Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jan Hammer Group - 1977 - Melodies

Jan Hammer Group

01. Too Much To Lose (2:47)
02. Peaceful Sundown (3:55)
03. I Sing (4:23)
04. Honey 5379 (2:37)
05. Window Of Love (3:30)
06. What It Is (2:57)
07. Don't You Know (2:58)
08. Just For Fun (4:14)
09. Hyperspace (3:43)
10. Who Are They? (6:14)
11. Your Love (3:30)

Jan Hammer / synths, electric piano, Mellotron (1,11), piano (5,11), drums (1,5,7), congas (1)
Steven Kindler / acoustic & electric violins, bass (7), cello & electric guitar (9), backing vocals
Fernando Saunders / bass, acoustic guitar & cello (3), lead (3,7,10), harmony & backing vocals
Tony Smith / drums, lead (1,2,4-6,8) & backing vocals

No matter how many times I listen to it the Jan Hammer Group's 'Melodies'Other the fact the none of the musicians on this album are well known except Jan Hammer never ceases to be anything but purely impressive.The musicianship is first rate,Jan Hammer uses his 'guitar synthesizer' to great effect and his own production of this album is emmaculate-from song to song Jan's keyboards and synthesizer and Steve Kindler's violin often merge into one single entity.And these songs and lyrics truely as stylistically diverse as they come.One thing is every tune on here,even the instrumentals are very melodic as the title suggests-the breezy romantic R&B of "Too Much To Loose","Peaceful Sundown",Fernando Saunder's warbling "I Sing" and the lovely "Don't You Know" all evoke a relaxed,romantic mood and are very pituresqe.Saunder's bass on the hip-shaking funk tines "Honey 5379",the deep "You Are They" and "Just For Fun" is about as deep and economical as it gets-the latter being a wry commentary on the groups own music as they talk of "pleasing everyone" with their music and "fitting into a mold".Like the best of Stevie Wonder (and later Prince) The Jan Hammer Group actually prove here they are more then capable of playing music for any occasion.It's not a "black" or "white" sound or "rock","funk","R&B","classical',"pop" or "jazz"-actually it's a unique and distinctive combination of all five styles of music.The centerpiece of the album to me is the beautiful,transcendant "Window Of Love"-it's the kind of ballad you'd usually hear by a Stevie Wonder or Elton John but the eerie chord progressions and reverrbed drums have a sound all their own.And the lyrics,although I have my personal impressions of the lyrics it is definately being sung it is truely inspiration to someone or any people who are opressed-takes Earth Wind & Fire lyricism to almost a religious ferver.The most classical element comes on Steve Kindler's manic "Hyperspace",perhaps inspired by Jerry Goodman's wailing violin theatrics in Jan's old group Mahavisnu Orchestra.And I cannot understand why so many people I read in reviews of this band think of Kindler as a bad musician-I have never heard someone express tension and egoless playing so much yet be so theatrical at the same time.As for Hammer himself his range as a keyboardist is increbible.Of course his use of synthesizer like a spacy hard rock guitar is his best known attribute but he can play in a simpler,funkier style on moog and fender rhodes as well.And on the finale "Your Love" he displays his talents as a brilliant acoustic pianist-it's simple,economical and very beautiful and (to people who don't like pop music) will say this is the best song on the album,even with the moog flourishes.The only things I believe that kept this album from being successful and a pop chart hit were lack of familiarity with most of the musicians and one other simple fact:if Nemperor had stopped marketing the Jan Hammer Group as a jazz act then this album would likely have joined the ranks of Dark Side Of The Moonand Rumours as one of the great pop releases of the 70's.But marketing is marketing and I thank Wounded Bird for putting this out on CD.But if you like 70's pop and even if your knowledge of classic albums doesn't extend beyong what Rolling Stone magazine critics or VH1 tells you are classic albums this is more then worth your time picking up.

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