LENNY WHITE — Venusian Summer (review)

LENNY WHITE — Venusian Summer album cover Album · 1975 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sean Trane
While still in RTF, Lenny White started recording his own (very ambitious) solo album, the present in the summer of 75, with an impressive cast of musician buddies, including stars like Coryell, DiMeola, and Larry Young but others just as impressive like Gleeson (ex-Mwandishi), Sancious, or Doug Rauch (ex-Santana) and many more lesser-known (to moi, anyway). Actually, while Lenny shows himself a surprisingly pleasant songwriter, VS is also the works of two of the more important participants in the project: the Gleeson-Sancious duo on synthesizers (with Lenny), and Doug Rauch on Bass (two composition) and probably responsible for much of the Santana influence on the album. Graced with an esoterico-fantasy artwork, the album has much to please fans of progressive or complex music of the delightful decade.

Opening on the Rauch-penned ultra-funky Chicken-fried Steak that could easily find its place on Herbie’s Head Hunters album, VS continues with the energetic Down The Drain, which nears the 200 MPH cruising speed. Both (shorter) tracks tend to favour an ultra-complex rhythmic plot, thus maybe giving a wrong impression of the album as a whole. Up next is the 10-mins title track changes the general mood so much, that you my just check if this is not a manufacturing flaw, mixing two different albums. Indeed if the previous speedy pieces were one thing, the VS suite is almost its opposite, with a lengthy first spacey synth-filled intro movement with Gleeson, Sancious, Harrel, Robinson and White adding layers upon layers of calm sounds. The second movement gradually builds up and has a strong Caravanserai (Santana) feel (slightly funkier, though), which is probably the utmost reference for yours truly. Clearly Lenny had been listening to that album or the Alice-Carlos Illuminations album.

The flipside opens on the introductory Rainbow Delta, which returns to spacey synth layers, where Gleeson is alone to counter White’s percussions. Out of these soft and calm layers rise an energetic Mating Drive, where the Rauch-Santana vein is again explored withgreat success and lightning speed execution, especially knowing that Larry Young has a certain Gregg Rollie feel on the organ, before digressing in a percussion-filled fade-out. Impressive, but not unique. The closing Epic Prince Of The Sea is again much in the Caravanserai mould, but this time featuring the awesome Coryell-DiMeola blazing duet on guitar, where Al shows his Carlos-cloning ability, while Larry prefers as usual being more at the service of the music.

This LW debut album is a gorgeous piece of 70’s JR/F, one that had escaped me until nowadays (shame on me!!!), but definitely a pleasant unknown blast from the past. Like many artistes, it is White’s very early solo works that work best, not just because of their still fresh-inspirations (this is rather debatable, since this album is somewhat derivative of Caravanserai), but also due to the changes in the music industry that would shake the second half of the decade to lead to the awful 80’s. In the meantime, Venusian Summer is closer to an early 70’s album than a late 70’s work, and that makes already a load of difference… and not just to me!!

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