Monday, September 4, 2017

Danny Joe Brown Band - 1981 - Danny Joe Brown Band

Danny Joe Brown Band 
Danny Joe Brown Band

01. Sundance 4:19
02. Nobody Walks On Me 3:06
03. The Alamo 3:05
04. Two Days Home 3:13
05. Edge Of Sundown 6:30
06. Beggar Man 3:45
07. Run For Your Life 3:45
08. Hear My Song 3:13
09. Gambler's Dream 3:30
10. Hit The Road 4:07

Bass, Vocals – Buzzy Meekins
Drums – Jimmy Glenn
Guitar – Kenny McVay
Guitar, Slide Guitar – Steve Wheeler
Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals – Bobby Ingram
Keyboards, Vocals – John Galvin
Vocals – Danny Joe Brown

Danny Joe Brown will always be remembered by his raspy voice that lifted hits like Flirtin’ With Disaster and Bounty Hunter to the charts while singing for Molly Hatchet. He was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age and battled with that disease all his life, but never the less, managed to rise to stardom, not only with Molly Hatchet, but with The Danny Joe Brown Band as well.

Danny Joe Brown grouped with Steve Holland and lead guitarist David Hlubek and formed Molly Hatchet in early 70’s. They released two massively popular albums, but during the peak of their success, Danny Joe Brown continued to suffer from diabetes and was eventually forced to leave the band in 1980.

In 1981, Brown released a solo album, which featured classic Edge of Sundown,  under the name Danny Joe Brown band, but the following year was asked to rejoin Molly Hatchet due to the unsuccessful result of the release of  their “Take No Prisoners” album.

The Molly Hatchet band took a hiatus in 1985 but made a big comeback after four years with their album “Lightning Strikes Twice”, of course, still with Danny Joe Brown. Unfortunately, the album was not that successful and they decided to dissolve the band for good.

Danny Joe Brown retired from music business after he suffered from a massive stroke in 1998.

On March 10, 2005, Danny Joe Brown died at the age of 54. Brown had been in hospitalized for the past few weeks prior to his death and died only day after returning his home in Davie, Florida. 

The Danny Joe Brown Band was formed in 1980 and kept its musical emphasis close to the original style that his former band, Molly Hatchet had originated. The Danny Joe Brown Band was centered around its lead singer, Danny Joe Brown and rest of the band consisted of Bobby Ingram (Guitar), Steve Wheeler (Guitar), Kenny McVay (Guitar), John Glavin(Keyboards), Buzzy Meekin(Bass) and Jimmy Glenn (drums).

The band was signed to the same label that Molly Hatchet was on, Epic Records. It released its only self-titled album in 1981 which featured freebird-like hit Edge of Sundown, song that get still played on Molly Hatchet concerts to this day. Rest of the album was filled with the same old vocals that fans had come to know and love, and it took the Hatchet fans by storm.

The Danny Joe Brown Band toured heavily to promote their new album, but to noticeably smaller crowds than Danny Joe had experienced with Molly Hatchet, although they were billed as the opening act for Blackfoot on that band’s highly successful Marauder tour in 1981. Danny Joe Brown replaced the entire band during the east coast leg of the band’s US tour from February through May 1982. The new members were a three-guitar line-up featuring Al Tuten, Jimmy Polston and Billy Poovey, bassist Ronnie Able, and drummer Shane Bressette.

The Danny Joe Brown Band called it quits in 1982 soon after getting kicked out from the tour with Foghat, following Danny Joes attack on their tour manager. Danny Joe returned back to Molly Hatchet and stayed with them until his stroke in 1995.

One of the most puzzling moves in the history of Southern rock occurred when vocalist Danny Joe Brown left Molly Hatchet after the huge success of 1979's Flirtin' with Disaster, one of the genre's definitive albums. He released one solo album on Epic, 1981's Danny Joe Brown and the Danny Joe Brown Band. It only scraped the bottom of the charts, and he wisely rejoined Molly Hatchet by 1982. This album is of interest to Southern rock fans because it should come as no surprise that it sounds like Molly Hatchet. Like Molly Hatchet, Brown's band also featured a three-guitar attack, courtesy of Bobby Ingram, Steve Wheeler, and Kenny McVay. A couple of extra musical touches support Brown's throaty growl: slide guitar riffing by Ingram and Wheeler, keyboard accents by John Galvin and harmony vocals that certainly must have been encouraged by producer/engineer Glyn Johns, a legend who'd worked with the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Eagles and Eric Clapton. The best tracks are "Sundance," "Nobody Walks on Me," "The Alamo," "Run for Your Life," and, in particular, "Edge of Sundown," a mythical guitar-driven epic springing directly from the loins of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" and the Outlaws' "Green Grass & High Tides." But that's not a bad thing. "Edge of Sundown" also plays an important role in Molly Hatchet's convoluted history. Ingram and Galvin would go on to join and lead Molly Hatchet itself (keeping the band alive long after Brown retired due to poor health) and an acoustic version of "Edge of Sundown" is featured on the underrated 2001 album Kingdom of XII. Danny Joe Brown and the Danny Joe Brown Band doesn't contain any earthshaking surprises, but it will reliably please Southern rock fans.

Molly Hatchet - 1985 - Double Trouble Live

Molly Hatchet
Double Trouble Live

01. Whiskey Man 3:36
02. Bounty Hunter 2:57
03. Gator Country 7:03
04. Flirtin' With Disaster 5:11
05. Stone In Your Heart 3:51
06. Satisfied Man 4:38
07. Bloody Reunion 3:57
08. Boogie No More 7:19
09. Freebird 11:00
10. Walk On The Side Of The Angels 4:00
11. Walk With You 4:31
12. Dreams I'll Never See 6:48
13. Edge Of Sundown 4:16
14. Fall Of The Peacemakers 6:58
15. Beatin' The Odds 3:18

Bass, Backing Vocals – Riff West
Drums – Bruce Crump
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Duane Roland
Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Backing Vocals – Dave Hlubek
Piano, Synthesizer, Backing Vocals – John Galvin
Vocals – Danny Joe Brown

Considering Molly Hatchet had been a successful act for nearly a decade up to this point, a double live LP seemed like a token gesture in 1985. The live environment was Hatchet's strength, but by 1985 trends were changing within American radio, and lengthy live albums were on the way out. Did Hatchet miss the boat? History would probably say yes, but somewhere along the way, Hatchet's discography would be sorely inadequate if a live album (or double live album) wasn't there. Up to this point, band membership was like a yo-yo. Players leaving, then returning, as in singer Danny Joe Brown and drummer Bruce Crump. The fan-base was losing touch with the band's output. 1983's 'No Guts No Glory' was a southern rock return to form, only to be off-set by 1984's 'The Deed Is Done' which went full circle back to radio friendly AOR. The band couldn't quite make up their mind which way to roll the dice.

Like many other live albums recorded, there's been hefty discussions on how 'live' is a live album. Evidence of much studio tinkering has been identified on some of the greatest records ever recorded. To my ears, 'Double Trouble Live' keeps it real for the most part. The performances were lifted from shows in Dallas and Jacksonville, and if I was a time traveller going back to the 80's, I would've loved to have been in the front-row of a Molly gig. The two major covers included here are Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird' and the Allman Brothers Band 'Dreams I'll Never See'. Both southern rock chestnuts that get taken out of the fire for an airing. Still, you get decent renditions of their finest moments committed to vinyl, played out in a live capacity. Check out their own classic epic 'Boogie No More', which makes for some astounding listening. My favourite is the full-tilt 'Beatin' The Odds', which was one of the best boogie efforts from 1980.

The original LP included two previously unreleased tracks: 'Walk On The Side Of Angels' and 'Walk With You', though these were removed on the CD version of the album, so as to fit everything on a single CD. Both took a 'walk' so to speak. From 1985 onward, the band went into a cryogenic state, not releasing a new studio album until 1989. In fact, many of the southern rock greats took a back-seat during this timeframe. The notable exception being 38 Special, though they had dropped their original roots for something more radio oriented and commercial. Still, 'Double Trouble Live' is a worthy addition to your collection.

Molly Hatchet - 1984 - The Deed Is Done

Molly Hatchet 
The Deed Is Done

01. Satisfied Man 4:57
02. Backstabber 4:12
03. She Does She Does 6:06
04. Intro Piece 1:15
05. Stone In Your Heart 4:14
06. Man On The Run 4:09
07. Good Smoke And Whiskey 3:33
08. Heartbreak Radio 3:27
09. I Ain't Got You 2:30
10. Straight Shooter 3:46
11. Song For The Children 2:31

Danny Joe Brown - vocals
Dave Hlubek - guitar
Duane Roland - guitar
John Galvin - keyboards
Riff West - bass
Bruce Crump - drums

Additional musicians
Jimi Jamison, Tom DeLuca, Steve Bassett, Terry Manning - background vocals
Jim Horn - saxophone

In what would be their last studio album until 1989, Molly Hatchet finally followed the lead of .38 Special and dived into the Southern-AOR market. 1983's 'No Guts, No Glory' was traditional boogie the band was renowned for, but with declining album sales Hatchet bought in outside writers and took a stab at a genre providing hits for so many artists. They were successful: musically. They didn't disown their roots either, just combined the two.

Die hard Hatchet fans must have been livid as soon as they heard 'Satisfied Man'. It took only seconds for John Galvin's modern synths to erupt, in a fashion Hatchet were previously unaccustomed to. Then the chanted chorus hits, with a steely riff, with just enough Southern overtones to keep the fan base happy. 'Backstabber' is AOR, simple as that. The chorus is first rate, until they repeat it several hundred times. Hlubek and Roland really deliver on their solo's, mastering the art of the melody needed to make classic AOR. 'She Does, She Does' has Brown bellowing in his unique style, backed up by that instrument of power, the sax. By this point the band can do no wrong! 'Stone In Your Heart' could easily be a Survivor or Michael Bolton written tune, huge made for radio chorus and moody synthesizer backing should have made this a no 1 hit. By the time of the solo, you will be caught in a time warp, circa LA 1984. For their die hard fans, this must have been a bitter pill, but for fans of both it's a dream come true. 'Man On The Run' is another singalong overdose, the hook driven home so thoroughly, you will never forget it. After all this magic Hatchet move back into usual territory with 'Good Smoke And Whiskey' and 'Heartbreak Radio', cranking out some boogie riffs and piano instead. This further accomplishes the album. 'Straight Shooter' is fantasy music, an AOR verse with boogie backing. The album ends an instrumental, 'Song For The Children', an acoustic showcase. Quite a mystifying choice considering what preceded it.

Unfortunately Hatchet's moment had passed and 'The Deed Is Done' failed to chart in the US. A live album 'Double Trouble' followed, but it wasn't until 1989's poor 'Lightning Strikes Twice' that new material surfaced. After that more silence, but 1995's 'Devils Canyon' saw a resurgence that Hatchet have built on steadily since, even though no original members remain. It must be noted that current vocalist Steve Bassett provided backing vocals for 'The Deed Is Done'. As far back as 1984 he was involved with Hatchet. Probably the most forgotten of all Hatchet albums from 78-84, it is still one of the best. Southern rockers and AOR fans never had it so good. 

Molly Hatchet - 1983 - No Guts...No Glory

Molly Hatchet 
No Guts...No Glory

01. What Does It Matter? 3:34
02. Ain't Even Close 4:35
03. Sweet Dixie 3:56
04. Fall Of The Peacemakers 8:06
05. What's It Gonna Take? 4:00
06. Kinda Like Love 4:10
07. Under The Gun 3:55
08. On The Prowl 4:06
09. Both Sides 5:07

Bass Guitar – Riff West
Drums – B. B. Bordan
Keyboards – Jai Winding
Lead Guitar – Dave Hlubek
Lead Guitar – Duane Roland
Lead Guitar – Steve Holland
Vocals – Danny Joe Brown

Guitar [Additional] – Dru Lombar (tracks: B4, B5), Scott Shelly (tracks: B2)
Piano – John Galvin

Following two albums with the excellent Jimmy Farrar, Danny Joe Brown returned to the Molly Hatchet fold in 1983, after suffering health issues which had caused his departure in 1980. This wasn't the only change, with original members Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump also leaving the outfit, being replaced by stalwarts Riff West and ex Mothers Finest drummer Barry 'B.B.' Borden. Despite this upheaval the resulting album was another classic from Hatchet and up to that point they hadn't released a single dud yet. As great as Farrar was, nothing could surpass Brown as the Hatchet frontman and with his familiar harder edged vocals, the band sounded a lot heavier than they did with Farrar. The cover was another departure, lacking the usual fantasy type illustration and replaced by the band itself, looking menacing in their western apparel, ready for a shootout apparently.
This is a classic from the outset, 'What Does It Matter' surging with riffs recalling the first two albums and complimented by Brown's welcome gruff vocals. Melodically it's superb and it's possible to see shades of their AOR future, but it's Southern Rock to the hilt. 'Ain't Even Close' is vintage Hatchet all the way and clearly Brown's return had inspired the band to turn it up a notch or ten volume wise. Nothing can beat the ultimate boogie of 'Sweet Dixie' however, one to raise your fist and headbang to, especially for the Southern crowd. The guitar solos and handclaps define the genre, making their fellow brethren like Blackfoot, .38 Special</b> etc seem tame by comparison. The epic 'Fall Of The Peacemakers' has gone down as a legitimate Hatchet classic and is still played to this day by the current lineup. Like all Hatchet epics it builds into a roaring crescendo, with the triple guitar attack utilized to all its potential. There's a massive AOR element to 'What's It Gonna Take' and it makes sense considering it was written by Canadian melodic rock exponent Gary O' Connor. This one showed up on Fast Forward's 'Living in Fiction' also, but this is the definitive version. 'Kinda Like Love' turns the intensity down, a catchy country jaunt written by outside writers Bobby Ellison and Mac Elsensohn and one which safely inhabits the AOR/country crossover ground where you might find an Alabama for example. By comparison 'Under The Gun' is speed metal, one of the heaviest tracks ever conjured by Hatchet. This is devastating material and could only be achieved with Brown at the helm in my opinion. 'On The Prowl' is another worthy slice of traditional Hatchet and the instrumental closer 'Both Sides' is remarkably atmospheric in terms of guitar work, evoking the dusty old West.
It's hard to believe how Hatchet went from this to pure AOR in the space of a year. While 'The Deed Is Done' is a great example of a Southern band turning melodic, I'd rather hear more of the grit displayed on 'No Guts..' That's the true Molly Hatchet, even if they weren't quite the accomplished AOR purveyors. I guess they had to keep up with their contemporaries, but for all purposes this album was their last real Southern album. Nothing has come close since, despite some commendable efforts with Phil McCormack and Bobby Ingram leading the band. Hatchet was unstoppable live on the tour promoting this and I suppose it was the end of an era in some regards. This never quite gets its due as an upper echelon Southern genre album and it's a shame. As such it's truly indispensable.

Molly Hatchet - 1981 - Take No Prisoners

Molly Hatchet 
Take No Prisoners

01. Bloody Reunion 3:59
02. Respect Me In The Morning 3:21
03. Long Tall Sally 2:54
04. Loss Of Control 3:30
05. All Mine 4:00
06. Lady Luck 3:34
07. Power Play 3:49
08. Don't Mess Around 3:00
09. Don't Leave Me Lonely 3:58
10. Dead Giveaway 3:24

Bass – Banner Thomas
Drums – Bruce Crump
Guitar – Dave Hlubek
Guitar – Duane Roland
Guitar – Steve Holland
Keyboards – Jai Winding
Lead Vocals – Jimmy Farrar

Percussion – Paulinho Da Costa

By the time of their fourth album, Take No Prisoners, Jacksonville, Florida-based Molly Hatchet was undergoing their trial by fire. They had experienced the departure of vocalist Danny Joe Brown after Flirtin' With Disaster, and new vocalist Jimmy Farrar seemed to polarize Molly Hatchet's fans. Add into this the fact that Southern rock was quickly fading in popularity (at least in terms of being the next big flavor of the month), and you had a band who needed to re-position themselves on a course of success.

This is where things are a little confusing, at least for me. Take No Prisoners is a definite improvement over their previous disc Beatin' The Odds, and when Molly Hatchet succeeds, they do so with flying colors. But their missteps are spectacular failures, leaving this disc (which is currently out of print) a decidedly mixed bag.

First things first, though. Farrar has definitely shown that he was able to grow in his role in the band, as his vocals show marked improvement over Beatin' The Odds. (Too bad this disc would be his swan song with the band.) Listen to tracks like "Lady Luck," "Power Play" or even the all-out rocker "Bloody Reunion" which opens this disc, and you'll know that Farrar feels more at home with this material.

In fact, the material on Take No Prisoners which stands out is truly amazing -- making one wonder why this disc is not available at this particular time. Check out songs like "Dead Giveaway" or "Loss Of Control" and you'll quickly come to realize that Molly Hatchet was most definitely back on track.

Yet despite all of the advances in the music, there are two instances of weakness -- and oh, how weak they are. "Respect Me In The Morning" starts out promising, but quickly dissolves into a he-said-she-said mush of pop tripe, not even worthy of your time. Likewise, I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to start out "Long Tall Sally" as a slow-tempoed plodder, but all interest is lost by the time the band finally kicks this song into high-gear. In retrospect, this was probably not the best cover choice for the band -- in fact, four albums into their career, why did they even need to resort to cover versions of songs?

Yes, these two weak songs threaten to derail the whole album, but the fact is that Take No Prisoners is a more solid effort than these two misfires. If anything, this disc not only cements Molly Hatchet's reputation as a solid rock outfit, but it also should have removed any misgivings about Farrar's position in the band. Regrettably, the latter would not prove to be true, as Farrar left following this disc -- leaving the door open to Brown's return.

Molly Hatchet - 1980 - Beatin' The Odds

Molly Hatchet 
Beatin' The Odds

01. Beatin' The Odds 3:18
02. Double Talker 3:15
03. The Rambler 4:51
04. Sailor 3:51
05. Dead And Gone 4:22
06. Few And Far Between 3:38
07. Penthouse Pauper 3:18
08. Get Her Back 3:03
09. Poison Pen 3:05

Bass – Banner Thomas
Drums – Bruce Crump
Keyboards – Jai Winding
Lead Guitar – Steve Holland
Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar – Dave Hlubek
Lead Guitar – Duane Roland
Lead Vocals – Jimmy Farrar

By the summer of 1980, I knew that Southern Rock had established itself up North and was listened to quite extensively there. However, in the August of the same year, I learned that it had made its way across the Atlantic when I saw this very album from Molly Hatchet on sale in a record shop in The Hague, Netherlands. The very same marine buddy who first introduced me to Southern Rock was with me at this time and we did both exceedingly rejoice in the fact that Molly Hatchet was listened to in Europe.

Being very predictable here but one can’t fail to mention that “Beatin’ The Odds” was the first album to feature Jimmy Farrar as lead singer who had replaced Danny Joe Brown who left the band on account of alcohol problems or so I’m told. Many Hatchet fans want to totally forget the Jimmy Farrar period of the band’s career but when I listened to the album a couple of days ago, (the first time in about 30 years) I tried to do so in a more open minded manner.

First, Jimmy Farrar is not that bad of a vocalist. Had he come out with another band, he probably would have been right up there with many of those who were around then. The unfortunate thing for him was that he had some very big shoes to fill when he replaced Brown at the mike. Saying that, I feel that the album still lacks a bit of punch to me when compared with the epic “Flirtin’ With Disaster” album. Yes, Molly Hatchet still plays that Southern bad boy boogie sound and this is in no way a bad album, but it is a quite a come down from the previous one. The track that stands out for me is “Penthouse Pauper” which has a great guitar intro and the title cut is pretty good too. “Sailor” is also a strong track. However, in spite of all the good things, to me, “Beatin’ The Odds” lacks something.

Molly Hatchet - 1979 - Flirtin' With Disaster

Molly Hatchet 
Flirtin' With Disaster

01. Whiskey Man 3:38
02. It's All Over Now 3:40
03. One Man's Pleasure 3:25
04. Jukin' City 3:49
05. Boogie No More 6:05
06. Flirtin' With Disaster 4:56
07. Good Rockin' 3:16
08. Gunsmoke 3:10
09. Long Time 3:16
10. Let The Good Times Roll 2:56

Bonus Tracks
11. Silver And Sorrow (Demo) 3:35
12. Flirtin' With Disaster (Live From Jacksonville, FL In 1980) 6:15
13. One Man's Pleasure (Live From Jacksonville, FL In 1980) 3:17
14. Cross Road Blues (Live From Jacksonville, FL In 1980) 4:14

Bass – Banner Thomas
Drums – Bruce Crump
Guitar – Dave Hlubek
Guitar – Duane Roland
Guitar – Steve Holland
Lead Vocals – Danny Joe Brown

Backing Vocals – Max Gronenthal (tracks: 2)
Keyboards – Jai Winding

Their stellar sophomore album, October 1979’s ‘Flirtin’ with Disaster,’ would ably fill the void — led by its No. 42 title track, which remained on the Billboard charts for 10 weeks. ‘Flirtin’ with Disaster’ also helped solidify the momentum built around Molly Hatchet’s eponymous debut from ’78, which had clawed its way to a platinum certification. Their follow up went one better, crashing the U.S. Top 20 on the way to double-platinum sales.
The LP’s opening rocker ‘Whiskey Man’ welcomed fans back for a trademarked shot of their muscular sound. Then, a foot-tapping cover of ‘It’s All Over Now’ — as written by soul man Bobby Womack and made famous by the Rolling Stones — confirmed the group’s twin influences in American roots music and the British invasion. Next, ‘One Man’s Pleasure’ laid down reams of slide guitars, while subsequent tunes like the catchy ‘Jukin’ City,’ the cowbell-assisted ‘Gunsmoke,’ the riff-driven ‘Good Rockin’’ (think honky tonk Kiss!), and the self-explanatory ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ all celebrated weekend nightlife below the Mason Dixon.
The late-album highlight ‘Long Time’ took a more somber approach, with memorable results, while Molly Hatchet’s side-one closer ‘Boogie No More’ unexpectedly turned on a dime and went from nondescript shuffle to a triple-threat guitar jam of epic proportions — courtesy of resident shredders Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland and the great Duane Roland. This song would come to life on stage, as Molly Hatchet tirelessly toured the country in the years to come.
Then there was the title track, which came to epitomize the Molly Hatchet approach with its risk-taking moxy and Marshall stack power. ‘Flirtin’ with Disaster’ remains the band’s signature moment all these years down the line, and a mandatory staple of their concerts.
Finally worth mentioning, because it completed the picture (literally!), was another striking piece of album-cover imagery — courtesy of notable fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. Entitled ‘Dark Kingdom,’ it convinced droves of red-blooded teen males to check out Southern rock’s next potential champions, as they battled beast and bands alike, in their quest to sit on that coveted throne.

With three guitars aflail, Danny Joe Brown's biker-stepdad growl and Frank Frazzetta's marauding Viking album cover, Molly Hatchet hawked grimy southern-rock with a heavy-metal glint. On 1979's triple-platinum Flirtin' with Disaster, produced by rock vet Tom Werman (Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick), that meant faster, heavier and gnarlier — Eric Church and Randy Houser would be crouched in a corner, awestruck. The riff-lash of "Whiskey Man" revved the engine and "One Man's Pleasure" got furiously funky like Florida-Georgia Line wished they could; but the title track's ferocious jailbreak clinched it, with the FTW edge of Brown's existential lyrics deepening the band's switchblade choogle. Plus, Brown could've been addressing bro-country's smalltown throwdown when he barked, "Come on, heeeah!" during the gleeful stomp of "Boogie No More." These boys knew how to make a stadium as homey as a honky-tonk. 

Molly Hatchet - 1978 - Molly Hatchet

Molly Hatchet 
Molly Hatchet

01. Bounty Hunter 2:57
02. Gator Country 6:17
03. Big Apple 3:02
04. The Creeper 3:17
05. The Price You Pay 3:03
06. Dreams I'll Never See 7:06
07. I'll Be Running 2:59
08. Cheatin' Woman 3:36
09. Trust Your Old Friend 3:54

Bass – Banner Thomas
Drums – Bruce Crump
Guitar – Dave Hlubek
Guitar – Duane Roland
Guitar – Steve Holland
Lead Vocals – Danny Joe Brown

Molly Hatchet are a southern rock institution, that much we all know. Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1971 and founded by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland, Molly Hatchet derived its name from a 17th Century badass woman practicing in the oldest profession on Earth, who topped her clients as she went, in the vein of Lizzy Borden. Touring and building up a following during the 70's, Hatchet's big break came at the expense of another band, Georgia southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd, who tragically lost personnel in a 1977 plane crash. Managed by Pat Armstrong, Hatchet were signed by Epic Records and were ear-marked for a release in 1977 with Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant to handle production, but Van Zant was one of the people killed in the plane crash, so things were put back by a year. Tom Werman came in to produce instead, Hatchet using some of Skynyrd's gear to record demos with. Hatchet were a well-hewn machine, bought up in the tough Florida roadhouse and bar environment. It's this rough and ready attribute that allowed the band to create a dynasty which survives to this day. Intererestingly though, the initial Hatchet sound was quite smooth, given Werman's production and the budget that Epic Records provided. Certainly not a rough n ready prospect one was expecting, but the real deal is the three-pronged guitar attack combined with the fantastic vocals of Danny Joe Brown.
The Molly Hatchet debut, released in late 1978 was, in my opinion, a game-changer for the whole southern rock music industry. It saw the combination of traditional southern rock, boogie, blues and 70's classic rock all rolled into one. They were positioned differently to other bands in the same genre at the time, with only fellow locals Blackfoot and Georgia band Doc Holliday following a similar style a few years later. I would've thrown .38 Special in there too, but they were way too radio-friendly by comparison. Keeping it southern all the way, the fantastic 'Bounty Hunter' kicks things off, a future standard signature track and setlist favourite. 'Gator Country' by comparison is quite laid back, and even with all the DJB wolf whistles (he should've been a farmer doing the dog trials!) this gathers pace toward the end. New York City gets a mention on 'Big Apple', a boogie oriented effort with a shuffly sort of sound. I haven't yet worked out whether 'The Creeper' refers to a mass-murderer type or simply a reference to the Devil. Notwithstanding, the song is a slow-to-mid tempo blues burner. Changing style yet again, 'The Price You Pay' is a cool funky like southern rocker, it's followed by the <b>Allman Brothers</b> cover off 'Dreams I'll Never See', which at 7 minutes is the albums 'epic moment'. Not having heard the original, this is a pretty good song given Hatchet's interpretation, so I'll need to check out the original pronto. By this stage of the album, Hatchet keep the momentum going, and 'I'll Be Running' is an appropriate tune. The groovy guitars smoke up the studio with some hot riffing by all three guitarists. 'Cheatin' Woman' features some searing guitar work, and though the tempo might be down to plodding pace, the intensity is high. Finishing up as the ninth track, 'Trust Your Old Friend' moves with the same style and energy as another MH fave; 'Jukin' City', which can be found on their next album 'Flirtin' With Disaster'. It has a definite boogie feel, not unlike L.A boogie merchants A la Carte
The very best cover tunes are those in which a band takes a song and, through its interpretation and the application of it's unique sound, makes it patently their own. As we all know (from hearing umpteen horrible mistakes...), this isn't easy. First, it presumes that the covering band actually HAS a unique sound. Some of my favorite successful covers include Joe Cocker's take on "A Little Help From My Friends" and Devo's "Satisfaction." What's even rarer and more beautiful is when a band's cover actually improves upon the original. Such is Molly Hatchet's cover of Gregg Allman's "Dreams," which makes this recording (or the excellent Essential Molly Hatchet collection) well worth owning. 
Molly Hatchet comes out of the chute kicking and screaming on this, the band's debut effort. With obvious influences including fellow Floridians Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as the Allman Brothers, Mountain, and any number of other hard rock bands, Hatchet didn't take long to catch on with what would become legions of fans. Songs like "Bounty Hunter" and the cover of the Allman Brothers Band's "Dreams I'll Never See" helped to build a solid base of fans who still hold tight to their Molly Hatchet rock & roll dreams. All in all, a splendid debut album from a band that, in true Southern fashion, has had its share of ups and downs. And Danny Joe Brown proves that he is a singer to be reckoned with.
As mentioned, this debut album was released at the tail of 1978, and saw chart action the following year, reaching #64 in the Billboard album charts. During the early part of 1979, Hatchet toured with fellow Epic labelmates R.E.O Speedwagon and Ambrosia, fellow southern rockers The Outlaws, plus a couple of support dates on Rush's 'Hemispheres' tour during March 1979. The Jacksonville boys would soon return to the studio for what is arguably their best album, the aforementioned 'Flirtin' With Disaster'. In my opinion, all their studio albums through to their 1985 double live album are worth investing in.

John Paul Jones - 1985 - Scream For Help

John Paul Jones 
Scream For Help

01. Spaghetti Junction 5:08
02. Bad Child 5:09
03. Silver Train 3:49
04. Crackback 4:14
05. Chilli Sauce 4:40
06. Take It Or Leave It 5:06
07. Christie 3:05
08. When You Fall In Love 3:34
09. Here I Am 4:30

John Paul Jones - Keyboards, synthesiser, bass guitar, guitars, vocals
Jimmy Page - Electric guitars (1 & 4)
Jon Anderson - Vocals (3, 7)
Madeline Bell - Vocals (6, 9)
John Renbourn - Acoustic guitars (8)
Graham Ward - Drums and percussion (4,7,8,9)
Colin Green - Guitars (7,9)

The good news: On March 25, 1985, John Paul Jones was back together with Jimmy Page for his first solo release since Led Zeppelin fell to the ground five years before. The bad news? It was in service of a now-forgotten film called Scream for Help.
This album was to be Page’s follow-up soundtrack offering after Death Wish II. But the busy Page, who’d just joined Paul Rodgers to form the supergroup the Firm, didn’t have time to oversee Scream for Help. Page ended up heavily contributing to a Zeppelin-ish track called “Crackback,” and played on the synth-heavy opener “Spaghetti Junction” as well, but otherwise left the bulk of the project to Jones.
Michael Winner, Page’s neighbor, was directing the film and – upon Page’s suggestion – brought Jones on board for what would become his first post-Led Zeppelin album. Sessions, held in August of 1984, were completed at Jones’ newly upgraded 24-track digitial studio in Devon.
Jon Anderson of Yes also contributed, co-writing “Silver Train,” as part of a period that had earlier seen Page working briefly with other former members of Yes on a lost project to be called XYZ. One song from these early ’80s sessions would emerge on Yes’ 2001 album Magnification, while another XYZ instrumental morphed into the Firm’s “Fortune Hunter.” But the closest XYZ came to fruition was when Page joined Yes in 1984 for a brief guest turn on stage.
The same sense of missed opportunity surrounds Scream for Help – which, for all of its classic-rock connections, too often found these legends situated amidst slight material. The songs, as is typical of such things, tend to feel incomplete when not associated with the film. Others are slowed by dated production tricks of the period.
Before long, the soundtrack was out of print and, despite its subsequent reissue, remains a lost relic today. Still, for fans of John Paul Jones’ criminally underrated contributions in Led Zeppelin, Scream for Help marked a long-awaited return to recording – and it pointed to much bigger things. A few months later, Live Aid featured the first of a handful of brief Led Zeppelin live reunions.

Coda - 1986 - Sound Of Passion

Sound Of Passion

101.  Sounds of Passion 29:14
a) Prologue 2:16
b) 1st movement 7:10
c) 2nd movement 4:05
d) 3rd movement 5:35
e) 4th movement - Finale 10:00
102.  Crazy Fool & Dreamer 4:25
103.  Defended 7:07

Bonus on CD:
104.  4th Movement Single Version 4:43
105.  3rd Movement Single Version  2:28
106.  Crazy Fool & Dreamer Single Version  4:24
107.  Central Station 2:06
108.  Reverberating Sounds 4:03

The Demos

201.  Sounds of Passion Demo 31:25
202.  Nevermore 4:25
203.  Defended Demo 6:53
204.  True Melody 3:19
205.  Crazy Fool & Dreamer Demo 4:31
206.  What A Symphony-1 Demo 4:48
207.  What A Symphony-2 Demo 5:16
208.  Reverberating Sounds Demo 2:52

Erik De Vroomen – keyboards; bass pedals; percussion; vocals
Jack Witjes – electric & acoustic guitars; b/v
Jacky Van Tongeren – fretless bass
Mark Eshuis – drums

Karel De Greef – el. & ac. guitars
Jan Stavenuiten – drums
Maarten Holz – bass

Pip Van Steen – flute, piccolo, recorder
Auke De Haan – saxophone
Roel Strik – narration

CODA was a band from the Netherlands, which caused quite some interest when they released their debut album "Sounds of Passion" in 1986, selling out two pressings of the discs in three weeks. Although interest in the band was high, they never got around to doing live shows to promote the CD, as what they wanted to do live wasn't financially realistic to take on. Their debut was reissued several times over the following years, but it wasn't until 1996 that the follow-up album, “What a Symphony”, was released, and this proved to be the final release by Coda as well. In 2007 Pseudonym Records released a special bonus edition of the band’s debut, with the original album remastered and all sorts of bonus material added, resulting in the ultimate reissue of "Sounds of Passion", as a 2 CD set.

CODA is a Dutch concept band created and headed by multi-instrumentalist Erik DeVroomen. With a strong emphasis on melody, their material is lushly symphonic and focuses on swirling keyboards (grand piano, novatron, clavinet and various synths played by DeVroomen), climactic moments and a few but heavily conceptual lyrics - imagine VANGELIS with some killer guitar and super-spacey segments. Between 1986 and 1996, the band released two albums and a mini CD.

Their first full-length album, "Sounds of Passion" (1986), features a 29-minute suite with lots of organ, horns and strings that give it a highly 'symphonic orchestra' feel. It is also full of mood and tempo changes as well as grandiloquent (and fortunately sparse, accented) vocals. As for the two short tracks that close the album, they are quite dispensable. Their second full-length cd, the ambitious "What a Symphony", is best described as classical music performed with modern instruments (a couple of nods are given to Mahler and Bach, in passing). Ranging from aggressive to pastoral moods, the flow is somehow unfortunately broken with frequent jazzy solos that don't quite fit into the picture. Overall, however, it is a highly melodious album and boasts a much improved production over "Sounds of Passion".

 Classic Dutch eighties album! Because it is not very well known, I thought I might just as well add a review. The original LP consisted of just one epic track, which is completely instrumental (okay, apart from some introductory spoken -word poetry at the start of the album, Gregorian chants somewhere in the middle, and some warning shouts elsewhere in the album). I haven't heard the extra cd with the demos, by the way, I just know the original cd, with the tracklist as mentioned above (the last two tracks are bonus tracks, added for the cd version of the album).
The band is being called Coda, but as the liner notes say: it was originally intended to be an Erik de Vroomen solo project, and you can hear that: the keyboards of Erik de Vroomen are central to the music. Erik de Vroomen is also the only composer, and was producing the band as well. In short: this is Erik de Vroomen's vision. The rest of the band can be heard as well, but they are not very upfront in the mix, with the possible exception of the (great sounding) lead guitar from time to time. Oh, to be clear: it is a real band that is playing, it is not like the Alan Parsons Project (without degrading the latter). And the band could play hard and fast also, as well as subtle like a well integrated seventies symphonic prog band.

The music is... I'd say neo progressive in form, but symphonic progressive in content. The sound is state of the art mid eighties, and keyboardist Erik uses modern equipment, but in retrospect the sound is somewhat artificial, and one would wish that more room would have been given for either acoustic instruments or vocals. Still, Erik de Vroomen is a master at the keyboards, not virtuoso sounding, but on the other hand quite skilled. And, on top of that: Erik de Vroomen is an excellent composer. Sounds of Passion is a very mature sounding, carefully designed multi movement suite! De Vroomen is s musical perfectionist, who was definitely aiming to make a masterpiece of progressive music.

In the cd version there are two vocal tracks added, which are like extended songs, but they have the same quality as the instrumental epic, and make the record a bit more personal. In fact, the two songs are very well composed, and well sung by vocalist Jack Witjes (style: somewhat like Greg Lake / John Wetton). Defended is especially memorable, because there is a majestic instrumental climax at the end, in the best symphonic progressive tradition.

The album is very good, but still not what it could have been. Erik de Vroomen has worked for years and years on it. But in those days, in the Netherlands, it was very difficult to find support for that kind of music. The drums especially are a bit weak, a fact underscored by Erik de Vroomen who really wanted to add a drummer like Pierre van der Linden (Focus) on the album, which in fact almost happened. Probably the second cd of the re - issue gives some more insight on what the music could have been.

Still, even when the weak points are being kept in mind, the album is still an almost - masterpiece, worth four stars. The compositions and playing are legendary for the biggest part. Also the music is being helped by the concept matter that Erik adds in the liner notes and in the spoken words on the cd: about a search for truth, and the tragedy of man often being inclined to choose the lie. Erik is inspired by the writings of Günter Schwab and that does add to the atmosphere of the music.

This album should be much more heard than it is now!

Zakir Hussain - 1987 - Making Music

Zakir Hussain 
Making Music

01. Making Music 12:27
02. Zakir 6:18
03. Water Girl 3:49
04. Toni 3:47
05. Anisa 9:10
06. Sunjog 7:32
07. You And Me 2:07
08. Sabah 3:35

Acoustic Guitar – John McLaughlin
Flute – Hariprasad Chaurasia
Tabla, Percussion, Vocals – Zakir Hussain
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Jan Garbarek

Recorded December 1986 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Zakir Hussain is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, but gained him worldwide fame. The favorite accompanist for many of India's greatest classical musicians and dancers, from Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar to Birju Maharaj and Shivkumar Sharma, he has not let his genius rest there. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study.

Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir's contribution to world music has been unique, with many historic collaborations including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, and recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Jack Bruce, Tito Puente, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, the Hong Kong Symphony and the New Orleans Symphony.

A child prodigy, Zakir was touring by the age of twelve, the gifted son of his great father, tabla legend Ustad Alla Rakha. Zakir came to the United States in 1970, embarking on an international career which includes no fewer than 150 concert dates a year. He has composed and recorded many albums and soundtracks, and has received widespread recognition as a composer for his many ensembles and historic collaborations. Most recently, he has composed soundtracks for the films In Custody, Ismail Merchant's directorial debut, Little Buddha by Bernardo Bertolucci, for which Zakir composed, performed and acted as Indian music advisor and Vanaprastham, chosen to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, 1999.

Zakir received the distinct honor of co-composing the opening music for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 1996, and was commissioned to compose music for San Francisco's premiere contemporary ballet company, Lines, and to compose an original work for the San Francisco Jazz Festival, both in 1998. He has received numerous grants and awards, including participation in the Meet the Composer programs funded by the Pew Memorial Trust.

In 1987, his first solo release, Making Music, was acclaimed as “one of the most inspired East-West fusion albums ever recorded.” In 1988, he became the youngest percussionist to ever be awarded the title of “Padma Shri” by the Indian government, a title given to civilians of merit. In 1990, he was awarded the Indo-American Award in recognition for his outstanding cultural contribution to relations between the United States and India. In April, 1991, he was presented with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India, making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition from India's governing cultural institute. Zakir is the recipient of the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States' most prestigious honor for a master in the traditional arts.

In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Zakir and Mickey Hart, was awarded a Grammy for Best World Music Album, the Downbeat Critics Poll for Best World Beat Album and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for World Music Recording. Planet Drum, with Zakir as music director, toured nationally in 1996 and 1997. Zakir continues also to tour with the musicians from Shakti--John McLaughlin, Shankar and T.H. Vinayakram--in different collaborations and ensembles as well as lead various percussion ensembles of his own design. In Summer '99, Shakti re-grouped for an international tour.

In 1992, Zakir founded Moment! Records which features original collaborations in the field of contemporary world music, as well as live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. The label presents Zakir's own world percussion ensemble, The Rhythm Experience, both North and South Indian classical recordings, Best of Shakti, and a Masters of Percussion series.

The key to Making Music lies in its title. This is not about a fusion of East and West. This is about creation for its own sake. The selfsame track opens our ears to the flute of Hariprasad Chaurasia, who turns breath into gold. Guitarist and Mahavishnu Orchestra guru John McLaughlin is another welcome addition to a quartet rounded out by saxophonist Jan Garbarek. As lines curve their way through subtle changes in temperature, we can feel the rhythm being formed, piece by ephemeral piece, even before Hussain lays hands to drum. Garbarek works some of that same magic that enlivened his earlier recordings with Shankar, while McLaughlin showcases his mastery of classical forms (the duet with Hussain on “You And Me” is one of many highlights), matching the tabla master’s deftness with ease.

Yet Chaurasia is the jewel of this session. His dialogues with McLaughlin (“Zakir” and “Sabah”) in particular reveal a purity of tone all his own. Sometimes, he lowers the threads from which the music hangs, pulling us along with them into a verdant sky. Others, he bends like an outstretched leaf hit by the first raindrop of spring (“Toni”). The album’s remainder is filled with rainbows. The most verdant of these is “Water Girl,” a mosaic spread with saffron and rosewater, willed into life by that generative flute. Garbarek makes his voice clearest in “Anisa,” which first pairs him with McLaughlin in an exchange at once forlorn and sweet before Hussain regales with such grace that one has to wonder if his fingers aren’t pure energy. After this saga of tribulation and triumph, Garbarek’s skyward incantation in “Sunjog”—incidentally, another standout for McLaughlin, who shares a winged exchange with everyone in turn—proves well suited to this musical nexus, for he, like the others, plays not in unison but in tandem, and in so doing binds the overall unity toward which they strive together. And so, when they do join in the occasional doubling, the sound becomes gentler, each voice restraining itself so as not to overpower.

Hussain is a carpenter who delicately hammers the edges of every project he touches into perfect alignment. Yet after listening to Making Music, one has the feeling this project had only just begun.

Remember Shakti - 2001 - Saturday Night In Bombay

Remember Shakti 
Saturday Night In Bombay

01. Luki (5:39)
02. Shringar (26:38)
03. Giriraj Sudha (10:45)
04. Bell 'Alla (18:48)

- John McLaughlin / guitar
- Zakir Hussain / tabla
- U. Shrinivas / mandolin
- V. Selvaganesh / kanjira, ghatam, mridangam
- Shankar Mahadevan / vocal
- Debashish Bhattacharya / Hindustani slide guitar
- Sivamani / drums and percussion
- Bhavani Shankar / dholak and pakhawaj
- Roshan Ali / dholek
- Aziz / dholak
- Taufiq Qureshi / def, dafli, and percussion
- Shiv Kumar Sharma / santur
- A.K. Pallanivel / tavil

Recorded live in Bombay (India) on Dec. 8 and 9, 2000

These all-star outings always run the risk of over-polite hosts. When people purchase a Remember Shakti album, they want to hear Remember Shakti. They don't want to hear the group sitting back and letting its guests steal the show. Although Remember Shakti does take a little bit too much of a backseat on santur player Shiv Kurmar Sharma's "Shringar," the music culled from these two nights represents some of the best East-meets-West Indo-jazz fusion ever produced.

The opening cut, "Luki," sounds particularly impressive to Western ears. According to people who were at the concert, this is a truncated version of a piece that went on for many more minutes. McLaughlin has never written any tune quite like this. Featuring many players and the vocals of Shankar Mahadevan, this tune is the perfect marriage of Indian, Western jazz and World music. It cries out bliss!

The amazing electric mandolin of U. Shrinivas is somewhat underutilized on SNIB. But his playing is a dominant and transcending force on the piece he penned, "Giriraj Sudha." The percussion support of the great Zakir Hussain and V. Selvaganesh has been the backbone of Remember Shakti, and its importance becomes even more apparent on SNIB. Rhythm is the common language for all of the players. And of course, McLaughlin makes his electric guitar sing the songs of the world.

While those of us in the Western World listen to and enjoy this music based upon our own paradigms of musical structure, Remember Shakti has become a wildly popular band in India. And this is not just because the band has some Indian musicians. The widespread acclaim is due to the fact that within the framework of the music, its form and structure, the musicians follow traditional Indian precepts. Indians claim this is very rare thing for an internationally integrated band to do. And in fact, most Western ears don't even hear it. We are missing out. McLaughlin has spent years studying Indian Classical music. It has paid off in a big way.

Remember Shakti will be remembered for its continuation of the pioneering musical and social spirit of the original Shakti, as well as the virtuosity of its musicians and the unique combination of electric instruments with Indian rhythms. The beautifully recorded and Grammy-nominated Saturday Night in Bombay represents the culmination of decades of hard work and study. It is the most enjoyable and accessible music of its kind. If one were to indulge in measurement of international jazz, Saturday Night in Bombay would be the yardstick.

Master guitarist John McLaughlin once again redefines the meaning of fusion in this year 2000 concert recording, and likewise reaffirms his deep affection for classical Indian music and philosophy.
But please don't confuse the ongoing Remember Shakti project with its late '70s namesake, unheard by this critic, but judging from reviews a different animal altogether. Instead of being an actual band, Remember Shakti is (was?) more of a free-form, open-ended collaboration between McLaughlin and an interchangeable cast of traditional Indian musicians, typically spearheaded by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain.

For this gig, performed on Hussain's home turf, the ex-MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA leader was joined by a small army of local players, employing a vast array of arcane instruments with unpronounceable names: kanjira, tavil, mridangam, pakhawaj, and so forth. The music, not surprisingly, is firmly rooted in ancient Indian aesthetics, but don't let that scare you away: this is magical stuff, played with enough skill and energy to translate across any cultural barrier.

Every performance is galvanized, and McLaughlin in particular is near the top of his game (or is that simply because his electric guitar is the only instrument here I can readily identify with?) Listen to his adrenalin-fueled duel with mandolin player U. Shrinivas in the breathless concert opener "Luki", with its airtight Jazz Rock tempos maybe the most accessible track here to unacclimatized Western ears (it's also the only McLaughlin-penned composition on the entire disc). Marvel too at the quiet intensity of his solos over the haunting strains of the Indian zither in "Shringar", at 26+ minutes long clearly a highlight of the evening.

Even with genuine, recognizable drums and occasional singing (typically the hyper-drive scat of Shankar Mahadevan), the sound is obviously more Indian than Anglo Saxon. But it shouldn't be dismissed offhand out of unspoken cultural chauvinism. Consider this: if the exact same music had been played with conventional rock instruments (imagine it as an OZRIC TENTACLES album), this CD would be widely hailed as modern ethnic-trance masterpiece.

Sometimes it's all a question of perspective. And isn't that the ultimate goal of any stab at musical fusion? To help foster an awareness of a wider musical spectrum beyond the narrow comfort zone of our own cultural preferences?

Remember Shakti - 2000 - The Believer

Remember Shakti 
The Believer

01. 5 In The Morning, 6 In The Afternoon (18:13)
02. Ma No Pa (14:56)
03. Lotus Feet (7:06)
04. Maya (13:40)
05. Anna (10:34)
06. Finding The Way (12:40)

- John McLaughlin / Guitar
- Zakir Hussain / Tabla
- V. Selvaganesh / Kanjira, Ghatam
- U. Shrinivas / Mandolin

Recorded live during the 1999 European Tour

The original Shakti employed much more composed pieces with planned melodic themes which not only made the music more accessible but also more focused. The new group really is an improvisational format and not surprisingly the group's recordings are essentially live. The Believer is the second formal album from the group, with McLaughlin joined by a Indian mandolin player (already a hybrid sound) with a second traditional Indian percussionist.

The sound is very musically interesting and all the players' level of virtuosity is simply mind- boggling. The level of interaction between the musicians also eclipses virtually any blues or jazz jams you hear by Western groups. Indian drumming is such a more nuanced science than European playing, and the percussionists' freedom to call and respond, lead and follow, equals the lead instruments during the long improvisations found on the disc.

Shakti went to great lengths to try to vary the sound between songs, sometimes to a fault. At times, they would do more standard vocal tunes that sounded like soft jazz to the point of background music. Remembering Shakti never does this, both for the good and bad. For the good, this is intense music that demands close attention to appreciate. For the bad, the lack of melodic themes specific to each song makes the disc get a little same-y by the time you're finished. Though each song has a slightly different feel to begin, eventually all evolve (or devolve) into free improvisation.

McLaughlin himself sounds mature to be kind, less hungry and on the edge of his seat than he was in the 70's. At the same time, his speed is if anything more intense than ever. This translates to a number jaw-dropping passages and occasional not very inspiring scale running. The best times are when McLaughlin and the mandolin player (U. Shrinivas) weave in and out between each other, forced to maintain a tighter focus. Shrinivas plays a five string, single course version of the instrument, and it sounds more like a high strung guitar than the mandolin most of us are used to hearing. His chops easily match McLaughlin's but as I've observed in many such settings, the elder musician shows a bit of musicality that the youngster has yet to master. In the end, there is no doubt this is McLaughlin's show. By contrast, he was but a popular hook in Shakti, the learner himself rather than the leader.

Having seen Ravi Shankar live, this is quite a left turn from truly traditional Indian music though still grounded in the tradition. I would have loved to see this music performed in person. (There are some youtube videos that are quite good) On recorded format, I enjoy listening to it and return to it not infrequently when in the right mood. There are much higher peaks in the genre, and I really only recommend this disc once one has explored the realm a bit more. Of course, if you were fortunate enough to have seen the group live, this is a great representation of what you must have experienced.

On its first live release, Remember Shakti was a serious-minded, bottom-ended, soul-searching ensemble. This time out, Remember Shakti raises its pitch. McLaughlin has an excellent foil in young electric mandolinist U. Shrinivas, who has created a whole new vocabulary for the instrument. Tabla player Zakir Hussain has his foil as well. V. Selvaganesh is featured on the kanjira, a tambourine-like instrument on which he can create sounds that would make some trap kit players jealous. (Note: Since a CD listener may not be aware of the physical exertion demanded of Selvaganesh on his chosen instrument, his virtuosity can be overlooked on this recording. To truly experience Selvaganesh's talent, you must see him perform live.)

The Believer sounds louder, brighter, and more light-hearted than Remember Shakti's first recording, which featured flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and ghatam player Vikku Vinayakram. Of course, it has its serious moments as well, such as Hussain's touching tribute to his late father Ustad Allarakha through the music of "Ma No Pa." (The title also has another clever meaning for Indian musicians.)

Shrinivas is a real discovery for Western audiences. He is a wizard on electric mandolin, an instrument not known for its use in Indian music. He and McLaughlin play unison lines with the kind of precision and feeling that make these moments transcendent. Both players put their strings through a stretching routine which is genre bending. Importantly, Shrinivas seems quite at home soloing over Western jazz and blues changes. This is something that violinist L. Shankar, as great as he was with the original Shakti, never seemed to quite grasp.

As expected, McLaughlin sounds at home in almost any context. The superlatives have been tossed around too many times. But what does stand out, especially so in Remember Shakti, is his role as a teacher. This is not meant to imply that John McLaughlin, as a Western musician, has the capability to teach Shrinivas about Eastern music. Instead, it is quite clear that McLaughlin loves this music and passes its vitality and new heritage onto the younger player. Such a relationship is much clearer with Hussain and Selvaganesh. Make no mistake about it: Shrinivas and Selvaganesh are the future of this music.

It seems that percussionists often pay the price of being under-appreciated. In the Western world, listeners focus on the musicians who carry the melody. Zakir Hussain has proven through his various percussion projects and performances that there is more to his music than the melody. In fact, the truth is that in ensemble work the drummer or percussionist is of utmost importance. Zakir Hussain is essential to Remember Shakti, and for that matter, he is one of the most important percussionists in the world today.

The high point of the album is "Finding the Way" which appears both on the CD and on the included CD-Rom video. This idea of "searching" best describes the band's music. Unfortunately, as much as I like the classic "Lotus Feet," its appearance on two albums in a row is a bit much. Another tune would have been more appreciated.

So, after listening to The Believer, will you believe? Yes. The Believer is an outstanding CD that represents the best the worlds of Eastern and Western music can offer. That The Believer follows on the heels of its more serious-minded predecessor is a tribute to the imagination of the two elders of the band.

Remember Shakti - 1999 - Remember Shakti

Remember Shakti 
Remember Shakti

01. Chandrakauns (33:35)
02. The Wish (18:40)
03. Lotus Feet (7:33)
04. Mukti (63:30)
05. Zakir (9:10)

- John McLaughlin / Guitar, Synthesizer
- Hariprasad Chaurasia / Bansui
- Vikku Vinayakram / Ghatam
- Zakir Hussain / Tabla
- Uma Mehta / Tanpura

Recorded live during the 1997 U.K. tour

In the mid-1970's many believed John McLaughlin had committed commercial suicide by abandoning electric instruments and Western sensibilities in favor of an all-acoustic group with Indian musicians. In fact, record sales for this group, Shakti, were quite disappointing. Sometimes though, a musician has to follow his muse. In this case, McLaughlin was led to create a very fertile groundbreaking group in the form of Shakti. With all due respect to the very fine group Oregon, Shakti was really the first band to truly capture the essence of what we now call "World Music." Shakti's dependence on Eastern musical models infused with Western jazz-like improvisation made for an exciting and influential stew.

One doesn't have to look very far into McLaughlin's past to see why such a band would appeal to him. His own inclinations toward Eastern music can be heard on side two of his earlier recording My Goal's Beyond. Certainly, he was influenced even before that outing by the pop mysticism of the times and his own involvement in seeking self-realization through Eastern philosophy. (Not to mention, of course, his study of Indian music.)

How ironic that 20 years later, a band different from the original Shakti but born from its spirit should emerge to find commercial success. And how ironic that McLaughlin should now turn to the timbres of an electric guitar and forego the sublime sounds of his acoustic approach.

Remember Shakti is the name of the new group as well as its first live album. The 2 CD set recorded over four nights in England in the fall of 1997 features the two founding fathers of the original Shakti, McLaughlin and the tabla master Zakir Hussain. One of India's most respected musicians, flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia, provides an integral voice as a member of this group for these several concerts. Most enjoyably, Shakti's original ghatam player "Vikku" Vinayakram helps to serve the rhythm.

McLaughlin plays a Johnny Smith electric guitar for these outings, held in honor of India and Pakistan's 50th anniversaries. The electric guitar and haunting bansuri flute give Remember Shakti a very different dynamic than the acoustic guitar and violin of the great L. Shankar had given Shakti. Both instruments allow for long sustained notes that can carry the listener away.

The tunes here tend to be very long and require attentive listening. Two McLaughlin standards, "Lotus Feet" and "Zakir," are present. The guitarist's beautiful and uplifting tune "The Wish," which appeared on The Promise, also gets the special treatment. Chaurasia appears, sans McLaughlin, on the opening self-penned tune "Chandrakauns"; his "Mukti" features him trading lines with McLaughlin.

Remember Shakti is reflective, serious East-meets-West music. It is not without some hilarity however—Vikku's laughter can be quite contagious. It is also not without some truly virtuoso moments and plenty of drama. The deep tones of the electric guitar and the bansuri flute float above the percussive groundwork. A bass-like drone provides sub-surface support.

(Note: If you enjoy Remember Shakti, it's absolutely imperative that you obtain Zakir Hussain's 1987 record Making Music. On this predecessor to Remember Shakti, Hussain joins with McLaughlin, Chaurasia and Jan Garbarek in a simply dizzying display of East-meets-West improvisational mastery).

Guitarist JOHN McLAUGHLIN has been building musical bridges between East and West for most of his professional career, but this 1999 double-disc represents maybe the purest expression yet of his love for classic Indian music and philosophy.

All the same, these performances (recorded live in England over four concerts in 1997) aren't for everyone. The band assembled here isn't the same SHAKTI of McLaughlin's post-MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA years, and the music has its source in a foreign tradition far removed from his earlier Jazz Rock innovations. This is true fusion: not merely of musical styles, but of whole musical cultures, and needs to be approached from an entirely different perspective.

The songs are built around long instrumental improvisations (sometimes very long: "Mukti" clocks in at a staggering 63+ minutes!), in classic raga fashion allowing plenty of time for gradual thematic development and resolution, and with no shortage of virtuoso interplay between the players, numbering anywhere between two and five at a time. McLaughlin himself is hardly the star of the show, or at least not the only one. At times he's almost more of a guest among the other, Indian musicians, and in fact doesn't even play on the opening track, "Chandrakauns" (which at 33+ minutes takes up most of Disc One).

But his electric guitar, even lacking the familiar distorted frenzy of his first MAHAVISHNU albums, provides rock audiences with an easy point of reference, functioning as an anchor of sorts in the middle of all that exotic Indian instrumentation: tablas and ghatam and bansuri and tanpura. And if those sound more like side dishes at your local Mumbai greasy spoon, maybe you're not quite ready to make the aesthetic leap from a mere 7-minute Carl Palmer drum solo to a 28-minute (!) percussion duet performed in large part on something resembling an earthenware jug.

I'm no judge of tabla virtuosity, but I will say these discs contain some of John McLaughlin's fastest and yet most fluid guitar runs, no small claim for an artist of his caliber. And yet even at its most frenetic (and there are moments when the hands of each musician must have been simply a transparent blur on stage) there's always an air of meditative calm and grace surrounding the entire album, a sharing of musical space and spirit all but unheard of in other musical arenas.

Clearly this was not a concert about egos, but about cooperation and trust. And if you extend the same courtesy to listening to the CD itself, it will reward you more than you can imagine.