Thursday, September 16, 2004

Day three in Larry Coryell territory. For those arriving late, Larry Coryell is a or possibly the biggest name in jazz guitar. I'm looking at his work in the 60's and early 70's which was fusion, but not the kind you probably think of when you think of fusion.

I'm not going to get too sucked into this whole Lou Reed thing that I mentioned yesterday, but there are definitely aspects of Larry's playing and songwriting that remind me of Lou. And this isn't just one of my crazy conspiracy theories: here's a review of an album that Larry did with Steve Marcus that also comes up with Lou as a comparison. That review is actually spot on. I'm not going to post the version of Tomorrow Never Knows as it's too long, but Larry's guitar playing on that is pretty darn cool and very Lou Reed-y.

So, here are a few more tracks from the Free Spirits album which, as mentioned yesterday, might be the first fusion album evah:

Blue Water Mother - Hmmm, two singers singing different lyrics at the same time. Kind of like The Murder Mystery, except the voices aren't panned, so you can't really hear what they're saying. Which is probably for the best, 'cause what you can hear isn't so hot. Larry was still working on the lyrics thing at this point.

LBOD - If I were a movie director, I'd totally use this. It's got that "we're at the end of the movie, so here are some shots that'll sum up what I've been trying to say while a classic song that you've never heard plays in the background" feel. Pretty good singing by Larry: "I can't tell a spaceman that he's welcome! And I can't tell your baby to make the scene!" I really like this.

Storm - This one's good too. The flute is back and stylin' and the feel is jazzy and mellow. There's not so much rock in this song, but it may be the most succesful track on the album.

Sunday Telephone - Starts off kind of like a Beatles song, but dig that crazy sax. But what's really weird is Larry's revision of this song on his 1969 album Lady Coryell. If you want a concrete example of the difference between 1966/67 and 1969, that's it. Wah. Wah. Great sax solo at about 1:24 and again it doesn't go on long enough. Larry plays Beatles riffs when it's his turn.

Tattoo Man - Has without a doubt the worst lyrics on the album, but I'm including it because it also has part of the guitar part from Pale Blue Eyes. Ok, both Larry and Lou Reed were really active in 1966 and 1967, and I think that Larry was playing in NYC at the time (I'm not 100% sure). I also know that Lou was getting ideas for his guitar playing from the jazz scene. The question is who influenced who. This song is so frustrating, as it starts building towards what looks to be a really great solo, only to totally whimp out one bar later. "It'll harmonize your karma," Jesus Christ!

Ok, for a really clear example of the Lou/Larry thing, here's Larry's song Lady Coryell, and if Larry's not doing Lou (or vice versa) during the noisy part, I'm made out of cheese. This is one of my favorite instrumentals ever. Maybe it is my favorite.

I'll end my Larry Coryell fixation (for now) with a track from an album he did with Steve Marcus called Tomorrow Never Knows which was reissued on CD in 2003. This originally came out in 1968, just before the start of Larry's solo career proper. I linked to a good review of it up above, and as that review says, it's not 100% succesful, but parts of it are interesting. One of the most interesting songs is a very, very, very strangely conceived version of Donovan's Mellow Yellow. Ok, people who like boring music on one side of the room. People who like avant garde jazz on the other side. Great! Ev-er-y-body's happy? (I'm being cryptic...just keep listening to this for a while, past the boring beginning). If you get a chance, check out the cover of Tomorrow Never Knows from this album. In addition to some neat guitar, it's got a piano solo that kind of anticipates the Aladdin Sane piano solo part.

The brief summation: Larry Coryell was onto something really great, but he never really followed through, and this makes me sad, because we rock people pretty much lost him to the jazz people. I'm sure he has gazillions of fans who'll think that I'm an idiot, but I also think that there are a lot of people like me who'll really like a very small subsection of his work that passes closest to the rock and roll sun.

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