Wednesday, September 15, 2004

(This continues from yesterday's post)

So I was on a major Larry Coryell kick for a while, and the one album that I could not find for the longest time was Out Of Sight and Sound by his band The Free Spirits. It's never come out on CD, and while it's not super expensive or super rare, it's not always the easiest record to get ahold of. I believe it came out in 1967, though I couldn't actually find a date on the record. I've also seen 1966 as the release date, and since I wasn't even conceived at this point, I'm not going to weigh in. Maybe someone who was alive at the time can tell me.

When I finally heard it, I was disappointed. I was expecting something along the lines of the tracks I posted yesterday. Instead it's very traditional sounding rock and roll. There are jazz elements, but it's more traditional than avant jazz, and anyway the most obvious jazz touches are mainly confined to the occasional non-rock horn solo and drumming that's more interesting than the usual. Larry's guitar tone is clean and he doesn't do much with it. The vocals have that heavy 60's reverb, so with all the harmonies on the verses this often sounds like California folk-rock rather than a daring fusion experiment.

Some people propose that this album is the first true fusion album. If you're defining fusion as a mix of jazz and rock then that could be true (though that kind of definition, as I've read elsewhere, allows an Elvis song to claim the title). But if you define fusion to mean "music that sounds like what we think of when we think of fusion, e.g. Miles Davis" then I don't think that Out of Sight and Sound ultimately qualifies.

Over time, I've started to like it more, possibly because I'm no longer expecting it to be something it's not. Since it's way out of print and not on CD, I'm going to post a large chunk of it today and tomorrow, along with some related stuff. One sad thing: the version I got is the stereo version and it's from a time when it was illegal for the drummer to be in the same speaker as the rest of the band, meaning you probably won't enjoy this on headphones. I'm looking for the mono version now, though it probably won't be easy to find. If I ever get it, I'll report back on whether it was worth the trouble.

Anyway, here are some of the tracks with brief comment:

Bad News Cat -- really retro sounding, and Larry's rough vocals don't match well with the harmonies on the verse so it kind of feels like two songs pasted together. There's some Beatle sounding guitar on the chorus, but it's subtle. In a way this song is typical of the problem with the album: it doesn't usually mix jazz and rock as much as it alternates them.

Cosmic Daddy Dancer -- did I mention that there are some 60's flower power problems with the lyrics on the album? This track includes pretty much the flashiest guitar on the album which is depressing considering what Larry would be doing in a few years. Sounds totally normal and then suddenly at 1:16 someone gets ambitious on the solo and we're in jazz-land for a few seconds.

Don't Look Now -- possibly the most interesting track, with a lot of soloing going on during the verse. To compensate, we've got a kind of boring chorus. Still, the band sounds pretty energetic on this one. Every once in a while Larry's voice reminds me a little teeny bit of Lou Reed...there are some other tiny things that make me wonder if one of them heard the other, and I'll get into that more later.

I'm Gonna Be Free -- sitar and flute, and while Larry's sitar playing isn't mind blowing, this is a nice folk-rock sounding track. Lots of cymbal tapping is about the only indication of jazz roots.

More tomorrow...

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