Jammed Online - Review
Sad Truth is a soulful ballad with some outstanding fretless bass from Tony Levin
"Great Fans Make Great Bands"
By: Mark Burnell
There are occasions when doing CD reviews for Jammedonline becomes an experience not unlike finding something really exciting at the discount bin in you local record store. You knowthe scenario - you're leafing through row upon row of second hand albums by bad hair metal bands of the 1980s, when you chance across an album by someone you've never heard of , but which looks really promising - perhaps a familiar cover song, or the participation of a guest musician who rocks your world. You excitedly plunk down your money, get home and shove the disc into the player, press play and then sit back to read the liner notes and then the music actually starts and you realize that, yet again, you've just rashly blown another eight bucks on a CD that you'll never play again in your life.
Reviewing CDs can lead to similar situations. An unsolicited CD nestles snugly in my mailbox awaiting my perusal, and the cover promises something exciting. A feeling of nervous anticipation comes over your reviewer, ever hopeful of discovering something new and remarkable, a feeling that - sometimes -lasts as long as it takes to remove the cellophane and switch on my CD player. This CD isn't actually a complete disappointment, but given the pedigree of the players involved I think it could be filed under 'missed opportunity'.
Pete Levin was the legendary Gil Evans' keyboard player for almost a quarter century, and has (deserved) reputation as keyboard maestro. I was very excited by the idea of this album, as not only does it feature Levin's equally famous brother and bassplayer to the stars Tony, but also two terrific (and very differently styled) guitarists in Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco. Even more exciting for me was that this album features Levin playing exclusively on the Hammond organ - and trust me, I'm a huge Hammond fan. On paper, this looked like a dynamite combination. Unfortunately, this is only half a great album.
The first four tracks remind me of what I always thought Murph and the Magictones would sound like ; the folks at Cool Jazz Lite FM will love this stuff. One original tune, two covers of famous songs (Steely Dan's Deacon Blues and the Beach Boys' Sail on Sailor) and a stab at an Eric Satie piano piece , and every one of them laid back to the point of being almost comatose. So tasteful it's simply dull.
Things pick up considerably with Once Lost, a Levin original - the band are finally playing together as a unit, as opposed to merely backing up Levin. There's a lovely understated guitar solo by DeMicco, some terrific drumming from Ken Lovelett , and Levin himself finally lets himself loose. The upswing in quality continues with a samba rearrangement of Ralph Towner's Icarus, and a trio of percussionists really add some oomph to the whole track. And from here it's pretty much great stuff the rest of the way -Sad Truth is a soulful ballad with some outstanding fretless bass from Tony Levin, Eclipse is a swinging DeMicco tune that finds the whole band hitting a groove and working it for the whole seven minute duration, Might Have Been showcases the considerable blues skills of Joe Beck, and Dragonfly has some very tricky time changes that are beautifully executed and some scorching Hammond lines from Levin. Closing track Mean to Me finds us back in Jazz Lite mode, but luckily doesn't tarnish the quality of the great six tunes that preceded it.
All in all a mixed bag, but the good tracks on here are really good - certainly good enough for me to recommend this to Hammond fans.
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