BILLY COBHAM — Spectrum (review)

BILLY COBHAM — Spectrum album cover Album · 1973 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
dreadpirateroberts
Cobham delivers quite an attack on his first solo album, developing a style of fusion that it is somehow both aggressive and smooth – the funk is mostly fast and the rock is mostly flowing, creating something both unlike the ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra’ and deeply indebted to it at the same time.

‘Spectrum’ is fairly relentless, firing away right off the mark, where Cobham’s charging drums compete with solos from Hammer and Bolin in ‘Quadrant 4.’ It sets the tone for much of the album, though hardly all of it. Billy has certainly gathered a great lineup, and they manage to get a lot out of the ‘full steam’ ahead approach to some of the music, but probably more enjoyable to me are the funkier, somewhat slower pieces. These establish more of a groove, like ‘Taurian Matador’ or the fantastic ‘Stratus’ which is led by the beat and wonderfully effective bass line from Lee Sklar. The piece has a more relaxed feel, as if no-one is trying to impress anyone, listener or each other, but is instead having a great time. Everyone feeds off the vibe, whether it’s the keys or the wonderful lead work from Bolin.

Certainly every piece isn’t a wondrous composition but there are enough great moments on the record to make for pretty exciting stuff. While not a highlight, ‘Red Baron’ is certainly fun and elsewhere flute and saxes add welcome texture to the record, as ‘Spectrum’ sometimes suffers (to my ears) from an unpleasant synth sound. This isn’t an awful thing by any stretch, but I just didn’t enjoy it all that much.

But overall? Four stars easy.
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