Friday, June 24, 2016

Babe Ruth - 1973 - Amar Caballero

Babe Ruth
Amar Caballero

01. Lady
02. Broken Cloud
03. Gimme Some Leg
04. Baby Pride
05. Cool Jerk
06. We Are Holding
07. Doctor Love
08. Amar Caballero (Sin Ton Ni Son)
  El Caballero De La Reina Isabella
  Hombre De La Guitana
  El Testament De 'Amelia

Bass [Fender] – Dave Hewitt
Keyboards – Chris Holmes
Percussion – Ed Spevock
Producer, Guitar – Alan Shacklock
Vocals – Jenny Haan

Flugelhorn – Ray Harris
Flute – Brian Warren
Organ – Chris Holmes
Piano [Steinway] – Dave Punshon
Saxophone [Baritone] – Bud Beadle
Saxophone [Tenor] – Steve Gregory
Trumpet – Ron Carthy
Electric Piano – Dave Punshon
Flute – Dave White, Steve Gregory,Duncan Lamont
Percussion [Mother Drum] – Gasper Lawal
Trombone – Keith Christie, Ray Premru
Trumpet – Ray Harris
Congas, Cowbell, Vocals – Angelito Perez
Trumpet – Ron Carthy
Violin – Raymond Vincent

Tracks A1 & A2: String section led by John Georgiadis.

Listening to 1974's "Amar Caballero" has always surprised me given it was recorded by a band that had a reputation as a hard rock entity.  Produced by front man Alan Shacklock, the album was crazy, all-over the musical spectrum.  Among the genres they managed to touch on - English folk-music ('Broken Cloud'), incidental film moves ('We Are Holding On'), funk (''Dr. Love''), and even jazz ('Lady').  Mind you, I like diversity as much as anyone else, but this one was simply schizophrenic.  It almost sounded like a demo tape from a band trying to showcase the fact they could function across any musical genre.  In this case the result was you were left wondering who the world they were ...  That wasn't meant as a criticism of the band's musical dexterity (particularly Dutch-born singer Janita Haan, new keyboardist Chris Holmes who replaced Dave Punshon (who'd gone off to join a religious group) and multi-instrumentalist Shacklock). but any semblance of a band 'sound' was lost across these eight tracks.

- 'Lady' opened up the album with a song that sounded like a mash-up between lite-jazz and Curtis Mayfield-styled blaxploitation soundtrack.  The clear star was Haan's crystal clear voice, followed in short order by Shacklock's wonderful jazzy lead guitar solo.   rating: *** stars
- With an ornate arrangement and heavy orchestration, 'Broken Ground' sounded like a mix of progressive and English folk moves.  Sounds weird and it certainly was, though once again Haan's fantastic voice managed to pull it off.    rating: ** stars
- With an ominous, highlight misogynist lyric 'Gimme Some Leg' shifted direction again - this time the band displaying their unique blend of hard rock, funk, and a touch of reggae.  I've always found Haan's shrill and screechy lead vocal hard to deal with, but given the song's dark, threat-of-rape lyric, maybe that was the intent.  I think the non-too-subtle message is people (particularly single women), should not hitch-hike ...    rating: *** stars
- Again showcasing Shacklock's tasty jazzy lead guitar, 'Baby Pride' found Haan and company dipping their collective feet into adult contemporary light jazz territory.   One of their prettiest melodies, underscored by the start arrangement.    rating: **** stars
- Their cover of The Capitol's 'Cool Jerk' was okay - a bit too jittery and hyperactive for my tastes, but you had to love Haan's voice and Ed Spevock's frenetic drumming.   rating: *** stars
- By this point in the album the band's wild musical twists and turns were no longer a surprise so the pretty balalaika-propelled instrumental 'We Are Holding On' really didn't sound that out of place.   Well, yeah, it actually did.  To my ears it sounded like a piece of incidental film music they' stitched into the middle of the album.  rating: ** stars
- 'Doctor Love' moved back to hard rock-meet-soul territory.  The song was actually pretty good with a cool funk baseline and a nice Shacklock lead guitar break.  On the downside, Haan resorted to her screechiest voice and the horns didn't add much to the track.   rating: *** stars
- A three part suite, 'Amar Caballero (Sin Ton Ni Son' was another effort all over the musical spectrum.
- 'El Caballero De La Reina Isabella' offered up another slice of pretty English folk music - very Fairport Convention-influenced.   rating: *** stars
- The instrumental 'Hombre De La Guitarra' showcased Shacklock's blazing guitar on a Latin percussion flavored slice of Flamenco-meets-Santana.   It wasn't rock and roll, but the song still made for one of the album's best performances.   rating: **** stars
- The closing instrumental 'El Testament De Amelia' added a Spanish flamenco to the feel , slowing things way down

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