeified Clash in its first part (excellent!), and like Oasis in the second (damn!). “Wake me up when September ends” is the expected acoustic/power ballad, and its placement in the album makes it the equivalent of the typical Broadway “11 o’clock song” (clever!). Then “Homecoming” tries to repeat the trick of “Jesus of Suburbia” (it’s even a little longer) but not quite succeeding as much, although having the two guys not named Billie Joe contribute (and sing) a section is a welcome idea (in addition to a possible nod at “Tommy”).

In short, even taking the concept out of the equation, the album is an enjoyable romp and its opening stretch is certainly good; I’d nominate the entire sequence of “American Idiot”, “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Holiday” (a pity about the “Boulevard” part – sorry guys but Oasis????) as the best part of the album. Thumbs totally up.

SOUNDGARDEN – Superunknown (1994)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: B.b. Fultz

When you think of nostalgia, you probably think of 80s cartoons and such because these are the properties that have been aggressively revived for the past decade or so for um… your money, yes. But I think the 90s are properly in the nostalgia realm too already as the eventful conclusion to the already very eventful “short century”. Amid hip hop, boybands, collectible bubble gum stickers and regrettable fashion choices there’s always of course heavy metal’s ugly step-sibling: grunge. A genre that, so far as I can tell, nobody who hasn’t been between the ages of I guess 13 and 30 during its peak years cares about much anymore. Sure, Nirvana get played occasionally on the all-purpose throwback radio and so does “Black Hole Sun”, Soundgarden’s megahit from this record, which I imagine its regular listeners attribute to Nirvana too, but nobody seems to be giving grunge extended attention yet. However, I too, occasionally start to miss “the heavy sludge of ‘70s metal” and “the raw aesthetic of ‘80s punk”, and so I approached this record very enthusiastically.
Stretch the bones over my skin
Stretch the skin over my head
I’m going to the holy land
Stretch the marks over my eyes
Burn the candles deep inside
Yeah you know where I’m coming from
Oh… I had forgotten about this. Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those whiny “poetic masterpieces”. People lashed out at emo at the height at its popularity but seriously, I think people back in the 90s could get even cornier, especially in metal. Okay, screw this, let’s look at the music. 
Well, Soundgarden do deliver on their promise of a heavy sound, a heavy psychedelic one at that, and there are some delightful nods to Zep in tracks like “The Day I Tried to Live” and “Fresh Tendrils”. But at some point these tracks seem to really start blending in with each other, and they are neither the most sophisticated examples of the genre nor truly visceral in their nature – frankly, they are kind of forgettable with the possible exception of the above mentioned “Black Hole Sun”, which I assume has earned its vh1 status purely on its anthemic qualities. So you know, all things considered, and although I’d hate to deliver a lazy pun, Superunknown may go on to become indeed um… superunknown.

ANN PEEBLES – I Can’t Stand the Rain (1974)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

My introduction for this review can’t hope to be as good to the introduction to this album. Based on the album cover and Wikipedia page I expected soul music and yet the title track decided to announce itself with a really strange, cool synth riff that wouldn’t sound out of place in a some sort of electronic song, maybe Jean-Michel Jarre. Outside of this the song is soul but it’s a very strong soul number, featuring a passionate vocal performance which isn’t without its nuance, such as the way Ann almost trembles the word “rain” in the chorus. Its very catchy as well, with a kind of triumphant vibe, and a melancholic undercurrent. With all that and the cool synth riff what more do you want from your soul?

Unfortunately the rest of the album for the most part really doesn’t live up to it. The second song doesn’t have a cool riff but still sounds almost identical in its instrumentation and vibe, even quoting the first song. It’s not nearly as good, though it has some nice horn playing. For the most part this album is VERY similar instrumentally and vocally, featuring keyboards, strings, horns, electric guitars and some very good, punchy drumming, over which Ann Peebles delivers her passionate but tastefully restrained vocals. The songs are alls able to distinguish themselves in some way. “(You Keep Me) Hanging On” opens with a cool, suave guitar lick, “Run Run Run” has some boisterous horns, “If We Can’t Trust Each Other” features bouncy, melodic keyboard playing, “A Love Vibration” particularly stands out with the punchy, fun drum playing and “You Got to Feed the Fire” has a groovy organ. Despite this the similarities of the songs can’t help and the album gets a bit samey and boring.

This leaves three stand out tracks outside of the title one. “Until You Came Into My Life” is a very nice ballad with pretty guitar playing and strings. The organ playing sounds a bit like “A Lighter Shade of Pale” and I can imagine the song fitting perfectly over a dark, rainy scene in a gangster movie. The others are “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse” and “One Way Street” which thankfully end the album, leaving it on a high note. “Playhouse” is a sassy, sexy song which lyrically is about a cheating husband (I think). The vocal performance is suitably biting, especially with the accompanying strings and horns, yet there’s also some very nice subdued guitar playing which suggests the sadness and betrayal Ann Peebles must feel deep down about her husband being unfaithful. “One Way Street” has a great instrumental, with a glistening keyboard line opening it and a melodic piano line carrying it. It’s a catchy song and Ann’s vocal is strong as well, with that restrained passion I talked about earlier.

Overall this is a good album, with several stand out tracks. Despite this it’s probably best served as background music, though hopefully you do pay close attention during the highlights.

DAVID CLEREST PROJECT – Mission: Earth (2001)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Tristan Peterson

“David Clerest Project: Mission Earth”. This is a metal band like they used to have back then.

Actually, it’s a one-man metal band but this is not important for the purpose of this review. While we are still on it this man used to play for some other bigger bands, I believe. To hell with it. Let’s discuss what needs to be discussed.

The main question when discussing metal bands is: “from where and how have they got all the equipment?” This is as opposed to a question we usually ask about non-metal (singer-songwriters, progressive rock, punks, any other shit) artists: “how has it happened they have composed all that stuff and, tell me the hell, why?” Such question does not arise for metal bands.

Such question does not arise for metal bands because, having obtained the equipment, they proceed with that equipment usage in a normal way, the same way I would be watching my new TV if I had managed to steal it from my rich neighbor. There is only one way to watch a big TV. You turn it on and you watch. Punks and singer-songwriters and progressive rock bands they all are trying to watch a TV which has not been turned on. So, understandably, there’s a lot of questions for them: is the TV really there? Is it big or small? WHAT WOULD YOU THINK THE PICTURE WOULD BE IF ONE DAY YOU MANAGE TO TURN IT ON? DO YOU NEED ANNE FRANK TO TURN IT ON? ONLY TO TURN IT ON AND SHE CAN GO? PROMISE? And that’s the discussion of Art.

Nostalgia is the synonym for love. Visiting the old parents house is (as the “Forrest Gump” movie shows in regards with Forest) either nostalgic or (as the “Forrest Gump” movie shows in regards with Forest’s girlfriend) is an act of hatred. These two resolutions correspond to the binary outcomes of love which is always there. Metal bands are full of love, spreading the love to the audience, bathing the people in the warm waves of love supreme. We are too proud to admit this is the true love. We say “nostalgia” and we go away.

The binary resolution is provided by the equipment. An idiot can say metal bands can do other music. HAHAHA. EVEN SATAN CAN NOT. It is the equipment which uses the people, building metal bands of them. Those who do not know how to play go this and that way pleading to be used by big big amplifiers, pleading to become nostalgic. This is why the future of progressive rock lies in the extreme metal and the punk, being too humane, is expectedly dead.

VIRGINIA ASTLEY – From Gardens Where We Feel Secure (1983)

Review by: A.A
Album assigned by: Julien Mansencal


This is an ambient album that evokes nostalgia, and does it better than some but not all similar albums. Mostly pianos and soundscapes and samples/field-recordings comprise the sound. I do not have a lot to say about it, but I’m somewhere between appreciating it and liking it. On the whole, I think most people would be positive toward it than negative.


Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Consider this my contractual obligations review. Quite honestly I was unable to sit through this album even once. I’m sure there are people out there who can appreciate this and therefore write something meaningful about it, but I cannot. What immediately hits you in the face is a very aggressive, driving drum beat. Everything else is pretty much is a soundscape accompanying this drumbeat, and this drumbeat, with little significant difference, dominates each and every track. The soundscapes do have some interesting elements, but ultimately it’s all about that drumbeat. I don’t like it and don’t care to hear it, so that pretty much negates any other attribute of this music. Not for me, sorry!

RODRIGUEZ – Cold Fact (1970)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Ah, 1970! Right in the middle of the golden age of rock music, amidst such epically successful records like Paranoid, After the Gold Rush, Led Zeppelin III or Cosmo’s Factory, comes this effort by initially little-known singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez. Who is this Detroit-born Mexican-American with cool shades and a weird first name (given to him because he was the sixth child in his family)? Is he another Dylan-Donovan-Cat Stevens rip-off or the great forgotten hero of the hippie generation, overlooked in every country but South Africa and Australia? Yeah I’m serious, look it up if you don’t believe me – in South Africa they even thought he was dead at some point, with his fans considering him a great tragic artist akin to Morrison or Hendrix. Then a couple of decades later they found out he was alive and revived his career, but that’s another story… So who is this Sugar Man of rock music after all?

It turns out that he is just a very good songwriter and a pretty idiosyncratic singer who was merely unlucky to finish his recording career too early (after exactly two albums). Cold Fact is his debut and frankly it doesn’t feel much like a debut album – Rodriguez appears here already as an accomplished musician who has enough great material for a brilliant 30+ minutes LP. 

And it is partly true as well – he polished his songs by performing them in bars and clubs for several years before releasing this album, so Cold Fact is a result of a lot of hard work that somehow still feels almost effortless. Of course, “Sugar Man” is his calling card, his most famous and memorable song, but this is not the case of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” at all, because the other tracks are in fact worthy of your attention as well. My particular favourites include the raunchy guitar-driven “Only Good for Conversation”, the lyrically bitter “Hate Street Dialogue” and the light-heartedly melodic “I Wonder”. I would also love to praise the hell out of playing and singing but I’m afraid this review will get overlong and boring if I start describing it in too much detail. So I’ll just say that the eclectic instrumentation is a delight to my ears, and Sixto’s singing breathes personality and gives off a shining charisma – I mean you can actually FEEL what kind of a man he is merely from the way he delivers these verses. He’s obviously a swell guy, this Rodriguez, though slightly disillusioned by the world around him. And have I already mentioned his cool shades? Well they are cool enough to mention them twice, and when you hear these songs you can almost see them in front of your eyes. And that calm and collected fella behind them, too.

So, long story short, this album rules, it might actually become one of my favourite albums of 1970. That’s a cold fact for you. Take care.

RAGNARÖK – Ragnarök (1976)

Review by: B. B. Fultz
Album assigned by: A.A

Ragnarök is a Swedish band from the seventies. A number of sources list them as “progressive folk” in the vein of Jethro Tull. For me, this distinction is clear for Tull because I’m familiar with the textures of medieval English folk music, but I have little idea how Swedish folk/traditional music sounds, so I’ll have to take their word for it. From what I remember of Nordic mythology, Ragnarök roughly translates to “Twilight of the Gods” — the final war that heralds the end of the old gods and the old world. The album cover does indeed depict a Twilight sky, but no apocalyptic battles … just a shadowy figure on a bicycle riding down a winding country road toward an oncoming bus. I do not know who is riding the bike or who is driving the bus, and there is no clear indication whether the two will pass one another or collide head on, so the message is unclear. On the cover, the umlaut-dots in “Ragnarök” look like two more stars in the night sky. Who knows, maybe they are? In stark contrast to the name, the cover is very pastoral, almost idyllic. The looming black cloud seems to be the only hint that something ominous could be on the way.
The reason I’ve tried to decipher the album cover is because the music itself has no lyrics, so it doesn’t explain what any of this has to do with the end of the world. Maybe they just thought it would be a cool name for a band?
The music itself is essentially an acoustic tapestry of different moods and textures. The “progressive folk” label is misleading because it has none of the trademark elements of Prog. No futuristic sound effects or Keith Emerson synth solos here. In fact I don’t think there ARE any synthesizers on this album, and very little keyboards. About the only real connection to Prog is an occasional jazz influence on the guitar solos and some tricky drum syncopations. It’s a lot closer to Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull than it is to ELP or Yes. The song titles are in Swedish, but I listened to the songs before I deciphered the titles, to absorb the various moods neutrally. The album mostly follows a folk pattern, yet there are a variety of subtle nuances here.
Färval Köpenhamn (translated to “Father Choice in Dubai?” … I split up Farval syllabically, so I’m not sure of the accuracy here) begins the album on a simple folk pattern of interwoven acoustic guitars in the style of David Gilmour (both the early and latter days of Pink Floyd) crossed with something else I can’t recall. It’s wistful sounding in that way a good Gilmour acoustic track is. This Pink Floydish quality recurs in several songs, including the very next song, called Promenader (“Walks”) … a longer and more complex song with an attractive guitar melody and spacey/dreamy solos laid atop a mellow jazzy background. Stoner rock of sorts, but of very high quality.
Nybakat bröd (“Freshly Baked Bread”) shifts gears into a mid-tempo medieval ballad. As soon as I heard the opening notes, I thought Jethro Tull … amusingly, a few seconds later a flute made its first appearance on the album, and I had to smile (did I call it, or what?). If you heard this without knowing all of Tull’s back catalogue you could easily confuse it for one of Ian Anderson’s Elizabethan forays. Purposeful and meticulous minstrel-strumming with a sense of forward motion. Yet ere you climb on your steed and make haste, it is over, and we’re falling into the Dagarnas Skum (“Days of Foam”) and another Pink Floydian fugue state. The longest song on the album, it begins almost too softly to be heard, climbing out of the gloom in a way reminiscent of “Echoes.” It has some VERY Gilmour-sounding guitar playing, and all of these surreal little background chirps and chimes that make the whole thing sound somewhere halfway between dreaming and waking. When the flute comes in, it sounds so right it seems almost preordained. Soft sibilant percussion appears and intertwines with the rest, sometimes steadily, sometimes in convoluted little syncopations. The whole thing is amazing — if I didn’t know the band I would swear I was listening to early 70s Pink Floyd at the top of their game. I can only assume the Foam in the title is sea-foam … it’s a dreamy undersea world, like Echoes, where “everything is green and submarine.” The finale of Side One, beautiful and sad and deep, a song where everything flows together just so, like some fable that gets better with each retelling. Simply a great piece of music.
Side Two begins with a return to the land of Tull, and Ragnarök’s answer to Bouree’ … a super-short (44 seconds) flute solo called Polska fran Kalmar (“Polish From Kalmar”) and essentially the prelude Fabriksfunky (“Factory Funky?” Not sure on this one). Fabriksfunky is an interesting one, another smooth jazz-rocker reminiscent of Robin Trower. The rhythm section as well as the tone of the guitar solos all remind me of the Trower song “Somebody’s Calling” — one of his best, by the way. Then things slow down a little again with Tatanga mani (“Walking Buffalo” and the only non-Swedish title, apparently it’s borrowed from Amerindian dialects). This is the one that most reminds me of a Yes song, at least in the beginning. The tumbling acoustic runs are reminiscent of Steve Howe’s better moments. The first half of the song consists of these noodling little acoustic fingerings, almost like it’s looking for direction. Partway through it turns into something quite different, a kind of Flamenco lounge number on the acoustic with nifty little bass runs. Somehow they bring the flute into it toward the end. And somehow it works. Don’t ask me how though. It’s really more like “aimlessly wandering buffalo” or maybe “schizophrenic buffalo looking for its medication” because it never sounds like the same song for long. It gets a little disorienting at times, but at least it’s never dull.
The last few songs don’t cover much new ground — Fjottot (no idea what it means) brings us back to ELP. It has a bouncy circus-like sound with an almost hurdy-gurdy style background, like you caught Keith Emerson in a playful mood and then he realized you were there and abruptly stopped playing after a minute and a half of noodling around. It’s a little too short, but it’s fun while it lasts. Stiltje-uppbrott (“Lull Breakup”) returns to a solemn introspective mood, at least at first, then breaks into a rousing medieval-esque acoustic barrage complete with a very emphatic flute (back to Tull again). I’m guessing it’s about the lonely period after a romantic break-up (the “lull” between partners) where one is in a numb lethargy and then suddenly snaps out of it. The closing song Vattenpussar (“Water Kisses”) starts very softly with wistful sounding little chiming keyboard notes weaving with a lonely and bluesy electric guitar, building into a strange kind of jazz-rock-blues thing that I can’t exactly describe, with a horns section (at least they sound like horns) that verges on something from Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats album, or almost … then dwindles back to its soft beginnings … then ends. It was a good song to end the album on because somehow it just SOUNDS like a coda. But don’t ask me exactly how or why.
For an album where most of the songs follow a similar theme, I’m a little surprised this review turned out so long. These are all basically guitar-based folk songs, aside from the one flute solo (which was basically a prologue to a guitar song). But there’s so much going on, so many different moods and textures and shadings of meaning, that it seems impossible to do it justice with a brief review. George might be able to pull that off, but I don’t think I can. This music was nothing totally new or unique, not even back in 1976, and they seem to borrow from a lot of other, more famous bands. Yet they mix these elements in a novel way, making it all somehow greater than the sum of its parts. I have no idea what freshly-baked bread or sea foam or buffalos have to do with the end of the world, but even if I don’t understand it, I still feel like I “get” it. This is not an album of certainties, it’s an album of nuances. In fact it’s so nuanced I think adding lyrics would just have been a distraction. It’s an amazing rainbow of moods and emotions and whimseys, and an ideal example of what a few competent musicians are capable of when they stop trying to explain life and the world and everything, and simply concentrate on making good music. This is an album of contemporary folk rock and that’s about it, so I suppose it’s nothing special. But not being special is what makes it so special. Thumbs up, 4 or 5 stars, whatever … just go listen to it. This is an album that should be heard, and heard often.

GROVER WASHINGTON JR. – Mister Magic (1975)

Review by: Syd Spence

Album assigned by: Eric Pember

I’ve always loved the idea of jazz fusion. Take the blistering Coltrane style sax solo, slap it over a thick diamond hard funk groove, and you’d be nearing audio perfection. Yet, barring a few Miles Davis albums, I’ve been perennially disappointed by it and I think I’ve figured out why. See most of the Jazz Fusion artists are old bop pros, far from their experimental youth. They reach the ‘70s and go, “the kids are diggin this funk stuff, with its simple rhythms and electric bass. Hey, why don’t we combine smooth jazz melodies with these popular rhythms. Then we will make so much dough we can start buying smack again.” Essentially, a lot of jazz fusion like Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, etc sounds to my ears like proto Kenny G. It’s a little more academic (with it’s weird time signatures), but in the end it’s generally easy listening, and lacking that Coltrane edge. It’s like the Jazz equivalent of AOR, it’s not quite adult contemporary but it’s getting there. 

Anyways, that leaves us to this album, Mr. Magic, which exudes literally all those qualities. Its melodies are smooth, the instrumentation is tight, the arrangements are a little quirky (to a non jazz ear). But the whole thing is so damn safe that it’s just ready made for a some adventurous elevator. 

Case in point, the star of the show, the 12 minute long centerpiece, “Earth Tones.” The track starts with the band creating a tremendous near psychedelic ambience with it’s mix of electric piano, animal sounds and bass noodling. And then horns and drums, bass come in and it sounds great, just thick and awesome, but then your mind focuses on the melody and … it’s just, well it sounds like music used for scene changes in a ‘70s made for tv movie. Then they mess with the time signature and Grover comes in does some jazz soloing business and it sounds great again, and then it’s time for another scene change in The Young and the Restless. And this happens throughout the 12 minutes, cool jazz funkery, periodicly being interupted by that all too friendly melody. And this is the most adventurous and interesting track of the bunch, completely ruined by such a conventional melody. 

The rest of the album varies’ from smooth jazz meets hollywood strings to limp funk tunes. The best of which is probably Black Frost. It’s pretty much a straight funk tune that’s just missing that James Brown spark. It’s not bad, but not really something you need either. 

Overall, I don’t like jazz fusion but if you do, you’d probably love this record. Just go in expecting that cool smooth academic jazz fusion like the Weather Report. Me, I’ll continue fantasizing about John Coltrane joining Parliament.