NIACIN

Fusion • United States
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Niacin is Billy Sheehan, John Novello, and Dennis Chambers. Time to ease the seat back, slide into Niacin, and discover for yourself one of the lost arts of rock's rich history: the Hammond B-3 sound, or more panoramically, the hot and heavy boiler room magic that can erupt out of a classic keyboards, bass and drums three-piece.

Already starting with an arcane premise, the results could have been less than spectacular in the hands of lesser legends. But John Novello, Dennis Chambers and bass monster Billy Sheehan ain't lesser anything, having cut their teeth through collective decades of rock, fusion and purist jazz creativity, converging then exploding. Following in the rambunctious, irreverent and raucous tradition of "Niacin", "High Bias", "Live - Blood Sweat and Beers", "Deep" and "Time Crunch"; Niacin now unleash "Organik."

Billy Sheehan, spider-fingered bass acrobat for such bands as Talas, David Lee Roth and Mr. Big, lays down the overall
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Thanks to EZ Money for the addition and snobb for the updates

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NIACIN Discography

NIACIN albums / top albums

NIACIN Niacin album cover 3.12 | 4 ratings
Niacin
Fusion 1996
NIACIN High Bias album cover 3.07 | 6 ratings
High Bias
Fusion 1998
NIACIN Deep album cover 3.12 | 4 ratings
Deep
Fusion 2000
NIACIN Time Crunch album cover 3.64 | 5 ratings
Time Crunch
Fusion 2001
NIACIN Organik album cover 4.09 | 7 ratings
Organik
Fusion 2005
NIACIN Krush album cover 2.75 | 2 ratings
Krush
Fusion 2013

NIACIN EPs & splits

NIACIN live albums

NIACIN Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers album cover 3.85 | 4 ratings
Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers
Fusion 2003

NIACIN demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

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NIACIN Reviews

NIACIN Organik

Album · 2005 · Fusion
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Atavachron
An astonishingly good record from one of the premier fusion trios of our time, 'Organik' rocks as hard as it impresses. John Novello's gritty Hammond organ takes the lead with dizzying lines of church-rock and bluesy gospel fire. Backing him up on bass is the tapping ex-metal god Billy Sheehan and on skins is Dennis Chambers, maybe the finest drummer currently in jazz rock. Full of mind-boggling rhythms, jagged counterpoint, confounding grooves, and a deft conjoining of modern jazz, R&B, hard rock, Bach-isms and classic progressive fusion, Chambers, Novello & Sheehan deliver the goods on what is their most powerful and accomplished studio work.

From the bumblebee kinetics of the opening 'Barbarian at the Gate' we know we're in for a special ride and in good hands as the band punches us into a stupor with lighting moves and tumbling action, stops on a dime and then explodes again. 'Nemesis' grooves right into place and builds into a jam to die for, each player giving more than their all and playing as if they had an hour before the world came crashing down around them, a feeling maintained for 'Blisterine', a title that speaks for itself ('I've got blisters on me fingers!!'). The easier, jazz club sounds of 'King Kong' provide a nice rest while still bubbling away, resurrecting the Hammond sounds of the great Jimmy Smith with joy and some cool improv. The semi-tango 'Super Grande' becomes a hardrocker with swells of organ, 'Magnetic Mood' drags a bit but is saved by a speedy rollercoaster mid-section, and 'Hair of the Dog' is a classy fusion bopper reminding of Chambers' other group CAB with some nice modern jazz and bottomy bass. '4`5 3' is a fascinating slice of fugue-rock battered by rhythm`n blues and angular twists and turns, while cuts like 'Club Soda' and 'No Shame' let in some funk but never enough to spoil this jazzical feast. The album closes with the rich and pretty 'Footprints in the Sand'. Niacin (named for vitamin B3, also the type of organ used) is a true unit; all three members at once leading and following, always giving but never hogging, forward moving, not to be denied. One of the best releases of 2005. Man, what a band.

NIACIN Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers

Live album · 2003 · Fusion
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M.Neumann
Jazz-Rock Fusion may be a dirty word in certain (unfortunate) critical circles, but some of us happen to like it that way: fast and dirty, played with virtuoso chops and no shortage of muscle. Which helps to explain my recent enthusiasm for Niacin, a familiar name now finally brought to my belated attention after reading Professor Edward Macan's mammoth 800+ page analytical biography of prog-rockers Emerson Lake and Palmer ("Endless Enigma", Open Court Press, 2006).

In one of his many appendices Macan takes a few pages to explore similar/contrasting keyboard-based rock trios, citing this 2003 live set as maybe the quintessential Niacin album. From what I've heard so far I'm not inclined to disagree with him: musicians of this caliber are always more exciting in a concert setting, and on stage Niacin is an instrumental dynamo, easily matching the energy of a band with twice the personnel.

The recordings here were all made in the Far East, but the ambience of the CD (thanks in large part to the grungy throwback sound of John Novello's Hammond B3 organ) is of an adrenalin-driven R&B trio playing in a smoke-filled blue-collar bar. Okay, so that may not be an old-school jazzer's dream gig, but don't panic: the music itself is an exciting blend of funky grooves and aggressive jams, performed with pinpoint accuracy and featuring more than one knock-your-socks-off solo.

This is a tight group by any professional standard, with all three musicians at the top of his game. Novello's organ sets the mood; the spirited drumming of Dennis Chambers sets the pace (listen to his sharpshooter fills on "One Less Worry" and "Klaghorn"); but it's the astonishing Billy Sheehan who gives each track its visceral punch. If you think the bass guitar is strictly a rhythm instrument, lend an ear to Sheehan's liquid metal solo over the slow-burn blues of "Hell to Pay", only one of his several jaw-dropping moments on the album, and all the more amazing for being performed while sedately perched, Fripp-like, on a stool.

The usual complement of idiosyncratic cover material is accounted for, including "Purple Rain" (yes, the Prince tune), and a faithful but driving update of the old Vanilla Fudge chestnut "You Keep Me Hangin' On", a showcase for Novello's keyboard dexterity. The disc even includes a pair of previously unreleased studio tracks, positioned not unlike a belated encore but missing the nourishing energy of a sympathetic crowd.

If, like me, you haven't yet had the chance to see what Niacin can do in concert, this generous set will offer plenty of consolation. At least until the band's next appearance, in a beer-stained downtown bar near you.

NIACIN Time Crunch

Album · 2001 · Fusion
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M.Neumann
It's funny how a band of this caliber can sometimes be found hiding right under your nose. Niacin has always been a familiar name in Western New York, thanks to local bass guitar legend and City of Buffalo hometown hero Billy Sheehan. But it took a decade and more for this ex-Californian émigré to actively seek out any of their CDs, and now I have a lot of catching up to do, kicking myself along the way for waiting so long.

The line-up matches Sheehan with organist John Novello and drummer Dennis Chambers, forming an instrumental trio of certified virtuosos able to generate more kilowatt energy than the New York Power Authority at Niagara Falls. Sheehan attacks his bass with all the fluency and ferocity of a lead guitarist; Novello shuns the latest digital keyboard technology in favor of that old-fashioned analog Hammond B-3 grunge (with occasional digressions on piano and clavinet); and Chambers is never less than rock-solid behind his drum kit.

I'm guessing this 2001 studio album is more or less typical of the band's funky, muscular rock-jazz template, for the sake of easy comparison sounding not unlike THE DREGS, minus the guitars and fiddles of course, and with a distinctive Rust-Belt bar vibe replacing the Southern-fried barnyard boogie of Steve Morse's outfit. The playing is dynamic from start to finish, but in the end there isn't much overall variation to the material, which might explain why the standout tracks are the two covers, both of them links in a musical chain of influence stretching all the back to Rock's mid-'70s Golden Age.

The first is a thrilling re-make of the 1974 King Crimson classic "Red", in which the monster guitar of Robert Fripp is (believe it or not) hardly missed, replaced here by the equally heavy riffing of Novello's Hammond. Closing the album is a likewise energetic update of the old JAN HAMMER/JEFF BECK chestnut "Blue Wind" (from Beck's popular 1976 album "Wired"), with Sheehan's bass guitar approximating the patented pitch-bending whine of Hammer's moog synthesizer.

If the remaining nine original numbers aren't quite as memorable it might just be a question of exposure: when opening up new musical territory we're always going to respond quicker to more familiar touchstones. But the tightness of the playing and the pyrotechnics of the soloing is something to hear, and the album certainly turned my head toward a deeper exploration of this formidable Fusion trio.

NIACIN High Bias

Album · 1998 · Fusion
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M.Neumann
This early album by the celebrated Fusion trio leans more to the jazzier side of the Jazz-Rock spectrum, and suffers a little for it. Later recordings would foreground the heavier elements of the band's distinctive instrumental attack, but here they clearly pulled too many of their punches.

A conservative production certainly doesn't help. The grindhouse grunge of John Novello's Hammond organ, normally the heart and soul of the Niacin sound, is diluted into a flavorless stew of generic digital synth textures, and the usually dynamic rhythm section is undermined by bass guitar virtuoso Billy Sheehan's uncharacteristically reserved performance: at no point on the entire album does he rip into one of the trademark pyrotechnic solos that would spark other Niacin efforts.

But let's be fair: the material here doesn't really demand any fireworks. Remember this is a band that likes to supplement their original music with an eclectic mix of occasional covers, but look at the selection this time around: instead of the heavy metal art rock of King Crimson's "Red" (a highlight of their 2004 "Time Crunch" album), there's a tasteful but unexciting version of the old Joe Zawinul/Weather Report standard "Birdland", not exactly an ideal vehicle for the sort of powerhouse interpretation these guys are capable of.

A silver lining can be found in the able support offered by several guest musicians, including three additional drummers substituting (why?) for band regular Dennis Chambers, plus percussionist Alex Acuña on the nervous Latino-tinged rhythms of "Montuno", one of the album's standout tracks (in part because of Novello's more aggressive touch on the acoustic piano). And the rich icing on an otherwise flavorless cake is an appearance by Return To Forever legend Chick Corea, adding some graceful Fender Rhodes filigrees to his own original composition, the 11+ minute "Hang Me Upside Down".

Bottom line: it may not be the band's strongest effort, but on the other hand the album showcases a more relaxed side of a power trio typically known more for their muscle.

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