Customer Reviews: Ginger Baker's Airforce
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4.0 out of 5 stars
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on August 9, 2005
This release is a travesty. After 2 excellent sounding releases of this concert on CD (The initial Polygram S/T release and the Polygram Chronicles 2CD "Do What You Like"), Lemon Records (hmmmmm, that should warn you)"remastered" this concert from very used vinyl, which is bad enough, but then digitally maximized it to the point of distortion. If they were going to reissue this, why not just reissue the concert as released originally on CD - at least that was from the master tape. Look instead for either of the above mentioned out of print items.
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on May 30, 2007
As the other reviews warn, seek out better recorded versions of this material. I will comment mainly on the music itself, assuming you are able to listen to it in its purest reissued form.
This was THE "supergroup performance opportunity" of the day, based on the participants - Ginger Baker (Cream/Blind Faith), Rick Grech (Family/Blind Faith), Stevie Winwood (Traffic/Spencer Davis/Blind Faith), incomparable session men such as Harold McNair on flute, and so on. But, based on the actual performance, there may not seem to be much about this to like. Long jams probably not rehearsed very much, as witnessed by stumbles in the musical "choreography" here and there, feedback screams from the sound system, muffled intros, etc. But who can ignore the percussion locomotive of three drummers that drives this music along, capped off by a plaintive version of "Man of Constant Sorrow" (done decades before "Oh Brother Where Art Thou") by Denny Laine, original Moody Blues singer ("Go Now" era). And the horns contribute mightily to the propulsion. It sounds like the raw influence of Fela Ransome Kuti and his musical aggregations had something to do with the jamming, which may well be true since Ginger did record with him elsewhere. OK, I'm a big fan of the artists that got together here. 5 stars for the music, minus 2 or 3 for the recording.
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on July 27, 2005
This group could really rock but the quality of the recording was very poor. The last song even skipped. i should ask for another copy but i did not want to bother getting back in touch. Masterful Musicians, however!
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on August 23, 2012
The thing to do is look for the 1990 cd pressing on the Polydor Label. It's the first cd pressing done of the album. I recently got it here and it has none of the problems people are reporting with the 2004 "vinyl rip" version. If you enter "Ginger Baker's Air Force" you will see the album cover more than once. Peruse through them and look carefully. When you see a version noted as 1990, get it. If the seller has run out of them, then I've at least pointed in the right direction. The seller I got it from is bookmans_exchange. If you still have a problem, Amazon definitely has "Do What You Like" which is a 2-cd set that includes both the first Airforce cd (the one you're looking for)and the second one (Ginger Baker's Air Force 2"). Happy Hunting.
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on July 4, 2007
Wonderful music sounding bad ..As other reviewers say .. this is a rip from vinyl , and not a good one at that .VERY bad fidelity and distortion on tracks .. I had to get rid of this one .buyer BEWARE ."Lemon Records" .. may give you a clue .
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on July 18, 2011
Do you need another review telling you that this Lemon release is just that - a lemon? Yes, because you may be tempted to still get it because of the line-up, the history of the concerts and tales of how good the music is but please don't. This particular release is unlistenable even on average equipment. It must sound truly horrendous on top-of-the-line stuff! I love Cream, Winwood, Graham Bond, McNair, et al - I'm a prime candidate for forgiving something recorded by these people that is a little sub-par in the recording quality stakes (check out my review of Graham Bond & co. at Klooks Kleek elsewhere on Amazon) but this is a bridge too far for me. I cannot listen to it all the way through. I start to twitch very early in the piece. Imagine taking the original recordings and processing them through a dirty woollen sock whilst playing them on the cheapest turntable with a worn and dirty needle and you're getting somewhere towards the sound of this cd. I thought I could live with it for the sake of having it but no, I can't. Shame.
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on May 7, 2008
"Da Da Man" begins this live 80 minutes performance by Ginger Baker and gang, and it's quite the instrumental workout! Keyboards jam for a couple minutes, guitars do as well, and even a saxophone near the end. It's pretty good but honestly if you're someone who's a big fan of say, the live stuff from Wheels of Fire, please don't expect anything of that caliber. This is because Air Force isn't strictly a guitar or drum album with psychedelic-tinged vocal melodies thrown in. Nah this is something jazzier and more instrumentally diverse but not necessarily better.

"Early in the Morning" is an eerie chant almost. Not what I was expecting at all, and I mean that as a good thing! Diversity is always welcomed even when it goes down territories I never would have believed, haha. The eerie violin riff that reminds me of lumberjacks for some reason that you hear in the intro is appropriate because it soon leads to an eerie set of vocals and a rather messy but appealing jazzy section with a violin jam. As someone who loves the violin to pieces, I can't help but feel somewhat disappointed. I mean it's such a great musical instrument but either the playing isn't as good as it could have been or perhaps the muddy production is the culprit here (at least on this occasion). Whatever the reason, the notes are somewhat incoherent. The mellow flute solo that comes after is melodic and pretty awesome at least. Soon the flute jam escalates into a heavier and even better solo. So the song is saved by the flutes and the jazzy rhythm in the second half.

"Don't Care" opens with a guitar riff not much different from Jimi Hendrix's "The Power of Soul" and a catchy vocal melody by Steve Winwood. I'm pretty sure I heard a version of this song somewhere before. It soon morphs into a keyboard jam that's kinda unorganized initially until the jazzy rhythm comes in and now the keyboard solo is worthwhile. So far this is certainly a jazzy affair! Not that I mind but I do wish it wasn't so upfront since I tend to prefer Ginger Baker when he's centered more on rocking out and dazzling us with some tasty and sophisticated drum techniques or when the other band members are contributing with guitars. In other words, give me Cream, haha! I guess there's no point in hiding what I really want huh. :) Anyway the saxophone jam is pretty good but WAY too long for my tastes, and now it's obvious this entire piece is all about Traffic-era Steve Winwood anyway (not that I mind at all).

After such an extended sax jam, the last thing I want to hear is more of the same but unfortunately I don't have a choice since the first few minutes of "Toad" contains the same amount of intense jazzy sax work that we heard on the previous track. When the drum solo finally arrives (and you knew it was coming right? I mean "Toad" IS pretty legendary nowadays as being one of the best drum solos in history!) this is actually a really good solo. Amazingly it's just as intense and varied (well I mean as varied as a drum solo can be) as the famous Wheels of Fire version. Awesome! It even borrows a few parts from that particular legendary drum solo. "Aiko Biaye" begins with some African tribal-like chants that are probably here because of Ginger's little adventure through Africa at the time. It soon morphs into *rages* another saxophone jam. ANOTHER ONE! Already this album's biggest flaw is clearly its overusing of the sax. But, this jam is actually really awesome. As soon as the guitar comes in things change. The sax doesn't overstay its welcome this time. The tribal chants are really unique and melodic when they return just like they were before, so all is well with "Aiko Biaye" overall. The main riff sure sounds like the one from Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Knife Edge" but it's probably a coincidence.

But wait! Maybe it's not a coincidence! "Man of Constant Sorrow" (that's me! A sorrowful sad man I've become) is a country ballad of sorts with singing that resembles Greg Lake from Emerson, Lake & Palmer! That man has a GREAT voice, and so does this guy! It's a relief hearing a simple song like this after almost an hour of lengthy mostly saxophone jams. "Do What You Like" is a nice version but the "doooo whaaat you like" chorus is a bit off to me probably because Steve Winwood was just in better form (or perhaps studio trickery was playing a part here) when he created this great song on his Blind Faith album. Then again it doesn't sound off on repeated listens. Hmmm! The keyboard jam is really memorable. Ginger Baker is a master on the drum solo once again even though it feels like he's using "Toad" leftovers. What *can't* that man do on his drum kit? The song kind of ends on a limp jazzy note by fizzling out instead of in grand fashion. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this point. Ginger and company must have been like "Turn up the jazz!" for this performance. "Doin' It" (doing what, hmmm? Performing?) is a sloppy sax-heavy jam just like a good portion of the stuff found on the first half. Not a bad song however. It has a strange way of being more interesting with repeated listens.

Overall well Air Force's biggest flaw is obviously the abundance of saxophone. WAY too much saxophone. It often drowns out the other instruments. That's the reason I'm not giving the album 5 stars. Otherwise the quality of the performance is strong, the production isn't nearly as bad as people say (at least during the vocal parts ) and overall it's memorable.
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on February 14, 2013
There are hundreds of albums in circulation that don't touch this. The word supergroup is so overused but Air Force more than lives up to that especially if you like percussion. However, there are many other excellent musicians here including Denny Laine and Winwood in particular. I was a jazz snob at one time and didn't even consider Baker as anything but a good rock drummer. I was wrong.

The best way I can describe this CD is think to yourself, this is the epitome of percussion as well as great playing overall. This, my fellow music lovers, is simply an ORGY IN RHYTHM.My attitude and opinion about Baker being a good rock drummer? He is an excellent jazz drummer and all round percussionist as well. There should be a petition to keep this music in continuous release. I'd almost put it in the same class as classics such as Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Brubeck's Time Out, Let It Bleed, Revolver and many others. I did say almost > I would consider this record in a class just a bit less than those. Percussion wise you'd need Buddy Rich, Max Roach or Art Blakey to compare. There are drummers that surpass Baker but I can't think of many records that have the added percussionists plus other top musicians. The famous Toad solo which I always thought was good on Cream's Wheels of Fire record is, to my ears, really inferior to the version on this CD. Many reviewers down rated this record because of sound quality. Forget that. It's not that bad unless you are really young and don't recall vinyl LPs. It's like I know many of the younger generation who refuse to watch blk & white movies. Even if this is a straight rip off a vinyl it's plenty good. Of course, I too, would like to see or hear a cleaned up digital release. It's sad that you might have to pay a high price to acquire this great piece of music. Try to get a copy before it costs over a hundred bucks. One supplier is already asking over $50 and if we don't get a new release it will go for over a hundred bucks so pick one up ASAP. I would have paid 50.00 or more if I had heard this previous to purchase. Seriously, get your copy soon unless you can't tolerate anything less than perfect sound quality. I have over 10,00 songs on my computer. I own a few LPs short of 1,000 plus 800 or more CDs. I did have several hundred cassettes and even 8 track takes years ago . Oh, had a bunch of reel to reel tapes too.

Another reviewer I believe said this was one of their top shelf records that were played much more often than most of their other music. I wrote this review after reading his comments because I have a bunch of new music I need to hear but tonight as well as the previous 2 nights I've gone back to this recording again and again. Played it at least 5 or 6 times and only got it 2 days ago.If you liked Baker with Cream or any of this other musicians on here you'll love this. Maybe if enough people buy it we can get a new release so get it now. You won't be sorry.
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on December 17, 2012
I bought this without realizing it was this edition with poor sound. As I listened to it I was wary of the claim that it was ripped from vinyl. It does sound bad but I recall the original album being a muddy mess also. However, don't avoid this release entirely on lack of sound quality. It's rough in some parts but most of it's not so bad. The performances are knockout! You might just enjoy this immensley as I have if:
1) You've ever listnened to bootleg cassete tapes of live concerts (several generations removed from the norelco cassete recorder master) and enjoyed them a lot
2) You used to make mix tapes that you played over and over in your car until they sounded so bad but kept on listening.
3) As a kid you didn't have a great 'Hi - Fi'. but that didn't dampen your enthusiasm for the music you listened to.
4) You rember comercialy released cassetes that were pre-dolby era.
5) You had plenty of 8-Track tapes that you listened to in you car system with the ubiquitous 'Jensen Coaxials' which had so much frequency gaps and dropouts but somehow that made rock sound great to your ears.
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on June 4, 2015
Did success spoil Ginger Baker? In a recent you-tube video, Baker laments ever having heard of Cream, never mind being a third of the legendary power trio. Really? And missed out on the song royalties he’s still being paid to this day? Or the $$$ windfall from Cream’s 2005 reunion performances at the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden? Oh, the agonies of not having to work each day. But I digress. In the aftermath of Cream and Blind Faith, it would seem the obsession of being in a super-group still possessed Baker. Air Force was his band, his vision, his supergroup. "Ginger Baker's Air Force" is the album title. And what a lineup it is: Steve Winwood and Rick Grech late of Blind Faith, Chris Wood late of Traffic, Denny Laine late of the Moody Blues, old friends Graham Bond and be-bop drummer Phil Seamen, Harold McNair, the Nigerian percussionist Remi Kabaka, Jeanette Jacobs (Baker’s wife), and Diane Stewart (Bond’s wife). Air Force only performed twice in public, the second time at famed Albert Hall in London, where this album was recorded live. Released as a double LP in May 1970, it sold very well, reaching 33 on Billboard’s top 100 album chart, but disappointing compared with chart-topping Cream and Blind Faith. The all-star band was destined not to last. The subsequent studio album (Air Force 2) was a considerably different line-up. But what of this album? Was it yet another opportunity for ego-tripping excess—style without substance—or was it art? The fact that “Toad” and “Do What You Like” were recycled efforts would indicate it was ego-tripping excess, yet another chance for Baker to show off his rhythmic chops. Indeed, five of the album’s eight numbers clock in at over ten minutes each. And yet, as Nigel Williamson writes in the liner notes of the 2004 CD release, the extended jams “possess a surprising sense of direction and purpose, underpinned by Baker and his two fellow percussionists laying down layer upon layer of complex rhythm as the numbers build to spectacular jazz-tinged r&b crescendos.” That says it for me. About the songs: “Da Da Man” features a funky organ solo by Winwood; “Early One Morning” showcases the wah-wah guitar of Laine, and a lovely flute sole by Wood; Winwood wrote and sings on “Don’t Care,” and stands aside for a three-sax attack; “Toad” is more complex, has more instruments playing, than the two Cream versions; “Aiko Biaye” is an African-rhythm workout; the bluesy “Man of Constant Sorry” features Laine’s plaintive vocals; “Do What You Like” is much more interesting than Blind Faith’s studio version; and “Doin’ It” closes the album with saxes blaring up a storm. Bottom line: this is serious, first-rate jazz-infused music-making. Which begs the question: is this what Blind Faith was intended to be, had Eric Clapton not walked out? At the time of Blind Faith’s formation, there was talk among members that the band would evolve—add a horn section, more guitarists, perhaps, the lineup ever changing, from album to album. Baker and Winwood favored jazz over blues, and—what with the line-up that played Albert Hall in January of 1970—perhaps this was what Blind Faith was intended to be, in its next incarnation, had Clapton stayed on. We’ll never know. Air Force features an impressive line-up of musicians. And we do have this marvelous album, and a reminder of what might have been. Ego-tripping excess? No. Art. Five stars.

Final note—my review is based on the 2004 CD, not the vinyl LP. The sound is not awesome, but it is very good.
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