HUBERT LAWS — Morning Star (review)

HUBERT LAWS — Morning Star album cover Album · 1972 · Pop/Art Song/Folk Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
Employing a similar approach to what Laws perfected a couple of years later with ‘In the Beginning’ the flautist is backed by a large cast on ‘Morning Star’, an album which is almost doomed to miss the lofty heights of that later release, by what could be described as a ‘sameness’ to the pieces, or more likely, an over-orchestration.

Certainly it’s not a boring album, but it doesn’t feel as adventurous as many of his others. Laws is nimble as ever, but he seems to be strolling at times, over a band that’s strolling too, giving a fair few of the pieces a kind of ‘easy-listening’ feel that isn’t always unwelcome, but can sort of slip into the background of the consciousness. It might even be the multiple flute players on the record, with the tones of the bass flute in particular having a soporific effect on me, but whatever it is exactly, even after repeated listens, this album just plays it too even for too long. Sebesky’s arrangements do not help in this regard, lacking some of the verve from his other work, something that surprised me as I generally enjoy what he does. On the ‘Look of Love’ influenced ‘Where is the Love’ the strings are effective enough, but that’s not always the case.

When things pick up a moment, like during the latin-esque ‘No More’, it’s nice to imagine the band sitting up a bit, and getting into it, though here as elsewhere, it’s probably a little cluttered arrangement wise. The flute and strings rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ is nice enough, and the tune is essentially heartbreaking, but it’s almost Disney-fied by the strings. Closing with a piece that represents a missed opportunity perhaps, to challenge the listener with a deeper look at the darkness it hints at musically, ‘What do You Think of This World Now?’ is a odd moment and I’m not sure what to think of it. It feels a little like an experiment that was only semi-successful, incorporating film-score moments with some scattered vocals and a brief section more in line with the rest of the album, before drifting off.

The title track sits somewhere between ‘No More’ and ‘Where is the Love’ but is not as memorable as either, despite some flash from Cobham and Laws providing perhaps the most effective solo on the record. Essentially a disappointing release, and perhaps I’m being a little hard on ‘Morning Star’ but it’s simply not wholly enjoyable for me. My recommendation, for what it’s worth, is to start elsewhere for a taste of Laws.
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