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Memphis Underground


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Audio CD, July 1, 1991
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 1, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Atlantic
  • ASIN: B000002I5L
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,950 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Memphis Underground
2. New Orleans
3. Hold On, I'm Comin'
4. Chain Of Fools
5. Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Editorial Reviews

Mann's most popular album, utilizing ingredients from jazz, rock, and R&B. Features Roy Ayers and Larry Coryell.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
I enjoy it more and more each time I listen to it.
R.K.O.
I replaced the old vinyl album with a cd and if I lost it, I would buy another in a minute.
Robert E Boylan
I love this album, especially side two with Chain of Fools and Battle Hymn.
Eliminator Man

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By a consumer on January 11, 2006
Format: Audio CD
OK, let's get the simple part out of way first--this is a well-made late '60's jazz-pop album played by solid musicians and the title track is infectious and bears repeated listenings. I think that Mann is not an all-time great flute player, but he is a very good one and he's at his best when he gets to work in an easy, lazy groove, like the title cut or "Chain of Fools": he has a nice languid style on those cuts that brings out the essence of the tunes. I'm not that wild about his "Battle Hymn of the Republic", which seems like a pretty corny concept, and the problem is that the album is only 35 minutes long to begin with, so cut out that tune and you're left with 28 minutes. Seems like Rhino could have reissued this on a disc with another of Mann's albums, like they've done with reissues of other Atlantic stuff like Charles Lloyd.

Anyway, that being said, there are some truly unusual things going on in this album. Mann used to get a bad rap for being too pop, too "commercial", and admittedly he can tend to play with a pretty light touch, at least when compared to, say, Roland Kirk. But when he wanted to do this jazz-rock album, he teamed up with a fairly gritty bunch of guys, i.e. the Stax studio hounds, rather than a line-up of the usual jazz studios wizards. This contrast would be unusual enough, but then Mann brought along Sonny Sharrock, one of the most aggressive, "out-there" guitarists around, and let him rip on "Hold On, I'm Comin'". (The song also has Miroslav Vitous, another avant-gardist who was soon playing with Weather Report, on bass.) The Stax guys, who started the song sounding so funky and gritty, wind up sounding like Boy Scouts when Sharrock starts his strafe-and-destroy feedback solo. All this arranged by a flute player who was thought of as "light" and "commercial". You start to wonder what darkness lurked in the heart of Mann. It's worth getting this album just for this outrageous musical moment.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By H. M Rivera on August 21, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a very good example of early jazz-rock fusion, if somewhat on the tame side. But beware, this "REMASTERED IMPORT" is the same as the regular domestic release soundwise. I did A-B testing of this cd and the domestic (cheaper) release (I have both) and the sound is exactly the same. This one has some cool liner notes that the cheaper one does not have, but don't buy it for the "remastered" sound.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert E Boylan on April 18, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I first got this on vinyl in the mid 70's and was blown away by the jazz rock sound the band put down. The title tune,Memphis Underground, is still on of my favorite songs and I have been listening to it for 25 years. Possibly the best driving song ever. The rest of the album is very good too. Lots of R&B feel and some wonderous jazz riffs. The guitar and vibe sound great with Manns flute, and the rhythm section is rock solid. I replaced the old vinyl album with a cd and if I lost it, I would buy another in a minute. A listening treat.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By thejazzdoctor on January 28, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Okay, I admit it upfront: I am a Herbie Mann fan, and this CD captures the essence of what he was doing at the very end of the 60's.
The musical style is very R&B focused, and the band provides a gritty, chunky foundation for the solos of Mann, Ayers (vibes), Coryell (guitar) and Sharrok (guitar). The recording leaves a little to be desired, but the playing is outstanding. Mann's playing is strong, and the rhythm section captures the overall feel of the time, with strong bass/rhythm lines that sit in groove all day long. The sound is somewhat dated, but to me it's *history* - an important part of the jazz tradition. Regardless, the album certainly has something to say to today's listener.
Overall, think Steppenwolf with a rocking flute over the top. Buy it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eliminator Man on July 14, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I love this album, especially side two with Chain of Fools and Battle Hymn. I first heard this on a $20 portable record player outside my barracks in Nam in 1969. We played side two over and over. Imagine hearing Battle Hymn in that setting. The record player was so bad that I thought all those Larry Coryell riffs from Chain of Fools were a Saxaphone. I've still never heard a guitarist pull off those kinds of intelligent but driving arpeggios before; not your standard guitar playing. Herbie excels at grooves, not notes so he doesn't have to be some technical machine zombie. Not many jazz albums can boast such a funky groove and rhythm section. I can still get people excited about this album who don't listen to jazz and have never heard it. This for me will always be the penultimate Herbie Mann album and Chain of Fools will probably alway remain my favorite Larry Coryell moment, although he's had some other good ones on his own.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Janet Chandler on May 30, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Out of all the albums that Herbie Mann released during his long career "Memphis Underground" is probably the most well know and I think without a doubt the best album he ever did. Throughout his career Mann had many occations combined jazz with other forms of music creating some unique and memorable sounds. He is most well known for his work with Latin-American music and African music traveling to those areas of the world and working with some of the best musicians from there. Mann even later in his career experimented with combining jazz with disco. The thing about it is that in every instance the music he came up with was bold , different and totally enjoyable to listen to. "Memphis Underground" finds Herbie Mann delving into the Memphis soul sound. The end results of this blending of music is a listening experience that will draw you into the groove and beat of the record and the Memphis sound. It is also I bet an album that you will play repeatedly and never tire of.

Herbie Mann over his music career had his share of complaints from jazz fans who felt his music was too commercial and that he in a sense sold out jazz to appease the masses. There may be some truth to that especially during his disco period. Herbie Mann certainly had a song or two that accually made it on the radio playlists. There are some jazz purists out there would would say Mann made jazz too commercial. If they want to make this argument then I say that "Memphis Underground" shows Herbie Mann could (and did) make jazz music for the pure sake of jazz and not to commercialize it. In the process he also brought into the recording studio some of the best musicians around in jazz to contribute to the production.
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