WEATHER REPORT — Heavy Weather

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WEATHER REPORT - Heavy Weather cover
3.84 | 38 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1977

Filed under Fusion


A1 Birdland 5:59
A2 A Remark You Made 6:52
A3 Teen Town 2:53
A4 Harlequin 4:00
B1 Rumba Mamá 2:12
B2 Palladíum 4:45
B3 The Juggler 5:05
B4 Havona 6:03

Total Time: 37:51


- Pastorius / Bass, Mandolin [Mandocello], Vocals
- Acuna / Drums
- Shorter / Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
- Zawinul / Synthesizer [Oberheim Polyphonic, Arp 2600], Piano [Acoustic], Vocals, Melodica
- Badrena / Tambourine

About this release

Columbia ‎– PC 34418(US)

Recorded at Devonshire Sound Studios, Beverly Hills, California.

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

The jazz rock/fusion category is perhaps the most subjective of all. Some enthusiasts judge albums in this genre solely by the individual virtuoso performances captured on tape. In other words, they crave the WOW factor more than any other aspect. Nothing wrong with that. Others are more impressed by the mind-blowing spontaneous combustion achieved by combining the right mixture of musicians in a particular session or concert. Still others want the artists to push the envelope to the very edge of musical anarchy. Me, I'm too unknowledgeable and/or ignorant regarding the splendid science of blending jazz with rock that creates a living, breathing hybrid of both to delve too deeply into the mechanics so I just rely on how the recording makes me FEEL. That's why discs like Stanley Clarke's "School Days" and Billy Cobham's "Spectrum" never wander far from the top of my charts. They make me happy when I listen to them. Period. And that's what Weather Report's awesome "Heavy Weather" does for this native Texan of simple means and tastes. As far as it goes with instrumental music in general, the elation sensation can't be overrated. The six albums this band made before this one have their merits/shortcomings and several are outstanding but they were all leading up to the creation of this, their masterpiece. I and several of my peers in the 70s had been avid admirers of the group all along but none of us was expecting this incredibly cohesive casserole of memorable compositions and flawless production neatly tucked inside such an arresting, slap-me-into- next-week cover illustration. The total package floored most everyone who was exposed to it and even a raft of Plain Janes and John Does who didn't know fusion from a contusion had a copy of it in their stack of LPs right alongside "Frampton Comes Alive." It was the perfect soundtrack for those heady times yet its pristine artistry will keep it vibrant and wholly viable for centuries to come. This is, indeed, Weather Report's finest hour. Having said that, I confess openly that I haven't heard everything these guys recorded during their esteemed career but I can't imagine that they ever topped this gem. Equaled it, maybe, but never bettered it. (I'm not through with them by a long shot so I'll let you know.)

They open with keyboard wizard and co-founder Josef Zawinul's celebratory "Birdland." If I were to meet somebody who'd never heard a note emanating from the fusion universe this would be one of the first numbers I'd spin for them to contemplate. I mean, what's not to love about it? Its infectious tempo never flags for a split second and every phase of the song exudes unadulterated joy. Alejandro Acuna's steady drumming creates an ever-tightening tension as he coils up the band's energy like a diamondback rattler ready to strike, finally releasing it via the orgasmic explosion of the tune's glorious big band- like theme midway through. The tight arrangement is immaculate and the track's pyrotechnic dynamics are breathtaking even on the hundredth listen. The entire ensemble works together in exquisite harmony and the six minutes it takes to travel from start to finish go flying by like the flash of a strobe. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who won't at least acknowledge the lofty plateau of musical sublimity they achieved with "Birdland." It's a song for the ages.

Almost any tune assigned the task of following that spectacular curtain-raiser would pale in comparison but Josef's "A Remark You Made" proudly stands on its own. It's as soothing as a stroll along a tranquil Kauai beach at sunset and Wayne Shorter's elegant soprano sax is soulful and fluid as it flies overhead like a seagull. Bassist extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius and Zawinul paint a backdrop for him in deep, sky blue colorings before Josef takes off and zooms into the stratosphere with a synthesizer ride to die for. (Grab your lady love, dim the lights and uncork the best wine in the house; this is made for romance. I'm just sayin'.) The finger-blistering, booming "Teen Town" is next and it's a fine showcase for Jaco to display his immense talent. He burns with hot passion from A to Z, yet the song is far from being just another patience-testing bass guitar extravaganza. As in the majority of their other compositions, melody is always held in the highest regard and they never forsake its supreme importance as being the essential ingredient in their art. That endearing characteristic alone is what separates these guys from most of the herd. Shorter's "Harlequin" follows and on this cut Zawinul delicately mixes acoustic piano with his synthesizers brilliantly. (The man was a master of his craft.) The song is complex and multifaceted, to be sure, but it's never so strange that it leaves the casual listener behind. It's totally accessible to even the novice. Towards the end Alejandro dazzles on the drum kit and shows that there's more to him than meets the ear.

Variety is unquestionably the spice of life and they really shake things up with the inclusion of Acuna and percussionist Manola Badrena's wild "Rumba Mama." It's a live track so full of fiery, over-the-top enthusiasm that it's damned near impossible to repress a grin or two during its 2:12 of existence. Don't be timid, just go with the flow and you'll have no regrets. Wayne's "Palladium" is a continuation of that Latin atmosphere, albeit on a much more rational, sane level. While the tune that precedes it might induce a spastic convulsion that would be welcomed and encouraged at an Aboriginal fertility hootenanny, this one will gently beg your lazy feet to get up and samba lightly through the kitchen. Once again the group's inventive, melodic lines rule the realm, dawning a happy brightness onto your psyche that'll elevate even the darkest of moods. Music serves many a purpose but none more life-enhancing than that.

Josef's "The Juggler" possesses a grace and suspense that befits its title to a tee. It shifts from light to shadow in the span of a heartbeat and the tactful interplay going on between the drums and percussion is bliss to behold. It's a delightful piece of music. They end the album with Pastorius' energetic "Havona" and, if this number is any indication, the city that lies beyond the pearly gates is a busy, bustling metropolis. The song is dense and intricate without ever becoming noisy or confusing. Zawinul's piano ride is a scorcher, Shorter slices through the challenging chord progression like a knife through warm butter and Jaco literally raises the heavenly roof with his bass runs. (Have I mentioned that his fretless tone is incomparable?) This cut has more peaks and valleys than a Six Flags roller coaster as it builds to a white-hot intensity and then, before you know it, the thrill ride suddenly pulls into the station smooth as a silk tie and it's over. To quote my favorite Jedi knight, "Exhilarating, that was."

Some may argue that this eclectic bunch sold out with this effort but I beg to differ. I think it was a case of the public finally catching up with them, not Weather Report kowtowing to the lure of commercial success. "Heavy Weather" sold over half a million copies for two good reasons. First, "Birdland" was and still is irresistible. Second, the music contained on this record appealed to people of all ilks because it's just plain GREAT. It's hard to argue against quality presented with this kind of class. This is a jazz rock/fusion album you can play in the presence of your wife or girlfriend and not have her roll her eyes at you in exasperation (even if she thinks saddle tramps like George Straight and Kenny Chesney hung the moon and planets) while, at the same time, avoiding feeling like you had to lower your standards to the sub-basement level. I still get a kick out of this album and it never fails to put a smile on my aging mug. And that, my fellow jazzers, is worth a trillion times its weight in gold.

My late exposure to the music of Weather Report has made me realize (belatedly) the range of influence they enjoyed at the height of their popularity in the mid 1970s. How many other bands of the era, from all over the world (Passport in Germany; Secret Oyster in Copenhagen; even the Italian symphonic proggers of PFM in their "Jet Lag" phase) were tracing from the same template created by Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter?

But popularity doesn't come without a price, and there's more than a hint of complacency behind this 1977 album, the band's most commercially successful effort. Whatever sharp edges their music may have once had were carefully smoothed away here, and the result is an undeniably pleasant but hardly challenging model of mainstream Jazz-Rock, unlikely to offend even the knee-jerk prejudices of the resolutely anti-fusion music press.

The ubiquitous hit song "Birdland" sets an attractive pace, opening the album with a relentlessly catchy rhythm and more hooks than a bait shop. But elsewhere the LP hardly lives up to its assertive title and apocalyptic cover art. The percussion duo of Alejandro Acuña and Manolo Badrem are allowed a few energetic minutes of uninhibited mayhem on "Rumba Mama" (recorded live at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival), but all the flailing timbales and manic shouting sound misplaced alongside the more circumspect studio jamming elsewhere on the album.

The musicianship is, I hardly need add, never less than outstanding throughout: any group formed around a nucleus of Zawinul, Shorter, and the virtuoso skills of bass guitar legend Jaco Pastorius is going to be simply beyond criticism. But here they pulled their musical punches somewhat, sacrificing just enough of their collective individuality to attract a wider spectrum of listeners.

In the overall timeline of the band it remains an important album, but despite all the rewards and acclaim hardly their best effort.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
With Black Market, Heavy Weather is the best-selling jazz-rock album of all time, but by all means it is completely over-rated on this writer’s advice. With Chester Thompson out (left for Genesis) and replaced by Aruna, this album pretty well follows its predecessor’s path. One of the remarks I have for this album is it lacks power but it seems its powers are virtuoso playing (not denying it), soul (this cold jazz has me really wondering whether it is indeed the case) and but certainly not finesse, IMHO.

With the jazz crossover jazz-rock of Birdland, the album starts fairly weakly, partly because of a twee motif chorus and lack of power, something I simply don’t expect (or want) from WR. But the pain is not over as A Remark You Made is one of those ugly syrupy love ballad for late-night slows jazz clubs. Teen Town is a Pastorious excuse to put his bass on the forefront while Harlequin musically sits between Birdland and Remark, with a Zawinul synth sound sounding much like Toots Thieleman’s harmonica. The whole side sounding listless to this listener.

The flipside is an altogether different affair, starting on percussion Rumba Mama live ditty which has absolutely no musical relation whatsoever with the rest of the album. But comes Palladium with the first power chords opening the song, but that’s about has loud as it will get on the whole album: indeed the track settles in a funky groove where Shorter’s sax and Zawinul’s Rhodes dominate the forefront, but we are in the MT and TS album mode, which means killer funk. Easily the best track of the album. The Juggler juggles with the styles previously approached on the album between funk jazz, soft jazz, and syrupy fusion. The closing Havona is bettering the average of the album with a changing structure and some very interesting developments.

As warned ahead of time (read my BM review), HW is really not the masterpiece everyone seems to be hinting at and if not for the flipside, it would sink heavily. Directionless, often powerless (Aruna is no Chester Thompson) and “anything goes” seem to be the unwanted trademark, here. With only the Havona and Palladium tracks being worthy of earlier albums, it is just possible this writer is missing the point of this stage in WR’s career, but whether or not, I just don’t like it.

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