(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
Hubert Laws: Flute
Wayne Shorter: Saxophones
Ralph Towner: 12 String Guitar
Miroslav Vitous: Upright Bass
Andrew White: English Horn
Joe Zawinul: Pianos, Organ, Synth, Mellotron
Yolande Bavan: Vocals
Eric Gravatt: Drums
Dom Um Romao: Percussion
Chapman Roberts: Vocals
Joshie Armstrong: Vocals
Wilmer Wise: Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet
After seeing reviews of Weather Report releases cropping up here recently, I couldn't help myself, and had to jump in with this 1972 vintage journey through the unknown with WR.
I'm also going to do something a bit unusual, I am only reviewing half of the album, simply because the live cuts (tracks 5,6,7) are on the 2CD live set (Weather Report Live In Tokyo) already reviewed in this section.
We start with Joe Zawinul's ominous "Unknown Soldier", a musical depiction of war's horrors. An eerie wordless vocal melody underpins the entire piece, frantically pushed along by insistent militaristic drumming and fuzzy bass, mournful flutes, saxophones and oboe, dissonant jabs of piano and electronics. A battle section ensues with sirens and cannons, and ominous chanting in a made-up language and when the smoke finally clears, hope shines brightly as Wilmer Wise's piccolo trumpet ushers in a newfound peace and a chance to start over. An interesting side-by-side comparison could be made here, play this song right alongside nearly any Magma piece from the same period of time and see if you don't notice some stark similarities. It could be a case of coincidental parallel development or one might wonder if both bands were aware of and influenced by each other to some degree. Who knows?
"The Moors" spins its story with the aid of Ralph Towner improvising a beautiful Arabic/Spanish inflected introduction on his trademark 12-string guitar, giving way to a loping funk backdrop, punctuated by gurgling, growling electric piano and Wayne Shorter playing one of the most stark, haunting melodies ever committed to a soprano sax! Close your eyes and you can just picture the bands of Moorish invaders making their way northward through burning deserts.
"Crystal" is a gradually shifting, dreamlike piece underscored by spooky electronics, sparse percussion, short bursts of menacing fuzz bass, faint organs, rippling electric pianos and Wayne Shorter's mysterious melodies on his soprano. The melodic shape does not follow a traditional pattern at all, but rather gradually mutates and unfolds, much like a dream.
"Second Sunday In August" is a deliriously upbeat piece, starting off with spooky Mellotron voices, a jarring piano and on into a wildly exuberant celebration of an incoming harvest, underpinned by percolating drums and percussion and fuzzy driving bass, as Wayne Shorter calls out for everyone to join in the feast. This is probably the only instance of WR employing a mellotron, and the choice of sounds (voices and flutes) is impeccable.
A highly adventurous release I can't recommend enough!!