...or, if you prefer, Yet Another Jazz Moment....
Kansas -- Can I Tell You?, Journey from Mariabronn.
THE SORTA REAL STUFF:
Mahavishnu Orchestra -- APOCALYPSE: Power of Love, Vision is a Naked Sword, Smile of the Beyond, Wings of Karma, Hymn to Him.
Weather Report -- 8:30/LIVE: Black Market, Teen Town, A Remark You Made, Slang, In a Silent Way, Birdland, Thanks for the Memory, Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz medley, 8:30....
Kansas's "Can I Tell You?" almost sounds like there R saxes in it -- that's the keyboards mixed with the violin. There R some Xtremely fast unison keyboard/guitar/violin riffs, but the vocals R kinda rough, & the lyrics R nothing much.
However, "Journey from Mariabronn" is The Great Forgotten Kansas Song. A bit over-arranged & show-offy, a bit mock-operatic, it also has sections of great beauty & drive, & it rocks. At almost 8 mins, it's actually 2 short. Right up there with "Miracles Out of Nowhere" & "Song for America," 4 me. It's from the band's 1st album (1974), & is included on NE decent Kansas best-of. These 2 R from THE MUSIC OF KANSAS.
I've tried 2 look at the Mahavishnu Orchestra as King Crimson Without The Tunes, but it hasn't helped much. APOCALYPSE is a later version of the Orch, with Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, Narada Michael Walden on drums, Gayle Moran on keybs & vocs, & the London Symphony Orchestra on strings. George Martin produced. I figured: Big guitars, big orch, big production, could B kinda cosmic, right? Well, it's a little cosmic. In places. Mostly it's just ick.
"Power of Love" is an OK opener, but it's not jazz -- more like a soundtrack; very sweet, gentle, lyrical acoustic gtr with strings.
"Vision is a Naked Sword" opens ominously. THIS is more like it, the kind of loud thrashing you'd Xpect from HahaMissedYou, but the thrashing is done by the orchestra. It's almost Happy-the-Man-ish sounding in places -- heavy on the keybs & percs, tho there's not much of a tune. Walden's drumming is a little 2 impressed with itself. John McLaughlin's gtr is solid & nimble, not overbearing.
Then comes a definitely soundtrack-y orchestral break near the end -- it's OK but kinda schlocky, & you've heard the tune B4: it sounds like 1 of those shifting, elemental riffs off the 1st 2 MO albums, "Awakening," say, or "Resolution." There shoulda bn more of this....
Gayle Moran sings on "Smile of the Beyond" -- in an operatic style, unfortunately. THIS is REALLY soundtracky. & schlocky. & where's the guitar? ...Finally, 4 mins in, it goes mostly instrumental Xcept 4 a vocal chorus. McLaughlin does summa his trademarked lightning-fast runs ... under the chorus. Why'd they havta mess-up perfectly good playing with SINGING, huh? Toward the end, Ponty's violin gives McL's gtr a run 4 the money, but it's brief.
The orchestral opening of "Wings of Karma" reminded me vaguely of "Peter and the Wolf." Then more soundtrack -- nice, but it's not jazz. ... A coupla mins in, the jazzers take over. This section sounds a little like David Sancious -- heavy on the keybs & gtr. Then the orchestra returns 4 a subdued ending.
"Hymn to Him" is a monster -- 19 mins! There's some firey gtr work around 7 mins in, followed by some twinkly, cocktail-lounge keybs from Moran. Ponty has some OK moments. Later on it sounds like the old lightning-fast Maha with the orchestra thrown-in. There shoulda bn more of THIS, 2.
Overall, disappointing. It's not bad, it's kinda pretty in places thanx 2 the orch, some of it's OK mood music, but it's still a soundtrack. & where's McLaughlin's huge, crashing riffs & earthshaking drama? I didn't like the MO's 1st 2 albums THAT much, now I'm gonna havta go back 2 'em.
& why is there a guy with a flute depicted on the cover? There's no flute solo-featured in the music. Shouldn't it have bn a guy with a guitar? Or a violin?
The album's liner notes mention ELP's "unconsciously kitschy" versions of classics.... Well, THIS is kitschy 4 sure, & there's very little power on display here. 1 4 the trade-off pile....
Coming 2 Weather Report's 8:30 live album is a relief. WR didn't have NE trouble turning it up 2 play live, & Joe Zawinul's keyboards make everything sound like it's gonna turn in2 "Boogie Woogie Waltz" -- & that's a GOOD thing.
"Black Market" is an upbeat, rockin' opening with some nice honking from saxist Wayne Shorter & some intresting thunder in the background. The late Jaco Pastorius's "Teen Town" is a nice workout, screaming fast by the end. If there's gonna B live electric jazz-rock, it should sound like these 2 trax.
"A Remark You Made" is a nice mellow ballad with lotsa nice blowing from Shorter -- tho Zawinul's keybs sound like they've got a headcold. Pastorius's "Slang" is basically a bass solo, & is as boring as those usually R, tho Jaco had fast fingers & the piece picks up rhythm & funkiness a coupla mins in.
"In a Silent Way" is a pretty, barely-recognizable version of the tune Zawinul wrote 4 Miles Davis. Very pretty sax from Shorter. I made lunch during "Birdland" cos I knew I wouldn't miss much -- but it DOES swing a bit, & it's less schlocky than the original studio version. "Thanks for the Memory" is another Xcuse 4 Shorter 2 blow the roof off the place, & he does -- solo.
The whole album's worth it 4 the "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley, which is still the same brilliant screaming monster I thot it was when I 1st heard it 4 yrs ago. Far as I know, this is the best thing these guys ever did. Rock & prog fans should love it.
This creature shifts gears & picks up speed at least 4 times as a very definite, vividly visual story is told in a way the original studio track absolutely DOES NOT: A guy who's late 4 work runs breathless 4 his subway train as his wife hollers "honey-do" reminders out the apartment window at him ... Then he catches the train, which -- just his luck -- starts barrelling downtown at top speed, out of control ... See the stations & lites flashing by in a blur? This baby is NOT gonna stop....
The last 3 mins of this thing absolutely SCREAMS: It's impossible not 2 tap your foot or bounce around the room with the rhythm, even tho you know The Big Crash is coming. ... & when it comes at the end, the train sprawls in a steaming, wrecked heap across the stage.... Crank it up, it's freakin awesome.
On the studio side, "8:30" itself fades in on a radio Bing tuned. Zawinul's keyboard sounds like an accordion. This is less impressive than the live trax, kinda moody & washy....
COMING SOON: More Of That Jazz....