Monday, April 16, 2018

Jan Hammer - 1975 - The First Seven Days

Jan Hammer
The First Seven Days

01. Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun (4:31)
02. Light/Sun (6:44)
03. Oceans And Continents (6:16)
04. Fourth Day - Plants And Trees (2:46)
05. The Animals (6:14)
06. Sixth Day - The People (7:15)
07. The Seventh Day (6:11)

- Jan Hammer / piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Mellotron, Moog, Freeman String & Oberheim synths, digital sequencer, drums, percussion, producer

- Steven Kindler / violin (2,5-7)
- David Earle Johnson / congas & percussion (5,6)

Here's one of those rare albums that not only sounds just as good as it did in 1975, but has actually improved with age. The first solo project by the keyboard ace of the original MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was (by Prog standards) only a modest instrumental concept album at the time, which might be one reason why it plays so well over 30 years later.
Maybe there were just too many keyboard virtuosos strutting their stuff in the mid 1970s, and an undemonstrative artist like Hammer was simply lost behind the glare of all those sequined capes. And maybe a little time and distance were needed to best appreciate the seamless blend here of so many different influences: prog rock, jazz-rock fusion, world music, middle-European folk songs (Hammer was a native Czech), the Western classical- orchestral tradition, and of course all the emerging trends of late 20th century electronica.

Or maybe, in retrospect, it's simply the glorious sound of all those vintage analog keyboards. The sonorous mini-moog and mellotron intro to "Darkness/Earth in Search of a Sun" has to be one of the more dramatic album openers in modern rock, and when the sequencers rev into action and the drums (played by Hammer himself) kick in, it's hard not to experience a twin shiver of nostalgia and exhilaration.

The album is loosely drawn around the biblical myth of Genesis, with each of the seven tracks representing another day of creation. But don't worry, there's no religious agenda behind it: Hammer admits in his liner notes he was only looking for an excuse to record an LP's worth of music, and besides (he adds), each metaphorical day might have actually lasted several million years. After all, wasn't the sun itself supposedly made on the third day?

The music itself might be said to be its own eloquent act of creation. It helped to jump-start what continues to be an incredibly prolific career: check out the dizzying list of Hammer projects, both solo and in collaboration, on his pages here at Prog Archives. It's an impressive résumé to be sure, but at the top of the list his debut effort still stands apart as something truly special.

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