On A Magic Carpet Ride [5:08]
Leaward Winds [3:39]
‘Antares’ – The Star [5:11]
Magic / Reflection In The Clouds / Magic Recapitulation
Billy Cobham: drums and vocals
Joachim Kuhn: Electric piano, acoustic piano,
Mark Soskin: acoustic piano, oberheim synthesizer,
acoustic tack piano, keyboards, electric piano
Pete Maunu: guitars
Randy Jackson: bass
Alvin Baptiste: clarinet, vocals
Pete Escovedo: vocals, timbales
Sheila Escovedo: congas
Kathleen Kaan: vocals
In the 1970s, Billy Cobham
was one of the most dynamic names in jazz-rock
fusion. He recorded with Miles Davis and John
McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra before striking
out on his own. He became highly influential
in jazz and rock drum sounds, with his high
pitched, tuned drums and his interesting mixtures
of traditional beats with experimental melodic
drumming. This album is a re-release of the
second of five albums that he cut for CBS
records, released now by Sony with two additional
tracks and a new attempt at mixing and mastering
with all that digital equipment can bring
to the original analog recordings.
This album was made with
a fairly impressive cast of musicians including
Randy Jackson on bass, Pete Escovedo on percussion,
as well as Pete Maunu on guitar and Mark Soskin
on keyboards. Additionally Alvin Baptiste
adds clarinet on several tracks, which seems
to alternate between truly innovative and
simply out-of-place. Much of this album feels
dated to the modern listener, especially when
songs will be broken out of for extended grooves
with the band doing a vocal shout chorus.
At times the listener is
reminded of exactly why Cobham was so influential.
The groovy "’Antares’ – the Star"
sounds as if it could have come directly from
the soundtrack to Shaft, if the clarinet
solo would have been replaced with a saxophone,
electric keyboard, or guitar. The extended
song cycle "Magic / Reflection In The
Clouds / Magic Recapitulation" gives
him focus for some absolutely electric solos
as well as some outstanding rhythm section
grooves. The drumming throughout is consistently
outstanding, both from Cobham and from his
percussionists. Also one is reminded of the
amazing versatility of Randy Jackson, now
mostly known as the former bass player for
Journey or perhaps as a judge alongside Simon
Cowell in American Idol (the American version
of Pop Idol). On this long forgotten album,
he is as much a standout as Cobham, laying
down grooves and displaying technical facility
beyond his years.
Unfortunately however, there
are some places where the album simply has
not aged well. The Kathleen Kaan/Pete Escovedo
vocal duet in the middle of "Magic /
Reflection In The Clouds / Magic Recapitulation"
is wandering and seems out of place in the
context of the rest of the song. Although
the piano work is truly outstanding, as is
the guitar solo in the middle section, the
vocals sound dated, and the voices ill-suited
to each other.
The bonus material consists
of two additional tracks: "Inigo"
and "Guernica". The first, "Inigo,"
sounds like a foray through a plodding 1970s
travel video, excepting the Pete Manu guitar
solo, which is one of the albums highlights.
In short, this is truly illustrative of why
jazz-rock really was more successful as a
venture in the realm of commercial music rather
than as anything in the popular music scene.
"Guernica" should have been on the
initial album, as it contains some of the
best piano work, drumming, and rhythm-section
There is a reason that this
album was out of print for so long. In the
interest of completeness and as a testament
to the greatness of this rhythm section it
needed to be pressed on CD at some point.
And there are some truly outstanding highlights
here if one wants to listen. Alas, there is
a large portion of the album which also sounds
dated and stale. Weather Report, the Mahavishnu
Orchestra, and Miles Davis’s forays into jazz-rock
are all better at accomplishing what Billy
Cobham was attempting. On the other hand,
there are some moments where he achieves the
greatness that he is capable of. Although
the album will never achieve a broad appeal,
anyone who is already a fan of jazz-rock should
enjoy much of the album, and can forgive the
rest. After all, it was the ‘70s… he probably
just didn’t know any better.
Encyclopaedia of Popular Music - Billy Cobham