LONNIE LISTON SMITH — Cosmic Funk (review)

LONNIE LISTON SMITH — Cosmic Funk album cover Album · 1974 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
After LL-S’s debut “solo” Cosmic Echoes album that was a fusionesque descendant of the Coltrane-Shepp realm, Cosmic Funk is quite a departure towards the rock world with its often-exciting jazz-funk. Outside Liston himself, only drummer Barron remains from Astral Travelling, but then again, it’s quite a different sonic world, even if the transition is still gradual. Cosmic Funk hesitates a lot between awesome jazz-fusion in the Coltrane legacy and some much more mainstream funk

Opening on the deadly funk-jazz of the title track that is strongly reminiscent of WAR, we’re greeted with some blood-curdling primal screams over a strong percussion funk. The following Shorter-penned Footprints is fast-paced McCoy Tyner-like fusion arranged piece that can transcend the mind and cosmic universe. Closing the A-side, we get the interesting fast-fusion piece of Beautiful Woman, marred by commercial sappy-lyrics sung by Donald Smith (who also plays piano and flute), but the music itself is not quite as mainstream as the title and vocals (however good a voice Smith has) would have you think. Sometimes Santana is not far away.

Over the flipside, the Mtume-penned Sais (Egypt) hints at the previous album with its hints of Alice Coltrane and transcending Echoplexed-Rhodes and quite sax lines. To some, the over-abundance of echo effects might make the music sound dated, but if you’re into mind-boggling and mind-soothing soundscapes, Sais (and the album in general) is a pure delight. Donald Smith returns to the microphone to sing out Peaceful Ones, another rather mainstream-sounding mid-tempo piece, but the whole thing remains more serene than soppy or cheesy, with some excellent bass and flute works. The closing Trane classic Naima gets an unusual treatment, but to be honest, I don’t think this version pays proper tribute to the departed giant. The album’s lower point, but it’s still acceptable for discerning jazz buffs.

While a rather different beast than its forerunner Astral Travelling, Cosmic Funk is nevertheless is an easily recommendable album, one that starts better than it ends, though. It’s easy to see, when comparing AT with CF, where LL-S will be heading in future albums. To be honest, this new direction will give a few very good jazz-funk albums, before slowly degenerating into soft funk-disco stuff. In the meantime, enjoy some excellent cosmic jazz-funk that should hit the spot without difficulty on first try.

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