Top positive review
77 of 88 people found this helpful
A return, indeed
on March 20, 2009
I have to say that I bought this with some trepidation. I loved the first (Flora era) and second (Bill Connors) versions of the band, when they played with real fire and pushed the edge of things. But like too many fusion bands, they quickly settled into sterile, perfect performances of calculated compositions. Al Di Meola, for all his considerable technical facility, was a letdown after Bill Connors (who has become a letdown of himself over the years), and contributed to the sterilization of the band. So when they announced they were reforming for a reunion tour, I did not have high expectations. But I must say this CD set is a very pleasant surprise. The band doesn't quite recapture the original passion of Senor Mouse or Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, but they play with much more fire than I ever expected, including Al, who plays with more passion than I knew he had. There are some advantages to the now-older band, too. There's more textural and stylistic variety, including a straightahead jazz reading of Solar that's a breath of fresh air. Unlike rock players, who tend to get more flaccid with age, jazz musicians tend to get deeper and richer and more proficient. That certainly is the case here--everyone plays with much greater range and depth than they ever did before, and that makes for an acceptable tradeoff for some loss of youthful reckless abandon. Stanley Clarke focuses a lot on the acoustic bass here, which is most welcome--I always found his upright playing much more interesting and effective than his electric technique, which was thin sounding and over-plucked. His upright playing here is still flashy, but it's mixed with some exploratory techniques and some real expression. Everyone else displays the same kind of maturity in their playing. It also helps that this is a superlative live recording. Every instrument is full and natural sounding and beautifully balanced--one of the best live recordings I've heard. So all in all a very pleasant surprise. Well worth buying.