EDDIE HARRIS — Silver Cycles (review)

EDDIE HARRIS — Silver Cycles album cover Album · 1969 · Soul Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
Eddie Harris built a solid reputation early in his career as someone who could turn out catchy soul jazz numbers that did well on Black radio stations. As he headed into the late 60s, Eddie, like so many others in the music world, felt a desire to branch out and experiment more. This desire to try new things came to fruition on Harris’s 1969 album, “Silver Cycles”. On this LP, Eddie established a new norm that would go on to mark much of the rest of his career as a tireless eclectic experimenter who was adept at many musical genres.

“Silver Cycles” opens with two excellent funky soul jazz workouts that I would imagine his record company insisted on placing first so that his long time fans would find what they were expecting. On third track, “Smoke Signals”, Eddie signals a definite left hand turn as this mysterious number paints an exotic atmosphere with wordless vocals and echoed saxophone lines. All through out this album Harris makes use of an Echoplex and also sometimes replaces his acoustic sax with the odd sounding electric sax. Side one closes out with, “Coltrane’s View”, which resembles “Naima”, and a sublime big band power ballade called “I’m Gonna Leave You by Yourself”. This last track is worth the cost of the entire album and one of the best songs of Harris’ lengthy career.

Side two is the more experimental side and features a lot of Eddie playing the saxophone by himself and building overlapping lines with his echo machine. His various rhythm sections (there are many guests on here) provide psychedelic fusion over drive on “Little Bit”, and insanely up tempo avant-garde bebop on “Infrapolations”, which bears some resemblance to “Giant Steps”. Musically “Silver Cycles” compares well to other experimental fusion records of the era from folks like Miles and Herbie, so why isn’t this album a well-known fusion classic? A couple things work against this album, the two colors only album cover looks cheap like a bargain bin album, and yes, Eddie’s albums tended to hit the bargain bin often and he seems to always have a cheap looking album cover. Another problem is the production, this album just sounds kind of flat in a way, but from a purely musical perspective, “Silver Cycles” is a gem in the late 60s world of psychedelic fusion.
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