Roy Ayers Ubiquity (1975) A Tear to a Smile / Mystic Voyage

Roy Ayers Ubiquity
A Tear to a Smile

Polydor 6046
Produced by Roy Ayers
Arranged by William Allen

Noteworthy ***

Most jazz/funk albums from this era ended up sounding forced and uninspired, commercial music patched together to make some bucks.  In contrast, this album sounds like Ayers was doing exactly what he wanted to do, and like he was doing it for all the right reasons.  The time and passion put into this clearly comes through the music.  Several cuts seem designed to go with the rhythm of the waves in a waterbed, and even much of the social-themed material has a sensual vibe.  While it’s a snap to spot influences, the music is completely Ayers.  The beginning and conclusion are especially strong, essential moments for fans of this group.  The lineup included Edwin Birdsong & Debbie Darby (vocals), Bernard Purdy (drums), and William Allen (bass, arp).  Allen and Ayers contribute most of the compositions.  
Roy Ayers Ubiquity
Mystic Voyage

Polydor 6057
Produced & Arranged by Roy Ayers

Recommended ****

Ayers retains the Ubiquity moniker but pulls in quite a different line-up from A Tear to a Smile released earlier this same year.  The sounds of the albums are similar in many ways, both offering a variety of sounds and tempos, from full-fledged funk to jazz-influenced reflective numbers, but each album has its own sound.  This offers the reflection of the instrumental title track but has much more focus on the heavy thumping of the dancefloor funk. The changes in sound likely had a lot to do with the departure of William Allen, the bassist of the previous album who also arranged and wrote the majority of the cuts on that set.  While the funk of the previous seemed focused on the waterbed, this features plenty of numbers designed for the club.  If side one doesn’t grab you from the get-go, just flip her over.  If you have any doubts about Ayers delivering the funk, the proof comes to knock you out with the one-two punch of “Funky Motion” and “Spirit of the Doo Do.”  Both 1975 sets are recommended listens for fans of funk, but this one is essential for folks looking to get the party started.  This lineup included Calvin Brown (guitar), Chano O’Ferral (congas & bongos), and newcomers Byron Miller (bass), Chicas (vocals), and Ricky Lawson (drums).  Oddly the album doesn’t mention song credits.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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