Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer - 1975 - Like Children

Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer
Like Children

01. Country And Eastern Music 5:34
02. No Fear 3:28
03. I Remember Me 3:47
04. Earth (Still Our Only Home) 4:15
05. Topeka 2:57
06. Steppings Tones 3:29
07. Night 5:48
08. Full Moon Boogie 4:11
09. Giving In Gently / I Wonder 4:47

- Jerry Goodman / violins, violins, guitars, vocals
- Jan Hammer / piano, synthesizer, drums, percussion, vocals

What they said back in the day:

db March 13, 1975

The first time I played this album, it came on as a vital, important, almost revelatory experience.

If you listened to Goodman and Hammer's work with Mahavishnu, you have some idea of what to expect, but this is far more of a studio date, much more dependent upon electronics than anything they've done previously. This isn't to disparage it; indeed, I've never heard two men sound more like a large. integrated, interacting group. Extensive overdubbing almost always sounds forced, sterile, test-tube music. This session is alive.

The first cut begins with an acoustic piano intro,  followed by a Moog-played melody with some interesting intervals reminiscent of mid-'60s Coltrane (though the phrasing and voicing is entirely dissimilar). Segue to a second theme harmonized by Goodman on violins and violas. The alternation is then repeated, this time with lyrics behind the first theme (I say "behind" advisedly, since all the lyrics on the record are hard to get because of muting and under recording.)

No Fear's title must be ironic; it's a speedy piece performed solo by Hammer on Moog and sequencer, and the visual image I get is of tiny mechanical men moving in maniacal concert. Definitely a song to avoid if you're susceptible to paranoia. Earth is really attractive. The lead riff, done on bass Moog, seems both Afro and ricky-tick, if such a mixture can be imagined. This leads into a chanted vocal (again, the lyrics get swallowed) followed by a fine rock solo on guitar.

Side two contains some more adventurous metric experiments. Tones sounds like it's in 5, but the 5 seems to me just slightly off-center, creating some effective tension. The second part of Night is also in some weird meter which I tried and failed to break down, and I Wonder is in 13 (subdivided 3/3/3/4). Tones is begun by the Moog bass: it's a walking pattern, more or less, but the intervals are spacy. (Trane might've liked this one, too.) There's actually no horizontal development to speak of, but the mood-tentative, somewhat sad, but also whimsical is effectively conveyed. The first part of Night, however, is quite similar in voicing and feeling. and I think somebody erred in putting the two tunes together. Boogie is a Goodman showcase; he converses with himself on guitar and violin in a biting, propulsive sequence.

This session is astonishingly complex but almost never pretentious; the playing is virtuoso without seeming egotistical and the mood is simultaneously warmly relaxed and nervously exploratory. What's missing, if anything, is the raw energy of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and I guess that's why I've heard this album differently each time I've played it. When I come to it with my own energy high, it's dynamite: but when my own is low, this won't get to me. With Mahavishnu, you can have been dead for three days and still wanna boogie when he opens up.        -heineman 
 downbeat  March 13, 1975 

The Listening  Post August 1975 

Like everyone else I know, I was knocked out when the Mahavishnu Orchestra surfaced four years ago.  Since the (original) Orchestra broke up amidst tales of personal conflict and infighting among the band, thus far, none of the members have been able to catch up with their reputations.  McLaughlin seems to have overextended himself , Billy Cobham can’t figure out how to be a superstar on drums … and bassist Rick Laird hasn’t resurfaced. 
     Now, with Like Children, keyboardist Jan Hammer and violinist Jerry Goodman have managed to recapture the excitement.  They try to hit all of the bases on this album, moving from electronic psychedelia  in “No Fear” to a pastoral mood on “I Remember Me”.  Hammer and Goodman take turns dominating the compositions, working to share the airtime after the competition in the Orchestra.  “Topeka”, on side one, along with the more extended tunes on side two, are close to the sound of their old band.  Goodman’s stringed instruments (violin, viola, guitar, mandolin) and Hammer’s keyboards (synthesizer, piano) and drums  fill in the gaps left by McLaughlin and Cobham, continuing their musical duels they fought in the parent band.  The pair come off with one of the major tour de forces in 1975, handling all of the instruments, even throwing in a few vocals.   D.L.W. 

Rolling Stone  March 27, 1975 
by Bob Palmer

Two-fifths of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra (Jerry Goodman & Jan Hammer) and one fourth of Return to Forever (Stanley Clarke) have their say on the debut releases from Nat Weiss's Nemperor label, and it sounds as if the first real alternative to Columbia's jazz/rock juggernaut may be shaping up. Goodman and Hammer have chosen to work as a duo, achieving an orchestral sound with multiple overdubs, while Clarke has gathered an unusually distinguished and compatible crew of sidemen. The resulting albums differ from each other, but both albums are different enough from those of Columbia artists like Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and the current Mahavishnu Orchestra to suggest at least a mini trend.

"Country & Eastern music" is Jan Hammer's half-in-jest name for whatever it is that happens when he combines his keyboards and drums with Goodman's stringed instruments. By playing and overdubbing together in the studio the two musicians manage to avoid the artificial, static qualities of Mike Oldfield's work, and some of their textures and effects transcend the country and the Eastern, achieving the uniquely sublime. All the wrinkles aren't out of the idea yet. The occasional vocals, well intentioned though they may be, appear thin after the technologically beefed up instrumental sound of the duo. There are hulking, polymetric excursions that will inevitably draw accusations of cashing in on the old Mahavishnu sound. But there are also some devastatingly effective sonic landscapes, and as a whole the album is a surprisingly musical use of the easy-to-abuse multiple overdubbing technique.

Mahavishnu Orchestra fans rejoice! I know a lot of people were sad to see the original MO lineup dissolve, even though the second incarnation was equally fantastic, albeit in a different way. Fans who have a jones for more original Mahavishnu should look for this record. Jan Hammer, the virtuoso keyboardist known for his guitaristic signature Moog lead tones, and fiery violinist Jerry Goodman teamed up for this record - I'd love to know exactly how the conversation started, especially considering that two of these tunes - "Steppings Tones" (written by Mahavishnu bassist Rick Laird) and "I Wonder" - had been previously recorded and performed live by Mahavishnu Orchestra in the last days of the original lineup's existence. Perhaps they knew that the studio versions of those tunes, as recorded by Mahavishnu, were going to languish in Columbia Records' vaults (Until 1999, that is, when they were finally released on "The Lost Trident Sessions").
My experience with this album is unique in that I have been a Mahavishnu fan for over half of my life (since age 13!), and while I knew about this record, I was never able to find a copy, as it was long out of print by that time. I digested every note of every Mahavishnu Orchestra album I could get my hands on, but the enduring influence was always Jan Hammer and his beautiful Moog and Rhodes piano playing. I grabbed every record I could find that Jan played on, including the recordings with Jeff Beck - beginning with the live album "Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group LIVE".

Usually on a live album, an artist or group performs songs from their studio albums. I always wondered what studio album "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" and "Full Moon Boogie" came from, as I had all the Jan Hammer Group LPs, and they weren't on any of those. It never dawned on me to keep seeking out "Like Children".

Long story short; I finally have this record after all these years...I cannot describe what a trip it is to hear this now, since some of these tunes have literally shaped my musical taste (and my playing). It's like discovering a lost Mahavishnu album (another one ;-))!

So...what's it sound like?

Well, it's actually kind of quirky! The weird vocals that I never could understand on the Jeff Beck/ Jan Hammer live version of "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" are present here, sung by both Hammer and Goodman. They also sing on "Like Children" and "Full Moon Boogie", while Jerry Goodman sings solo on "Giving In Gently". The vocals are tucked pretty far back in the mix, with tons of echo added...I suppose to obscure the fact that neither Hammer or Goodman are world-class vocalists. Goodman really does a nice job on "Giving In Gently" though. Heartfelt and moving.

Jerry Goodman, in addition to being the Jimi Hendrix of violin, also plays guitar. While he's certainly no John McLaughlin, he definitely holds his own, even dueling with himself, Mahavishnu-style, on tunes like "Topeka". Jan Hammer plays everything else - keyboards (including Moog bass) and drums. He's not Billy Cobham, but I really enjoy his playing style. It has a recklessness to it that I really dig, similar to Stevie Wonder's drumming, albeit a bit more complex.

I bet this record was really fun to make. A truly collaborative effort.

Stylistically, it's all over the map, with Jan Hammer's full-on synth explorations via Oberheim digital sequencer, Minimoog, etc on "No Fear" (how he was able to do all those ostinati with a 256-note sequencer is mind-boggling) , Atmospheric, abstract tone poems such as "I Remember Me" and "Night", and fun stuff like "Country and Eastern Music" and "Full Moon Boogie". "Topeka" sounds like it would have been a Mahavishnu tune if John McLaughlin had given it half a chance.

Some of these tunes were recorded previously, as mentioned earlier, and some were recorded later. "Earth (Still Our Only Home)" is much slower and funkier here, but is lacking the energy of the Jeff Beck/Jan Hammer Live version (not to mention Beck's guitar stylings). "Full Moon Boogie" is almost a disaster here compared to the live version from the aforementioned album - not only is the groove better on the live recording, the vocals here sound almost like a joke. "Steppings Tones" was better played by Mahavishnu Orchestra. Since it's such a tightly-structured piece, it really benefits from a full band texture (and McLaughlin's guitar and Cobham's drums don't hurt).

However, I much prefer this rendition of Goodman's "I Wonder" here - it serves as a perfect segue from the moving, beautiful melodic "Giving In Gently", and the arrangement has more of a "rock" edge to it, partly due to Hammer's simple (but not simplistic) driving drums. Goodman contributes a very competent guitar solo to this tune. The emotional impact of the piece really works in this context, and is a great way to end a great record.

All in all, this is a fun experimental record, with plenty of stuff that will be of interest not only to Mahavishnu Orchestra fans, but to all fans of great music.

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