LENNY WHITE — Venusian Summer

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LENNY WHITE - Venusian Summer cover
4.29 | 7 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Fusion


A1 Chicken-Fried Steak 4:33
A2 Away Go Troubles Down The 3:21
The Venusian Summer Suite
A3 Part 1. Sirenes 4:28
A4 Part 2. Venusian Summer 6:38
B1 Prelude To Rainbow Delta 1:10
B2 Mating Drive 7:40
B3 Prince Of The Sea 11:37

Total Time: 38:54


Bass - Doug Rauch
Electric Piano, Clavinet - Onaje Allan Gumbs (tracks: A2, A4, B2, B3)
Guitar - Al Di Meola (tracks: B3) , Doug Rodrigues (tracks: A1, A2, B2) , Larry Coryell (tracks: B3) , Raymond Gomez (tracks: A1, B2)
Keyboards, Synthesizer - David Sancious (tracks: A2, A4)
Organ - Jimmy Smith (tracks: A1) , Larry Young (tracks: B2) , Weldon Irvine (tracks: A2)
Drums - Lenny White
Synthesizer - Patrick Gleeson (tracks: A3, A4, B1) , Peter Robinson (tracks: A3, A4)
Synthesizer, Flugelhorn - Tom Harrell (tracks: A3, B3)

About this release

Nemperor Records ‎– NE 435(US)

Recorded June and August 1975, Electric Lady Studios, New York.
Orchestra sequences recorded at Different Fur, San Francisco

Thanks to Abraxas, js, snobb for the updates


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Members reviews

This album did nothing but just totally blow me away! Lenny White had already played for Miles Davis on his classic Bitches Brew, and then later on Return to Forever starting with Hymn of the Seventy Galaxy and ending with Romantic Warrior. Venusian Summer was obviously recorded while he was still with RTF, but here he doesn't have a regular band, he has varying guests appear on each cut, including Larry Young (who played with John McLaughlin on Devotion, as well as Love, Devotion, Surrender with McLaughlin and Carlos Santana, as well as tons albums under his own name), David Sancious, Ray Gomez, Doug Rauch (who played on Santana's Caravanserai and Welcome, as well as Love, Devotion, Surrender), Patrick Gleeson (Herbie Hancock's Crossings and Sextant, Julian Priester's Love Love), Peter Robinson (Quatermass, Sun Treader, Brand X), Al DiMeola (RTF), Larry Coryell and others.

The first two songs, "Chicken Fried Steak" and "Away Goes Trouble Down the Drain" (the latter an obvious reference to Roto Rooter, a major plumbing service here in America for you non-American readers, that's been their slogan for as long as I can remember) are just simply amazing funky songs, but I really love how Lenny White diverts from the funk template and gets more experimental. The title track, for example, is a two part piece that starts off rather spacy and eerie, but the second part gets more into fusion territory, a bit like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy-era RTF. "Prelude to the Rainbow Delta" is another short spacy ambient piece that leads to "Mating Drive". Here it still starts spacy and calm, with some faint eerie Mellotron choirs, but then the music really goes into such overdrive it even makes Mahavishnu Orchestra look like slouches (which is something you'd never say especially with the original lineup). "Prince of the Sea" is a bit more calm, but not in the spacy ambient territory. Here you get plenty of dueling guitar from Al DiMeola and Larry Coryell.

I almost forgot to mention the cover. This reminds me of how an H.R. Giger painting would look like if there was color and all the nightmare, alien and death imagery removed (no skulls, skeletons, or creatures from the movie Alien or looks like it should belong said movie franchise). It's because the lady's face reminded me of a Giger paint.

Anyways, Venusian Summer is nothing short of amazing! Many fusion albums seem to stick to one thing throughout and can get a bit monotonous, but here Lenny White really spices it up by exploring different ideas throughout the album, from funk, to full-on Mahavishnu Orchestra-like guitar-driven fusion to spacy ambient parts. I really can't find much fault in this album. It's not mentioned the same way as say, the first two or three Mahavishnu Orchestra album (with the original lineup) or Return to Forever's Romantic Warrior, but this album really deserves to be in your collection!
Sean Trane
While still in RTF, Lenny White started recording his own (very ambitious) solo album, the present in the summer of 75, with an impressive cast of musician buddies, including stars like Coryell, DiMeola, and Larry Young but others just as impressive like Gleeson (ex-Mwandishi), Sancious, or Doug Rauch (ex-Santana) and many more lesser-known (to moi, anyway). Actually, while Lenny shows himself a surprisingly pleasant songwriter, VS is also the works of two of the more important participants in the project: the Gleeson-Sancious duo on synthesizers (with Lenny), and Doug Rauch on Bass (two composition) and probably responsible for much of the Santana influence on the album. Graced with an esoterico-fantasy artwork, the album has much to please fans of progressive or complex music of the delightful decade.

Opening on the Rauch-penned ultra-funky Chicken-fried Steak that could easily find its place on Herbie’s Head Hunters album, VS continues with the energetic Down The Drain, which nears the 200 MPH cruising speed. Both (shorter) tracks tend to favour an ultra-complex rhythmic plot, thus maybe giving a wrong impression of the album as a whole. Up next is the 10-mins title track changes the general mood so much, that you my just check if this is not a manufacturing flaw, mixing two different albums. Indeed if the previous speedy pieces were one thing, the VS suite is almost its opposite, with a lengthy first spacey synth-filled intro movement with Gleeson, Sancious, Harrel, Robinson and White adding layers upon layers of calm sounds. The second movement gradually builds up and has a strong Caravanserai (Santana) feel (slightly funkier, though), which is probably the utmost reference for yours truly. Clearly Lenny had been listening to that album or the Alice-Carlos Illuminations album.

The flipside opens on the introductory Rainbow Delta, which returns to spacey synth layers, where Gleeson is alone to counter White’s percussions. Out of these soft and calm layers rise an energetic Mating Drive, where the Rauch-Santana vein is again explored withgreat success and lightning speed execution, especially knowing that Larry Young has a certain Gregg Rollie feel on the organ, before digressing in a percussion-filled fade-out. Impressive, but not unique. The closing Epic Prince Of The Sea is again much in the Caravanserai mould, but this time featuring the awesome Coryell-DiMeola blazing duet on guitar, where Al shows his Carlos-cloning ability, while Larry prefers as usual being more at the service of the music.

This LW debut album is a gorgeous piece of 70’s JR/F, one that had escaped me until nowadays (shame on me!!!), but definitely a pleasant unknown blast from the past. Like many artistes, it is White’s very early solo works that work best, not just because of their still fresh-inspirations (this is rather debatable, since this album is somewhat derivative of Caravanserai), but also due to the changes in the music industry that would shake the second half of the decade to lead to the awful 80’s. In the meantime, Venusian Summer is closer to an early 70’s album than a late 70’s work, and that makes already a load of difference… and not just to me!!

Men are from Mars, sexy women are from Venus. It being summer, they can forego clothes. I've always been interested in astronomy and have often trained my telescope on Venus, beats looking at Uranus, so I do know what I'm talking about. Actually, I haven't a clue, where was I?

Speaking of Venusians, what a beautiful album cover. It's the kind of imagery that I would like to paint on the side of my van cum love-mobile. It has wall-to-wall carpeting by the way. Sorry, for continuing digressions, I continue to get distracted.

Lenny White is the drummer who played on the seminal album by Miles Davis, "Bitches Brew", and also played on the "Red Clay" by Freddie Hubbard. He also performed on Eddie Henderson's masterpiece, and I believe one of the greatest albums in JRF, "Realization" (which is what initially drew me to explore Lenny White albums). In fact, Lenny White has played with a great many of the jazz, and jazz fusion greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Benny Maupin, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, various Return to Forever guys obviously, but we forgive him ;), and Larry Coryell. This album and "Adventures of Astral Pirates" are my favourites under his name.

I am going to do an out of order, and thereby hard to follow since the album tracks flow matters when listening, track by track ANALysis, this album being Uranus themed, starting with the third track since it is THE track of the album.

The "Venusian Summer Suite" ranks amongst my favourite pieces of music in the jazz-rock universe, and this is the heart of the album. It starts off in an electronic, cosmic, and beautiful manner that is reminiscent of western art music composers such as Holst and Debussy (in fact, I thought I recognised the specific theme -- maybe not that original but still so wonderful). It is very much a Dr. Patrick Gleeson slice and it is his contribution that makes the opening so superb. It transitions fantastically into stirring, exciting, exhilarating (now I'm being really exasperating) jazz-funk. What a great track; one of the best in jazz-rock/electronic, and it should appeal to those who love music such as Herbie Hancock's "Sextant" and "Crossings" as well as Bennie Maupin albums -- adding this suite to a cosmic funk session (playlist) with tracks such as Bennie Maupin's 'Quasar' (the version from "Slow Traffic to the Right"), Eddie Henderson's 'Galaxy' off "Sunburst", 'Languidity' from Sun-Ra, and similar funky cosmic excursions is an epic thing to do.

If the whole album was up to the standards of the "Venusian Summer Suite" this album would get a five from me. It's not, but there is more to get pretty excited about.

"Chicken Fried Steak" and "Away Goes Trouble Down the Train" is good, fun and enjoyable, but nothing terribly remarkable. Pretty standard bluesy jazz-rock and rather boring for me. If you like electric guitar-oriented music and pretty bog-standard blues and rock-and-roll, this might hold considerable appeal. I still find it fun, but while these these pieces have their moments, I have tended to skip them. Still, it presents another side to the music and gives contrast, so as part of the album package, it makes the album better. Erm, sort of. Still, not the greatest start for an album for me. Of course things soon improve with the 'suite' that follows.

"Prelude to a Rainbow Delta", another very Gleesonish work (I'm pretty sure Gleeson composed it as well as performed), is a wonderful and short ambient electronic piece. It's reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and ilk (also hear such forays with Art Zoyd and Patricia Dallio's electronic work).

"Mating Drive" is terrific, driving JRF which starts off in the electronic world like "Venusian Summer Suite" then picks up steam -- strong technical drumming by White if not terribly imaginative (his drumming, though good technically does generally fail to particularly appeal as I don't find him to be a very creative drummer). Still, a damned (can I say that word?) fine "rockin" piece with enough jazz-funk to satisfy.

The final track, "Prince of the Sea" is also very good (though it doesn't appeal much to me) and rockin' jazz-rock (maybe a little too rockin'/ electric guitar oriented for me). Hardly a favourite track in jazz-rock fusion, but well-done. I wish it had more of an experimental edge, but very good never-the-less for what it is. I do wish it had more subtlety; however, it is still an excellent piece of jazz-rock and definitely enjoyable for me. I expect this would be the highlight of the album for quite a few. If you love Al Di Meola's electric guitar style, and like shredding or whatever you'd call this guitar-style. then you'll love this. This is the track I'd recommend to those into power metal and guitar hero music since the guitar style is reminiscent of shredding and hints of Eddie van Halen et cetera. I love the way it ends with a gong and seagulls which seems to me pretty Zen (and maybe more than a touch cliché).

I'm giving this album a four because I do think it's very well-executed and it has some great music on it. Just for the "Venusian Summer Suite" alone I think this is pretty essential. Lowlights for me include guitar-work which is just not altogether my style (Coryell does good work on this, but I feel like Al Di Meola is not that 'elegant' here). The highlights include the electronics, great jazz-funk, and fine keyboard work.

On the whole I prefer "Astral Pirates," but this has such great music included that this is the most essential work I've heard from Lenny White's self-named albums. However, it has too many "mainstream" moments for me to consider this whole work amazing and, as if with a lot of jazz-rock, the compositions can suffer from overdone instrumental showmanship.

One I'd definitely recommend to many, but not so much, considering the bulk of the album, to those who prefer their jazz more experimental (as I often do). If you're more mainstream-oriented, then this could appeal hugely and open up new musical passions, but there's music for most everyone to really enjoy.

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