WEATHER REPORT — I Sing the Body Electric

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WEATHER REPORT - I Sing the Body Electric cover
4.14 | 29 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1972

Filed under Fusion


A1 Unknown Soldier 7:57
A2 The Moors 4:49
A3 Crystal 7:23
A4 Second Sunday In August 4:04
Medley: 10:45
B1a Vertical Invader
B1b T.H.
B1c Dr. Honoris Causa
B2 Surucucú 7:46
B3 Directions 4:37

Total Time: 47:11


Josef Zawinul - Electric and acoustic piano, ARP 2600 synthesizer
Wayne Shorter - Saxophones
Miroslav Vitous - Bass
Eric Gravatt - drums
Dom Um Romão - Percussion

Andrew White - English horn ("Unknown Soldier" only)
Wilmer Wise - D and piccolo trumpet
Ralph Towner - 12-string guitar ("The Moors" only)
Yolande Bavan - Voice
Joshie Armstrong - Voice
Chapman Roberts - Voice

About this release

Columbia ‎– KC 31352 (US)

All Side One selections recorded in Columbia studios, New York City: A1, A2 in November 1971; A3, A4 in January 1972. All Side Two selections recorded during a "standing room only" concert performance January 13, 1972 in Shibuya Kokaido Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Thanks to EZ Money, snobb, Abraxas for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

This isn't a fusion record so much as it is one of those early 70s creative fantasies that combine many genres including jazz rock, psychedelia, world music, avant-garde jazz, art rock, 20th century composition and styles not yet invented. "I Sing the Body Electric" has it all, ground breaking electronic keyboards, highly original compositions, free jazz solos, and the latest in studio sound effects that help build a huge thick wall of sound. One of the innovations that makes this album so much more interesting than their debut is the addition of guests on many of the songs giving their band the sound of a small orchestra. Side one starts with "Unknown Soldier". This highly ambitious and complex tune opens with Gregorian style vocals driven by a quiet yet intense double time free jazz rhythm. This opening Gregorian melody then blends into a long abstract jazz melody which is interrupted by ominous siren sounds ala Edgar Varese. Next, the song builds in intensity as Shorter breaks into an intense free solo and battles with an onslaught of drums and percussion. Finally, the earlier melodies return, as well as some English style neo-classical melodies. This is one of the most unique pieces that WR has ever composed.

The next song, "The Moors", opens with Ralph Towner playing some hard abstract blues based riffs on a 12 string guitar. This sounds nothing like the ECM Towner many of us have heard before, but instead sounds more aggressive and rootsy, some might even be reminded of a young John McLaughlin. Next Towner's guitar solo is interrupted by intense driving bass lines and rhythms topped by woodwinds that sound like an African war procession from a bygone age. As this driving section winds down Towner reappears in the mix and blends his earlier riffs with the melodies of the rest of the band.

After a slightly tedious abstract tune called "Crystal", the first side closes with "Second Sunday in August". This song also features a long and complex melody that is driven by double time wood blocks and rumbling tympani backed by a sea of psychedelic keyboard sounds.

Side two consists of live material recorded at a 1972 concert in Japan. The band sounds good as a live unit, but its hard not to miss all the great studio effects that were present on side one. The style of jamming presented here has a lot in common with the style that DeJohnette and Miles established on "Miles Live at the Fillmore". The sound of "Body Electric" and "Live at Fillmore" is very similar, on both albums you can hear free style jazz-rock drums with aggressive bass lines and distorted electric pianos backing up a lead horn soloist. Also, percussionist Airto plays on both albums as well.

The first Weather Report album revealed a new band with a lot of promise, but on this follow up effort WR really expanded their sound and their compositions to create one of the most creative jazz fusion albums of all time.

Members reviews

Split between extracts from a furious Tokyo performance showcasing Weather Report's louder, faster side (the full performance is available on the Live In Tokyo album) and studio tracks with a more laid-back fusion approach reminiscent of In a Silent Way (no surprise, since Joe Zawinul composed the title track from that album!), this is a great effort from the jazz end of the fusion spectrum. Weather Report tend to be a bit less prone to heavy riffs and hard rocks than, say, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but in the live tracks they show a more aggressive side to their character - particularly on Directions, which is an admirable blueprint for straight-ahead hard fusion of the sort that the likes of, say, Soft Machine would end up adopting in the mid-1970s.

The album's major flaw is in the discontinuity between one side in the next, and in the fact that the live tracks have been edited - I imagine most Weather Report fans would much rather have the unedited show as found on Live In Tokyo - so I wouldn't put this towards the top of my Weather Report recommendations. Still, those who are particularly fond of Weather Report - or of Miles Davis' first two fusion albums - will find enjoyment here.
Sean Trane
WR’s second album is the direct musical continuity of the debut, even if the percussionists are different. Indeed, the all-stars Mouzon and Moreira had given way to relative unknown Gravatt and Um Romao, thus keeping the American-Central European-Brazilian equilibrium of the their debut album. Recorded, for half in concert, in the winter of 71-72, Body Electric is WR’s most challenging album of their career, closely followed by their debut. Released on Columbia (this label was clearly a pioneer, having just about every great JR act in its stable, bar Nucleus and TW’s Lifetime), the album comes with a stunning artwork, underlining the album’s title, which serves the music just right. The Zawinul-Vitous-Shorter trio is now really at ease with each other and it really sounds like it.

Starting out on the abstract and stunningly cosmic Unknown Soldier (a surrealist piece with a war interlude halfway through), then veering hard with the scorching Moors (goose bumps guaranteed when listened to LOUD), the album settles in a definitively trippy groove with Crystal (Vitous-penned and Vitous-starred, albeit superbly underlined by Shorter) only to finish on the torrid Second Sunday Of August, where the groups is violently slams you within the outer limits of your mind, barely escaping the infliction of permanent insanity.

The live-recorded flipside opens on a hot medley, with Shorter and Zawinul’s instruments on the constant brink of saturation, providing an incredible energy, something that the new rhythm section induces effortlessly with an implacable complex time sig. Of course improvs are around the corner and will drag on a few evitable (in the studios) lengths. The following Surucucù really shows the striking difference between the group’s live energetic facet and the more adventurous studio spirit. The closing Directions is another scorcher, even if it is clear that the different members try to outdo each other.

With Body Electric, the group had reached its apex, and with the future departure of Vitous (he was a bit short-changed in terms of writing space, IMHO), there would be inevitable musical direction changes, something that the following Sweetnighter album would start and the next Mysterious Traveller would finish, transforming the group from a steaming jazz-rock to a groovy funky fusion band, with the arrival of Pastorius.

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