WEATHER REPORT — I Sing the Body Electric (review)

WEATHER REPORT — I Sing the Body Electric album cover Album · 1972 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
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.
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