Sunday, October 2, 2016

Howard Roberts - 1971 - Antelope Freeway

Howard Roberts 
Antelope Freeway

01. Antelope Freeway - Part 1 2:25
02. That's America Fer Ya 3:25
03. Dark Ominous Clouds 3:45
04. De Blooz 9:27
05. Sixteen Track Firemen 2:15
06. Ballad Of Fazzio Needlepoint 5:20
07. Five Gallons Of Astral Flash Could Keep You Awake For Thirteen Weeks 4:23
08. Santa Clara River Bottom 2:20
09. Roadwork 7:50

Bass [Fender] – Brian Garofalo, Max Bennett
Drums – Bob Morin, John Guerin
Electric Guitar – Mike Deasy
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Howard Roberts
Keyboards – Larry Knechtel, Mike Wofford, Pete Robinson
Violin – Bobby Bruce

"Not necessarily beautiful, but definitely stoned. You might not believe it unless you hear it." JSngry, Texas [Blogger]

ANTELOPE FREEWAY is a state of the art recording which combines music and stunning stereo sound effects: utilized at points as Harry Partch-like tuned percussion samples, and at other points like Firesign Theater radio cross-fades and comic interludes.

A real dog yummy for your stereo, this ultra-dynamic recording is intended to be played LOUD, and to fill the stereo soundstage with dimensional ambiance and sonic paintings, alternating between a heavy jazz-blues feel and echoplexed ballads.

Critics didn't know what to make of ANTELOPE FREEWAY when it was first released, and the DOWNBEAT critic launched a preemptive strike and nuked it with a rating of 1/2 stars out of a possible five. Me, I have always found this tongue-in-cheek recording to be funky and soulful, witty and earnestly engaging...and yes, SWINGING. Howard Roberts couldn't NOT Swing if you held a gun to his head.

Roberts' playing and conceptual outreach is seriously underrated on both of these recordings (ANTELOPE FREEWAY and the follow-up EQUINOX EXPRESS ELEVATOR), even by some of his most fervent fans--finally released on CD for the very first time as a single entity in a 2-for-1 format, which allows listeners to follow the progress of stylistic evolution of Howard Roberts emerging concept, circa 1970-1972, and to enjoy the muisic both in an uninterrupted suite format as it was originally intended, as well as to pull out individual tracks.

Roberts' playing always had a very strong blues component, and if you look through his recorded output, he also had a very mischievous sense of humor. ANTELOPE FREEWAY and EQUINOX were experimental recordings, made at the hippest LA studios with the most able and adventurous musicians, who, accustomed as they were to working on the L.A. studio scene, were certainly liberated by these formats; these recordings are also among the earliest to deploy the then emerging 16-track/2-inch recording technology, so the ability to create a multi-track collage of sound effects and music, in the manner of a free form radio shows of that era (a la Firesign Theater), let alone the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, is part of the motivation and the charm of ANTELOPE FREEWAY. Roberts and collaborators Ed Michel and Bill Szymczyk's portrayal of two truckers making their way through the late night radio dial on "Five Gallons Of Astral Flash Could Keep You Up For Thirteen Weeks" is brilliant satire of trends and tastes, particularly when the truckers unexpectedly stumble over some freak-out avant garde jazz. "What the hell?"

Additionally, not only is the playing visceral in an edgy jazz-fusion manner, but as we have pointed out, it is a most compelling aural document--a very progressive recording and mix. And for such a blues-drenched be-bopper as Howard Roberts, the use of guitar effects, such as a stereo-panned Echoplex on the ballad "Dark Ominous Clouds", and an Energy Bow (for its limitless sustain) on "Sixteen Track Fireman" (let alone the bloom and bite of over-driven amplifiers) are not mere gimmicks but natural extensions of Roberts' own style and knowing nods to the younger generation of emerging LA guitarists, influenced as they then were by Clapton, Hendrix, Beck and Townsend.