“Black Sheep”

(Asylum 6E-173) 

Just like a good wine, Jan Hammer seems to be getting better with age. Hammer’s collaborations with Jeff Beck brought several vintage albums several years back, and a recent work with Tony Williams gave us another gem in "The Joy of Flying" (reviewed last week).

Now Jan Hammer's new band has released "Black Sheep" (Asylum 6E-173), and it stands out for its raw simplicity and rocking urgency; .

The album credits insist (in bold black type) that ''there is no guitar on this album," but Hammer jams so fast and furiously with his synthesizer that it really sounds like there must be at least one. "Jet Stream" will rock you back to your roots. As a drummer, Hammer commands attention. He doubles here with Tony Smith, dividing percussion duties. He also sings backup and lead, and composes all of the album's music. Vocals are fittingly ominous and well arranged to complement musicianship and the overall Hammer feel. Bob Christianson and Colin Hodgkinson add their progressive touch even on the ballad "Light Of  Dawn" while maintaining a ferocious edge during an exceptional remake of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” Fernando Saunders on bass keeps manic pace with the rest as Hodgkinson belts out the vocals. 

As usual, the album is produced with the cleanliness and strength of the seasoned veteran, Hammer, continues to be. He's been around a long time and with the creative energy displayed here, you can bet he'll be around for sometime to come.

San Francisco Examiner  April 13, 1979