Sep 26, 2012

Return to Forever: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973)


Return to Forever's Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy just might be the quintessential "fusion" album. Hymn was certainly one of the best of the early 70's, is it their best? well it is certainly the equal of Romantic Warrior.

 Though Hymn is rougher around the edges and less produced, the music also seems less composed and more improvised on the spot.

Guitarist Bill Connors who only appeared on Hymn, then left for an acoustic solo career.

He was replaced by the Firebrand Al Di Meola. I love Di Meola believe me, but Bill Connors has a sound that is more in line with say the style of John McLaughlin, more Jazz and less rock if you will. But oh can Bill Connors play some electric guitar, I mean he is killing it on this album, his heavy fuzz sound is perfect for the raw under produced sound.

 Don't get me wrong. the production doesn't sound bad, but the mix IS a little thin, I have The U.S. and German issues on vinyl ( pictured), as well the CD. All 3 recordings have that same sound, I don't know if this album can be remastered any better, but it would be an interesting listen.

Hymn is one of those albums where no weak link is evident, "Captain Senor Mouse" is a perfect driving around with the top down song,

"After the Cosmic Rain" has fantastic slithery intro, "Theme to the Mothership" also has a driving around quality. This is a track where you notice a few spots where things just about break apart, but pick back up in fine fashion.

Stanley Clarke on Bass, Lenny White on Drums, Chick Corea on Piano, and Bill Connors on Guitar, I do think this is the best RTF album. Did you ever wonder what it would have sounded like if Saxophonist Joe Farrell would have stayed on board after Flora Purim and Airto left?

Sep 5, 2012

John Coltrane: Coltrane Plays the Blues. (1962)

Coltrane Plays the Blues is one of those albums that takes a bit to warm too, it always sounded like wood shedding to me, then I found out that this session was really only outtakes from the My Favorite Things session.

 This music was not released until nearly 2 years after it was laid to tape. The fact is, Coltrane was already working for Impulse, and had no say what-so-ever in this music be released, I wonder if he approved?

Well no matter, the music is better than just quite good, it's also fascinating. I really like hearing Coltrane in the working process, you can hear sort of a Village Vanguard vibe on a few tracks.

Trane is letting loose a bit, "Blues to Bechet" and "Blues to You" especially, with the latter sounding like Chasin' the Trane. Coltrane doesn't do any real over blowing here, but the music is quite free, but not avant-garde.

The Soprano on "Bechet" is cool, because you can hear the development, understanding history, you know where it will lead, especially the live 40 minute renditions of My Favorite things from Japan and Seattle.

Side 2 is a little different, here we have tight compositions with some very tasty McCoy Tyner Piano and Elvin Jones drum work, But Steve Davis is on Bass and not Jimmy Garrison, and Coltrane is definitely into his modal groove.

The blues Motifs really allow him to search for something, maybe something unattainable in the end, Coltrane sure tried like hell to find it, no saxophonist even comes close to the sheer determination that Coltrane had in his playing.

"Mr. Symms"  has an "Alabama" vibe, the bridge lightens the mood, then it turns into a nice bubbly blues. When you listen to jazz long enough, especially when you listen to an artists entire body of work, you begin to put the pieces together.

 Go back to Miles' the Prestige years, then listen to these Atlantic sessions before the Impulses, they are all blues, Trane never left the blues, even Ascension is sort of a free blues. Think about it, that blues scale, it's there!

The final track Mr. Knight is also a nice little blues that I swear reminds me of "Acknowledgement" from A love Supreme. listen to him, he's playing it over top that blues groove.

Almost all of Coltrane's Impulse masterpieces are rooted in this forgotten Atlantic Jazz masterpiece in my opinion. You should check out Coltrane Plays the Blues again.

This pictured vinyl copy is from my own collection, and this early 60's Stereo pressing really sounds fantastic, some of the Atlantic sessions can be a little dry sound stage wise, but this copy sounded great.



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