YELLOWJACKETS — Live Wires (review)

YELLOWJACKETS — Live Wires album cover Live album · 1992 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
Generally 80’s fusion groups are better forgotten, because of that decade’s technology traits, but also the general plasticity or synthetic feel of the music, especially compared with the energetic and fire-setting jazz rock of the previous. Indeed if you’re into Level 42, Vital Information, with some unnerving vocals ala late 70’s Doobies Bros and Steely Dan and other similar stuff of the genre, YJ might just be up your alley. In other words, you’d better accept a solid layer or radio-friendly AOR crap into your fusion, which then comes closes to qualifying (at times) as fuzak. And the least that can be said is that outside the funky nature of the bass, most of Yellowjackets’ jazzy pop lacks energy, despite the addition of guests (mostly vocal) and a loathsome “worst-80’s-plight” Synclavier. But then again, the same thing can be said of most mainstream musics of that dreaded decade, if you’ll except the metal genres, which is probably the reason of the latter’s success.

The problem with Yellowjackets’ works is that it doesn’t really get better with live or concerts, where they don’t get any rockier or jazzier while on stage. Indeed they’re more pop than anything else on this Live Wires; if the instrumental tracks are already poppy enough, things get unbearably insufferable (even more the intolerable Level 42) once they start singing in tracks such as The Dream and the atrocious Revelation… But the jazz balance is re-centred with the jazzier (the Caribbean way) Downtown, the Spin and Claire’s Song (roughly midway through the album), proof (if any are needed) that these guys can indeed play, but choose to sell-out in 90% of the cases. Unfortunately they decided to close the disc with the awful sucky-later-Doobies Revelation track, a colossal mistake: ending with such a commercial stinker can destroy the envy to push the “repeat play” button on your remote.

Best avoided if you’re a really serious jazz fan, and if you’re more casual about it, it might still be advisable to stay away as well, unless you like Synclavier and late 80’s sonics. If, despite this good but poor review, you should decide to investigate YJ, then you could use this one live album as an intro, despite the fact that two of the original four members are now long-gone, as the group chose to feature one song from everyone of their albums (bar the debut) and a second one from The Spin. But let’s be fair, the present album was recorded when the group’s musical interests had taken a turn to straighter jazz musics with the surrounding release of Greenhouse and Like A River. So not as bad an intro as my review might hint.

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