Classic Fusion

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The Classic Fusion genre at JMA includes those jazz artists who added rock, funk and world beat influences to jazz in the late 60s and 70s, and also to those artists who continue to play in this original fusion style today. Some important leaders in this genre include; Larry Coryell, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Soft Machine, Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and Return to Forever.

Rock musicians who use jazz as part of their musical language can be found in the Jazz Related Rock genre. Other more modern style jazz fusion artists can be found in the (Post 70s) Eclectic Fusion genre.

classic fusion top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.69 | 86 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.67 | 47 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.64 | 78 ratings
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HIROMI Hiromi's Sonicbloom ‎: Time Control Album Cover Hiromi's Sonicbloom ‎: Time Control
HIROMI
4.76 | 20 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.64 | 60 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.66 | 27 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Pangaea Album Cover Pangaea
MILES DAVIS
4.68 | 20 ratings
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JEAN-LUC PONTY Enigmatic Ocean Album Cover Enigmatic Ocean
JEAN-LUC PONTY
4.66 | 21 ratings
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EDDIE HENDERSON Realization Album Cover Realization
EDDIE HENDERSON
4.79 | 11 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall Album Cover Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall
MILES DAVIS
4.64 | 23 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time Album Cover Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time
MILES DAVIS
4.79 | 9 ratings
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TERJE RYPDAL Terje Rypdal Album Cover Terje Rypdal
TERJE RYPDAL
4.81 | 8 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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classic fusion Music Reviews

MATCHING MOLE Matching Mole's Little Red Record

Album · 1972 · Classic Fusion
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ALotOfBottle
"We are determined to liberate Taiwan!"

Soon after their eponymous debut, Matching Mole hit the road and toured western Europe, appearing on various TV shows and festivals. It was at that time that David Sinclair left the band to play with Hatfield and the North and later on Caravan's For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night. He was replaced with Dave MacRae, a jazz keyboardist from New Zealand, who was already credited as a guest on Matching Mole's debut album. In July of 1972, about half a year after their first work, the band entered the doors of London's CBS Studios to record Matching Mole's Little Red Record. The release was produced by Robert Fripp of King Crimson. In addition, the band invited Brian Eno, the pioneer synthesist, to guest on their album.

The title of the release is an allusion to Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, known as the Maoist bible of the cultural revolution period. The cover art portrays the band members on what looks like a Chinese communist propaganda poster. The inspiration for the cover painting came from a Chinese postcard with a caption that read "We are determined to liberate Taiwan!" Despite a lot of controversy, the group, in fact, had nothing to do with idea for the album art, as the drawing was designed by CBS' graphic designers. Robert Wyatt even admitted that he did not particularly like the design. Wyatt's lyrics on Little Red Record have also been an object of heated discussion. The artist declares that the fight for the righteous socialist world should also be expressed in music and confesses that his beliefs are closer to the Chinese communist world rather than the degenerated capitalist west.

Musically, Little Red Record is a quintessential Canterbury scene album. Matching Mole's style is notably different from their debut album. The group got rid of the song-oriented ballads almost entirely and introduced an even higher amount of jazz-fueled improvisation to their music. However, showcasing the group's members' musical skill does not seem to be the aim of the numerous improvisational passages that appear so frequently on Little Red Record. The heavy repeating passages, which often do provide a base for instrumental solos, create musical tension, which makes the music on this record incredibly moody and full of distinctive mysticism. The typical tongue-in-cheek, Canterbury-styled arrangements are common. This becomes evident with pre-recorded voices and sounds of various conversations played over the band's music, giving the album an eccentric appearance.

The high amount of jazz influences on Little Red Record compared to Matching Mole might partly be caused by the new keyboard player, Dave MacRae. His extensive use of Fender Rhodes electric piano adds a very fusion-esque element to the band's sound, at times similar to the one of Soft Machine. Similarly to Dave Sinclair, MacRae is extremely proficient in many diverse musical situations ranging from as far as subtle drone touches to accurate rhythm keyboard play to rapid, pronounced solo parts. Robert Wyatt's drumming is very dense. He finds himself comfortable playing heavy, varied rhythms in odd time signatures. His characteristic vocals also appear, but more often in a spoken word scenario. Although it may not seem like it at first, Bill McCormick's basslines play a crucial role in Matching Mole's sound, building a strong musical foundation for other members. David Sinclair's fuzz organ solos are replaced with those on Phil Miller's guitar, which he plays with an astonishingly precise touch. Brian Eno with his VCS3 synthesizer is responsible for ambient, electronic passages, creating striking, mystic soundscapes.

The album opens with "Starting in the Middle of the Day, We Can Drink Our Politics Away", which features a male choir supported by a repeating piano passage. The lush, surrounding organ sound builds up tension, which is discharged with a loud, rapid jazz jam on "Marchides". The next track, "Nah True's Hole" is based around a repeating pattern with a conversation in the background. In fact, the female voice belongs to Julie Christie, a famous English actress, who is credited as Flora Fidgit. The things she says are erotically-charged and work particularly well with the passage in the background. On "Righteous Rhumba", Robert Wyatt's lyrics talk about the utopian socialist vision and his repellence towards the capitalist world. "Brandy as in Benj" is a jazz-based piece, aimed at displaying the instrumental skill of Matching Mole's members. "Gloria Gloom" starts out with Brain Eno's lengthy synthesizer texture and resolves into Robert Wyatt's politically-charged song. Towards the end, Eno's input comes back, closing the song in a dark, agitating manner. "God Song", the only acoustic piece, sounds a bit like song-oriented tracks from Wyatt's solo releases. "Flora Fidgit" is another jazz jam, in ways similar to what Soft Machine were doing at the time. The album is closed with "Smoke Signal". The track features tense ambient soundscapes with Robert Wyatt's drum solo. Towards the end, one is capable of hearing soft melodies, sounding as if trying to break through, which eventually fade way.

Matching Mole's iconic Little Red Record could best be described as an eccentric political jazz statement with great musicianship. The controversy the band caused with its appearance and title may partly be responsible for its success. The concept and performance is very interesting and original. This is a legendary Canterbury scene album and is without a doubt a must-listen! Recommended!

THE MUFFINS Manna/Mirage

Album · 1978 · Classic Fusion
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ALotOfBottle
The Muffins were formed in 1973, in Washington D. C., soon after a keyboardist and saxophonist Dave Newhouse, a guitarist Michael Zentner, and a bassist Billy Swann found a common unorthodox and anti-commercial approach to music. The group, however, remained nameless until a few months later when they named themselves The Muffins, allegedly after one friend of theirs shouted, "The muffins are here!" while bringing them blueberry muffins and more importantly giving an idea for the name of the band. One year after their formation, they were joined by Thomas Scott, a saxophonist with a big-band background. In 1975, Stuart Abramowitz on drums joined, only to leave one year later with Michael Zentner. While playing a concert in 1976, they stumbled upon a drummer Paul Sears, who stayed in the band. The Muffins founded their own independent recording label, Random Radar Records, under which they released their debut album, Manna/Mirage, in 1978.

With influences of acts such as Hatfield and the North, Henry Cow, National Health, Soft Machine, Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention, and even Caravan, The Muffins have shaped their own, distinctive Canterbury scene-inspired style. Although the United States has always been far from being the heartland of the subgenre and recognized it relatively late, the group's music sounds incredibly natural and authentic. Characterized by strong emphasis put on improvisation, The Muffins go far beyond being just another Canterbury-tinged jam band. The extensive use of woodwind instruments such as clarinets, flutes, recorders, and oboes, rather than brass winds, gives the band a varied, unique, almost chamber-like sound, at times reminiscent of Henry Cow's Legend. Keyboard instruments also play a prominent role with smooth, dreamy Fender Rhodes electric piano, reminiscent of Dave Stewart and Tim Hodgkinson-inspired Farfisa organ. Free jazz passages, very much in the vein of Sun Ra or Albert Ayler, are also common, enriching the album with even more of a diverse, varied style. In short: Manna/Mirage is a perfectly balanced mélange between classy avant-garde progressive rock and jazz-influenced Canterbury sound.

The album opens with "Monkey with the Golden Eyes". A calm repeating passage on electric piano is supported by a great interplay of flute and clarinet. Gradually, more instruments are added - xylophone, drums, organ, resulting in an almost ambient texture. In the beginning, "Hobart Got Burned" features just a little part of the previous track until it loses itself in chaotic, quirky, free-form mayhem. At one point, all of the instruments participating in the madness meet and, as if finally entering the same alley, present a theme which would not be out of place on an album by Hatfield and the North. Side One closes with the 15-minute "Amelia Earhart". The piece starts out with mystic, meditative sounds of a wide plethora of percussion instruments, which dissolve into a merry Caravan-like melody. Later, the listener encounters a brief free passage and various different segments of the piece, perfectly displaying the flawless work of every instrument in different musical circumstances. Side Two is fully occupied by a nearly 23-minute suite "The Adventures Of Captain Boomerang". The track begins with an interaction of woodwind instruments supplemented by accompaniment on Fender Rhodes. Then, a more energetic, louder motif dominated by saxophones kicks in. What follows is really inexplicable. Let me just say that the piece is dripping with complex arrangements, contrasted segments, dynamically, rhythmically, and instrumentally varied parts, numerous different themes, lengthy improvisational passages, and proficient instrumental work. The Muffins seem to have a well-thought plan for every second of the suite and make use of their recording time perfectly.

Manna/Mirage is an absolutely exceptional record in the history of the Canterbury scene. While in 1978, its sound might have radically drifted towards jazz fusion, this one American band, that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, skillfully carries on traditions set by bands such as Henry Cow, Soft Machine, and Hatfield and the North. The release is incredibly consistent, mature, and most of all deeply fascinating. A true gem of the Canterbury scene. Highly recommended!

SOFT MACHINE Fourth

Album · 1971 · Classic Fusion
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ALotOfBottle
In October of 1970, Soft Machine started recording their fourth studio album. Their previous, two-disc release, Third , contained four long epics, each with its distinctive flavor. Robert Wyatt's piece, 'Moon In June', which was the only vocal track on the album, clearly showing his own musical vision, quite different from one of his band-mates. In fact, on his first solo album, The End of an Ear, Wyatt described himself as an "Out of work pop singer currently on drums with Soft Machine". The jazz-fusion oriented path Soft Machine had taken undoubtedly did not please his musical sensibilities. For their upcoming album, the group invited a double-bass player, Roy Babbington, who had previously played with Keith Tippet. A horn section, different from the one on Third, was also added, consisting of Alan Skidmore on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Hastings on alto flute and bass clarinet, Nick Evans on trombone, and Mark Charig on cornet. Fourth was released in early 1971 and was followed by Robert Wyatt's departure from the band.

Soft Machine's style on Fourth may appear as radical compared their first two works from 1968 and 1969, but is in fact merely a natural development they made from Third. The recruitment of a double-bass player, however, is a breakthrough and a turning point in the band's career. This might be interpreted as a definitive cut-off from rock. Yes, they probably still could rock out, but they were by no means a rock band anymore. The group creates a unique blend of elements of Miles Davis' mid-late sixties post-bop, free jazz of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus, and ambient music, that could be connected with pioneering bands such as Popol Vuh. Fourth also has a one-of-a-kind, inexplicable flavor that indicates that Soft Machine is a European outfit and differentiates them from contemporary groups from the United States. Similarly to Third, Fourth is largely focused on improvisation, therefore showcasing the instrumentalism of the musicians.

The newly-recruited horn section helps the band in reaching a certain amount of versatility in their sound. Although Elton Dean's alto saxophone and saxello is still dominant in the band's soundscapes, they are now enriched with sounds of a flute, a trombone, a cornet, and a tenor sax. Most often, these instruments play together, creating an interesting 'metal wall' of horn sounds, but solo parts on each of them are not uncommon. Mike Ratledge's keyboard rig is extended with a Hohner pianet, which the virtuoso finds particularly useful on parts, where strong rhythmical background is needed. His signature fuzzed-out Lowrey organ sound, which is one of the few common elements between Soft Machines debut and Fourth, plays an important role on his break-neck speed solos. With a double-bass player onboard, Hugh Hopper's contribution might seem limited, but the bassist's unique style and bass timbre is still crucial to Machine's sound. Robert Wyatt, who quite rightfully might not have been happy with a direction his band took, proves how much of a versatile drummer he was with his accurate and precise drumming.

Side one of Fourth is occupied by three tracks. The work starts with Ratledge's composition 'Teeth'. It starts out with a complex theme, which smoothly dissolves into a jam (which at parts reminds me of 'Hope For Happiness' from Soft Machine's debut). Then, we are approached by Hopper's piece 'Kings and Queens', which despite following a simple structure is one of the most memorable tracks from the album with a slightly gloomy, melancholic feel. Side one is closed with 'Fletcher's Blemish', a loud, atonal, horn-driven jam that lies just on the border of being classified as free-jazz and fusion. Side two comprises Hugh Hopper's four-part suite 'Virtually'. Part 1 is kept in a traditional jazz feel and is based on improvisation. Part 2 builds up tension, which leads to an atonal jam with Elton Dean's saxophone in the foreground. Part 3 opens with dissonant noises achieved by manipulating instruments with studio equipment on dreamy electronic ambient basis. Part 4 is basically an extension of Part 3 with smooth passages fading until the end of the album.

Fourth marks the end of Soft Machine's Canterbury scene years and begins what is known as group's 'classic' era as a jazz-fusion act. The music on the album might not be very compelling, at least in my book, but is a much-needed listen and is crucial to the development English jazz to come. A lot of the times, one will find their thoughts drifting far away from the music, which might be a testimony of its' well, soporific aspect. The album is more than decent in its own right, but is rather stodgy, insignificant, and unmemorable at the same time. No wonder why Robert Wyatt left Soft Machine. However, it is recommended to listen to the album and forge your own opinion.

PHLOX Vali

Live album · 2013 · Classic Fusion
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ALotOfBottle
Phlox was formed in Tallin, the capital city of Estonia, in 1999 by a guitarist Kristo Roots, percussionist Raivo Prooso, drummer Rainer Kapmann, and bassist Priit Holtsmann. Despite numerous personnel changes, since its very early days, the band's sound has been shaped by the Canterbury scene bands such as Hatfield and the North, National Health, Gilgamesh, and even Soft Machine. After four official albums, in 2013, Phlox released the live-cut Vali which as of June 2016 is their most recent album. Vali was recorded and broadcasted live for Areaal, Estonian Classical Radio, in April 2012.

There is undoubtedly something that saves Phlox from sounding like just another Canterbury-style jazz-rock outfit. And yet, there is no other way to describe the band's music. Take the best instrumental elements of the music of Hatfield and the North, mix them with the improvisational qualities of post-Wyatt era Soft Machine and soft, mellow smoothness of National Health's music. The dish that is already tasty is seasoned with straight-up jazz-rock influences of Nucleus and Mahavishnu Orchestra. And voilà , you're being served modern Canterbury sound of the highest order! The music of Phlox is largely improvisation-based, Vali is dripping with lengthy saxophone jams and synthesizer solos. In addition, the band has a great dynamic range. They can go from a delicate, dreamy parts on Fender Rhodes electric piano to heavy, noisy, and wild workouts in a great taste. At times gentle, mellow and calming, at times unsettling, loud, and disturbing - Phlox has got a very wide variety of flavors in store for the listener.

The keyboardist Pearu Helenurm could very well be regarded as the engine of the band, allowing it to go to the Canterbury scene-oriented territories. His virtuosic style shows evident inspiration of keyboardist such as Dave Stewart, Alan Gowen, and Mike Ratledge. His extensive use of electric piano is intermingled with a synthesizer, usually used as a solo instrument. Kalle Klein, a virtuoso saxophonist, handles alto and soprano saxophones with great ease. His playing may remind one of that of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, especially on the dissonant, free-form parts. Ravio Prooso with his "thumpy" bass guitar tone provides great grooves for the rest of the band to work on. Madis Zilmer's is characterized by heavy and dynamic rhythms. The band's guitarist, Kristo Roots, rarely finds himself playing rapid Phil Miller-like guitar solos, his guitar most often plays a role of a rhythm instrument, which lays down a theme for the rest of the band to work on. Allan Prooso enriches the group's sound with percussion instruments such as wood blocks or a triangle. All in all, Phlox without a doubt consists of skillful musicians with great amounts of technical know-how.

Vali opens with "80 000 ljööd Maa All", a heavy Canterbury-inspired jazzy jam, which at one point or another displays work of every instrument. Next up, "Almus" begins with an almost pop-like intro on Fender Rhodes, which dissolves into improvisation with a loud distorted guitar, synthesizers, and a high-pitched saxophone. "Küttearve Päikeselt" is another one that opens with a mellow passage on electric piano, this time put through a tremolo effect. Then, drums and saxophones kick in and the track loses itself in improvisational madness and a great interplay of Roots' guitar and Klein's saxophone. Later on in the piece, Pearu Helenurm gets a brief synthesizer solo. "Hülge Hing" is the first track to feature a grand piano - a much-welcome variation. "Paigalelend" opens with a dry guitar riff, which returns in between jams throughout the tune. "Hunt (5 Minutes to Armageddon Version)" starts with a somewhat mellow feel, which slowly descends into heavy, noisy, jazz-fueled mayhem. The last track on Vali, "Kurehirm (Doom Night Ornithology Special)" begins with a quiet interaction between percussion (which sounds a bit like frogs in a swamp), Rhodes, and a saxophone. Being the lengthiest piece on the album, saxophone gets some naked solo parts without any other band members accompanying.

Vali is by far the only live release from the Estonian outfit Phlox, showcasing their energetic, inspired, and vigorous sound. It raises a smile to see a contemporary band play fresh, interesting jazz-rock to a high degree inspired by Canterbury scene bands such as Hatfield and the North, National Health or Gilgamesh. Highly recommended to fans of the Canterbury scene!

TRAIN Coo-Coo Out!

Album · 1977 · Classic Fusion
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Miler72
Just when you think you've heard it all in the world of fusion comes this obscure German group Train (not the American band who did "Meet Virginia" and "Hey Soul Sister") who only released one album in 1977, Coo Coo Out, and that was it. This is all over the place, and that's why I really enjoy, too many fusion albums end up sounding too samey in the end. At times they'll remind you a bit of Passport, thanks to the presence of sax, or perhaps Weather Report (the sax playing isn't as cheesy as Klaus Doldinger's frequently was), perhaps a bit of Soft Machine, the acoustic-side of John McLaughlin, and perhaps Chick Corea's Return to Forever. It's not the most original, but there are some really great and creative passages making this an album worth investigating. Sadly this was never reissued, so you'll have to fork the money for an original LP, as that's the only way you can get to hear this on solid format. The music is on the mellower side of fusion, but I'm happy to say it never falls into Fuzak territory, but on the other hand it doesn't go full-on Mahavishnu either. Is this a lost gem of fusion? You bet it is!

classic fusion movie reviews

WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Well if the world still has to find some live recording from the very first studio all-star line-up (not likely, though), at least we've got now something very close to and we can even see the quintet at work with this just-as-famous version in the form of a German TV show called the Beat Club. With only Airto Moreira gone, replaced by Brazilian countryman Um Romao, the other four being Vitous, Shorter, Mouzon and Zawinul, Weather Report embarked on this TV show adventure not knowing that Alphonse Mouzon would leave the band in a while.

As you'd expect this broadcast consisted mainly of tracks from the debut album, but some are fairly different as WR always made improvisation their force. So you'll recognize 'Umbrellas generic structure, but drafted fairly differently, not just because of Romao's constant change of percussions instruments - he's one of the visual focus of the group, who otherwise remains fairly static and even blows a flute (and later some whistles) for a short while. One of the big difference between the studio album and this broadcast is that Miroslav has taken up the electric bass (his contrabass is still very present but mainly played with a bow), thus allowing even more energy to invade the quintet's shared space. The group's steaming-hot improvised fusion is simply awesome and flows naturally from your speakers like a river of fresh lave spewing out from your volcanic woofers.

Clearly the gravitational centre of the band is Zawinul's Rhodes, but it is clear that it is the group's tightness its main force. Morning Lake is much needed breathing space, starting out slowly with Shorter's sax signalling the dawn for Romao's birdsongs. Just past that Dom pulls an Brazilian berimbau . Drummer Alphonse sings funkilly (rather well, too) a rare sung track in the closing medley, but it's will veer into the Dr Honoris Causa - later on the Body Electric album.

A while later, Mouzon would leave the band and be replaced by drummer Erik Gravatt and this line-up would go on to record Body Electric and the Tokyo concert (released in 77, but part of it in the ISTBE album) and in the process become the definitive line-up of the Vitous- era Weather Report But for now, this German TV broadcast is an inestimable witness of the group's almost original line-up, and is just as essential as their debut album, the Tokyo concert or Body Electric.Too bad it's relatively short, though. Run for this baby...

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Abstract Logix Live! / The New Universe Music Festival 2010

Movie · 2011 · Classic Fusion
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js
Abstract Logix’s New Universe Festival of 2010 was probably one of the more significant fusion concerts in recent history, and it is all captured in excellent form on this concert video. Many of the top names in current fusion are here and what a great varied and colorful approach they all bring to this music that will always be associated with its 70s roots. Ranjit Barot fuses fusion with Indian flavors and orchestral music, Human Element bring back the beautiful noise and chaos that has been absent since the early days of jazz-rock, Wayne Krantz takes on the modern NYC flavor with his harsh jarring free funk, Jimmy Herring plays sentimental, sometimes delicate, progressive rock flavored fusion, and of course the great John McLaughlin rounds it all up with high speed post bop mixed with funk and contemporary fusion. Every single performance is top notch and very convincing in letting us know that there is still plenty of life left in this sometimes maligned genre.

The music on here is great, but the video itself is even better. Its amazing how far concert videos have come over the years. This one is clear as a bell and features lots of accurate close-ups of the musicians as they display their virtuoso skills. They say that fusion is a musician’s music, if that is the case, then this video is a great learning tool for the aspiring player. Much of the footage on here goes right to the source and features the musician’s hands as they work their scales and fret boards. Any aspiring fusionist can pick up a lifetime of high speed licks and extended technique by studying this video and even stop-starting it it frame by frame. Long gone are the days of vague camera angles from way far away and pointless shots of musicians grimacing while they play, this video is all about accuracy and showing you exactly how this music goes down. This is a spirited and enthusiastic concert and highly recommended for fans of modern fusion.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live At Montreux 74/84

Movie · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
The 1984 appearance of the MO was a lineup that didn't have any of the previous MO lineup of musicians except for John. Still there was a pretty impressive roster. Jonas Hellborg, on bass, steals the show. I suspect he's been rather influenced by Jaco at this point. Also, we also have Bill Evans, fairly fresh out of his stint saxing with Miles Davis. There's also a fine drummer, Danny Gottlieb, who'd played with Pat Metheny prior. Don't know much about Mitchell Forman. With John experimenting with the Synclavier Guitar so much, the keyboards are almost redundant in this ensemble. I had a hard time sitting through this at first. It definitely has that '80's taint, if you know what I mean. But I've warmed up to it. It's a bit like an attempt to return to the magic of the original lineup that doesn't quite get there. Still, if you judge it in the context of the time, it's not too bad.

I got this for one reason and one reason only, it was the two video bits from the Apocalypse lineup of Mahavishu Orchestra. Actually calling them bits isn't quite accurate. Wings of Karma and Hymn to Him are actually decently long pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some actual orchestra musicians with them there at Montreaux. The first inkling I got that there was some live footage from this MO lineup was a poor quality video of Smile of the Beyond on a certain video clip web site many of us know of. It's very disappointing that we only get two clips from the show with video and the rest are audio only. I'm guessing the rest of the original footage has been lost. One can only hope that it will resurface. The performance is a bit more structured than the more compact MO's could be live, but that's to be expected due to the larger number of musician's involved. Still the core band does get to work in some improvisation, McLaughlin in particular.

This release is all in all a pleasant surprise for 2007, but there's more video out there from the older Mahavishu Orchestras, and I hope to see that material surface soon. It gets a four on the round up.

JEFF BECK Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scott's

Movie · 2008 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
Holy crap, there's a new Jeff Beck live DVD out there!.

...I thought as I saw this at the record store. This is why it's important to keep those local independent brick and mortar record stores open: you'll never know what you'll find browsing.

As near as I've been able to find out, Jeff Beck (THE Beck, not that other guy) hadn't been touring in a long time, but rather was sticking to special performances. To make up for it, sort of, he did a week's worth of shows at London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in late November 2007. I've never been there, but it looks a little large as some jazz clubs go but still reasonably intimate. I'm pretty sure you don't need binoculars to observe any performances there.

Jeff has assembled an interesting set of musicians, the oldest being Jeff himself (b. 1944), Vinnie Colaiuta (1956) on drums, Jason Rebello (1969) on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld (1986) on bass. Vinnie I know best from association with Zappa, Jason's new to me but I found out has worked with Sting, Tal (new to the music scene) hails from Australia and judging from her performance she is someone to really keep your eye on. Guests appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap, and Eric Clapton, heyyy.

The set list, not really the proper term as it must have been culled from all the shows, is an impressive collection of material spanning Jeff's career so far. Original stuff includes Beck's Bolero {is this not actually a cover?}, Led Boots, Scatterbrain, Angel, Blast From The East, Rollin' And Tumblin'. Also some nice covers thrown in for good measure including Eternity's Breath!, Cause We've Ended As Lovers {never really seemed like a cover to me}, People Get Ready, A Day In The Life, You Need Love). You also get some interviews as bonus material and the DVD booklet is a nice read. 21 tracks altogether, mixed in Dolby 5.1 and DTS surround sounds with a 16:9 video format, I might add.

Wish I was there but this is the next best thing. It's one hell of a way to experience one hell of a guitarist. It's a live assortment, but due the quality and quantity I am rounding this one up.

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