A rattle; a cranking sound that suggests revving; muted guitar sounds set against an ominous quiet… At the outset of this EP from fusion musician James Basdanis, things start so disjointedly they give no obvious clue as to where the music will go. After a little more gearing up, Basdanis turns out a few jazzy guitar notes in a melody that strongly suggests a Mediterranean slant, but this isn’t obviously something a world music buff might gravitate towards. Nor is it especially “jazz” in the most traditional sense, but certainly takes in elements of both. Hearing it for the first time, the slow, unfolding melody suggests something from the Frank Gambale back-cat mangled with glee by a Les Claypool project.
By the end of the 60s, jazz fusion band The Web had recorded and released two interesting but commercially unsuccessful albums. 1970 found the struggling musicians in a period of minor flux: a change in line-up saw frontman John L. Watson replaced by vocalist/keyboard player Dave Lawson (ex-Alan Bown) and a change of label took the newly christened Web [no longer the definitive; that was so last decade – just ask Pink Floyd] from Deram to Polydor. The new phase saw the release of their third and arguably best known LP, ‘I Spider’. ‘I Spider’ became their most famous work not through any increased exposure or notable sales, but by eventually becoming one of the era’s most sought after rarities.
By 1971, the final Web line-up changed their name to Samurai, switched record companies again and released one sole LP on the Greenwich Gramophone label. Like its predecessors, ‘Samurai’ failed to convince the record buying public and eventually faded into relative obscurity. Much like ‘I Spider’, the Samurai LP gained interest on the collectors’ market over the following quarter of a century, but never really got the mass re-appraisal it deserved. Despite the band showing lots of talents that should have found them mentioned in the same breath as Gentle Giant, King Crimson and early Soft Machine, the name Samurai is likely to be greeted with a shrug.
Randy and Michael Brecker: legends of jazz fusion, both together and apart. Often called upon for individual session work throughout the 70s and 80s, the brothers appeared on albums by Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Dire Straits. Both were among the most gifted players in their prime: separately, they were great, but together, they could be an absolute powerhouse. This is something that comes across with abundance throughout the archive double live disc ‘Live And Unreleased’. A show newly released in 2020 that captures the second Brecker Brothers Band with bassist Neil Jason partway through a European tour in 1980, the Breckers are on fire.
In a relatively short time, Fleetwood Mac had marked their place at the top of the British blues table. With two excellent albums (1967’s ‘Fleetwood Mac’ and 1968’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’) and an indispensable compilation (‘The Pious Bird of Good Omen’, 1969), they showed an ability to take on the genre’s best. In Peter Green, they had a fantastic vocalist and a new guitar hero. Their third album ‘Then Play On’ (released in September 1969) even showed the band branching away from the blues and its mixed bag of styles further cemented Green’s place among the new guitar gods.
What’s more, a run of non-album singles issued throughout ’69 reinforced any belief that this still young band had all the makings one that might just have some longevity. An easy listening instrumental ‘Albatross’ showcased the softer side of Green’s guitar work and appealed to a broader spectrum of listeners, becoming one of their most enduring hits The double whammy of 1969’s ‘Oh Well (Parts 1 & 2)’ paired angry blues with an unexpected foray into something that was closer to Ennio Morricone than JB Lenoir or Elmore James; an aching ballad ‘Man of the World’ showed how Green’s voice was easily capable of conveying a gentle anguish. A trio of more disparate singles you’d be hard pressed to find and yet all were chart smashes, each hitting the #2 spot in the UK.
Often irascible and difficult, sometimes just plain rude, Ginger Baker wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with, assuming most accounts are to be believed. As if often the case, with such difficulty came genuine brilliance. Few could deny that Ginger was one of the finest drummers who ever lived.