GORDON BECK — Sunbirds (review)

GORDON BECK — Sunbirds album cover Album · 1979 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
Gordon returns in the summer of 79 with a quartet, featuring mainly guitarist extraordinaire and violinist ordinaire Allan Holdsworth, for a wild fusion album, where Beck also plays an excellent Rhodes throughout. Graced with a basic bicolour “poultry” artwork, you could be almost forgiven to pass it over in the racks, if you didn’t pick it out and look on the back sleeve. Had you done so and still pass up on it, you don’t deserve to read what’s coming.

Holdsworth’s acoustic guitar opens the quiet Gathering on delicate arpeggios before Beck’s acoustic piano steps in, drawing with him Clark’s pedestrian bass and Romano’s subdued drums along for a stroll that slowly develops into a frenzied climax, just before the slow ending. The 4-part almost 16-mins Flight suite sees a wide spectrum of moods, including some excellent fusion music where Allan alternates in the first movement between his lectric guitar and his lectric violin, while Gordon is out to challenge Chick’s rapid-fire piano, inciting Holdsworth to try to emulate McL via the DiMeola mould, before a Whitish-drum solo ends it. The second movement is much more adventurous (in the sensual sense of the word), veering slightly romantic with Beck’s delightful Rhodes ticklings. And it gets even more adventurous yet (this time in the experimental sense of the word) with the third slightly-dissonant movement while the awesome closing part sees a certain Alice-McCoy influence.

On the flipside, the slow Halfway House, where Allan bows at his violin strings setting the mood might seem a bit soporific at first, if it wasn’t for Gordon’s solemn piano solo, but it evolves in a semi-Ponty manner once Hodsworth comes back. Some quiet piano arpeggios open the Second Summer, before the group moves in and take it in a boppy direction.

Most of Beck’s post-60’s albums have been reissued on CD on the French JMS label (along with Holdsworth, Lockwood, Uzeb and Texier catalogues), but personally, I find that Sunbird is Gordon’s best (IMHO) and most involved (dare I say varied?) album still some thirty years after its release. So if you’re still around at this point in the review, you know what left for you to do: grab your fishing net and sail the web to catch it.

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