|db March 13, 1975
LIKE CHILDREN-Nemperor (Atlantic) NE430
Country And Eastern Music; No Fear; I Remember Me; Earth (Still Our Only Home); Topeka; Steppings Tones; Night; Full Moon Boogie; Giving In Gently; I Wonder.
Personnel:: Goodman, electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic
violins and violas, electric - mandolin lead vocals: Hammer, electric and
acoustic piano Moog lead and Moog bass, Oberheim Digital Sequencer, drums,
* * * *
The first time I played this album, it came on as a vital, important, almost revelatory experience.
If you listened to Goodman and Hammer's work with Mahavishnu, you have some idea of what to expect, but this is far more of a studio date, much more dependent upon electronics than anything they've done previously. This isn't to disparage it; indeed, I've never heard two men sound more like a large. integrated, interacting group. Extensive overdubbing almost always sounds forced, sterile, test-tube music. This session is alive.
The first cut begins with an acoustic piano intro, followed by a Moog-played melody with some interesting intervals reminiscent of mid-'60s Coltrane (though the phrasing and voicing is entirely dissimilar). Segue to a second theme harmonized by Goodman on violins and violas. The alternation is then repeated, this time with lyrics behind the first theme (I say "behind" advisedly, since all the lyrics on the record are hard to get because of muting and under recording.)
No Fear's title must be ironic; it's a speedy piece performed solo by Hammer on Moog and sequencer, and the visual image I get is of tiny mechanical men moving in maniacal concert. Definitely a song to avoid if you're susceptible to paranoia. Earth is really attractive. The lead riff, done on bass Moog, seems both Afro and ricky-tick, if such a mixture can be imagined. This leads into a chanted vocal (again, the lyrics get swallowed) followed by a fine rock solo on guitar.
Side two contains some more adventurous metric experiments. Tones sounds like it's in 5, but the 5 seems to me just slightly off-center, creating some effective tension. The second part of Night is also in some weird meter which I tried and failed to break down, and I Wonder is in 13 (subdivided 3/3/3/4). Tones is begun by the Moog bass: it's a walking pattern, more or less, but the intervals are spacy. (Trane might've liked this one, too.) There's actually no horizontal development to speak of, but the mood-tentative, somewhat sad, but also whimsical is effectively conveyed. The first part of Night, however, is quite similar in voicing and feeling. and I think somebody erred in putting the two tunes together. Boogie is a Goodman showcase; he converses with himself on guitar and violin in a biting, propulsive sequence.
This session is astonishingly complex but almost never pretentious;
the playing is virtuoso without seeming egotistical and the mood is simultaneously
warmly relaxed and nervously exploratory. What's missing, if anything,
is the raw energy of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I guess that's why I've
heard this album differently each time I've played it. When I come to it
with my own energy high, it's dynamite: but when my own is low, this won't
get to me. With Mahavishnu, you can have been dead for three days and still
wanna boogie when he opens up.
downbeat March 13, 1975
Post August 1975
Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer
else I know, I was knocked out when the Mahavishnu Orchestra surfaced four
years ago. Since the (original) Orchestra broke up amidst tales of
personal conflict and infighting among the band, thus far, none of the
members have been able to catch up with their reputations. McLaughlin
seems to have overextended himself , Billy Cobham can’t figure out how
to be a superstar on drums … and bassist Rick Laird hasn’t resurfaced.
March 27, 1975
by Bob Palmer
Two-fifths of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra (Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer) and one fourth of Return to Forever (Stanley Clarke) have their say on the debut releases from Nat Weiss's Nemperor label, and it sounds as if the first real alternative to Columbia's jazz/rock juggernaut may be shaping up. Goodman and Hammer have chosen to work as a duo, achieving an orchestral sound with multiple overdubs, while Clarke has gathered an unusually distinguished and compatible crew of sidemen. The resulting albums differ from each other, but both albums are different enough from those of Columbia artists like Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and the current Mahavishnu Orchestra to suggest at least a mini trend.
"Country & Eastern music" is Jan Hammer's half-in-jest name for whatever it is that happens when he combines his keyboards and drums with Goodman's stringed instruments. By playing and overdubbing together in the studio the two musicians manage to avoid the artificial, static qualities of Mike Oldfield's work, and some of their textures and effects transcend the country and the Eastern, achieving the uniquely sublime. All the wrinkles aren't out of the idea yet. The occasional vocals, well intentioned though they may be, appear thin after the technologically beefed up instrumental sound of the duo. There are hulking, polymetric excursions that will inevitably draw accusations of cashing in on the old Mahavishnu sound. But there are also some devastatingly effective sonic landscapes, and as a whole the album is a surprisingly musical use of the easy-to-abuse multiple overdubbing technique.