Sonny Sharrock was such a great guitar player. According to wikipaedia, he considered himself to be a horn player with "one fucked-up axe" - this description sums up his style very well. But don't worry, even though his other quote says his main intention was to make first four rows bleed from their ears, his music is certainly not cacophonic. There are only a few moments that could cause some harm to your sense of aesthetics (it's still avantgarde after all), but it's so sensitively executed you're going to love them anyway.
Ante Scriptum: This is kind of an experiment, since I'm going to describe the songs as I listen to them. Free jazz deserves free writing, doesn't it?
Album opens with a swift number called Promises Kept. We are quickly told what I tried to say in the first paragraph, only with music. Apart from Sharrock's guitar, other notable moments are bass and drums solo.
Then we're going to calm down a little with Who Does She Hope To Be - a slow one for a change. Being a guitarist myself, I cannot but admire the timbre of Sharrock's guitar in this composition. Those familiar with Santana, Beck or even Clapton: You might think of them during your listen.
Little Rock comes next, marking a return to the territory of the first track. The territory of fast rhythms and beautiful tone of Sharrock's guitar. I like those moments when he gets stuck a little bit - not only they prove this is fully improvised, but for the good of us, guiarists, it also proves he's human.
As We Used to Sing reminds me of Zappa a little bit, listen to the intro and you'll know why. Sharrock's guitar enters like some kind of hurricane - it blows, rumbles and turns, while allowing you to accompany it to a heavenly beautiful eye of the tornado. Sax comes next in a similiar fashion and drums and bass take over the role of the rumblimg typhoon. Next, next comes the soothing and calming sound of the wind, that's blown away all its crushing might. And the bass takes us elsewhere...
Beginning with a drum solo, next comes Many Mansions. It kind of reminds me of a hellmarch, don't ask me why. Also, do I here some Mingus over here? Yeah, Mingus' big band marching in the underworld, that might be it. Saxophone is wild and the rhythm is very unusual and somewhat stucky. Like when you play a CD and you quickly press play and pause all the time. Sharrock comes in the next bit of this track showing us how well he can deal with this kind of atmosphere. His playing here must've influenced many hard prog guitarists.
Like a monk playing in some ancient monastery, drummer begins the last number once more, it's called Once Upon A Time. His solo is very coulourful and full of exotic feeling. Sharrock enters soon with a tenderhearted motif, accompanied by the sax. Compostion starts to sail into the waters of nostalgic ballad, bidding farewell to old memories and maybe even the listener himself. It's executed very cleverly - with somewhat frenetic drum ostinato and calm and melancholic playing of both lead instruments. And finally, it all sails away to fade out.
This album is simply great. It's marked as avantgarde but don't let it turn you away if you don't like this genre. It has a beauty to give to anyone.