Cam Newton (1979) Welcome Aliens: Party Music for the First Authenticated Landing (LP) Inner City IC 1070 

Cam Newton

Welcome Aliens: Party Music for the First Authenticated Landing

Inner City IC 1070 (1980)

Recorded April 1979 in Eugene, Oregon
produced by Campbell Newton, David Leslie, Mark Isham, and Pat O’Hearn

*** noteworthy

This starts off with a mildly unique take on jazz fusion, but gets more inventive and enjoyable as the side progresses and Cam’s guitar playing takes the spotlight.

Side two has a somewhat similar progression, starts off with relatively straightforward jazz before moving into the folk/jazz sound we’d heard on the second half of the first side. Cam sounds like he was influenced by many of the masters of the guitar who had blended jazz and folk in the late 1960s and 1970s, Jansch, Abercrombie, Coryell, Kottke, Fahey, and Towner (many who like Newton had connections with the Pacific Northwest), as well as some who had passed the baton on to those folks, but Newton offers a style with its own feel. He seems primarily inspired by the emotions inside and the world around him, from responses to current events such as the Jonestown genocide and especially from the elemental forces of nature.

While some might enjoy the entire set, most will likely enjoy the highlights. At its best this is hypnotic and lyrical, both enjoyable and interesting. (Just don’t let the title mislead you into thinking this is space-age party music.)

— winch

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Ralph Towner (1973) Diary (LP) ECM 1032 (1974)

Ralph Towner

Diary 

ECM 1032

Recorded April 4 and 5, 1973; released 1974.

Produced by Manfred Eicher

**** recommended


Ron Wynn said it so well when reviewing Towner’s Works, “A great, great guitarist whose songs at worst are overly sentimental, at best hypnotic” and it’s important that Wynn started that sentence with “Great, great,” because even when Towner is being sentimental, he completes his intentions and captures his subject, encapsulating an often fleeting or moving subject like a painter, a memory or a moment, and even in the more forgettable moments on this set, brush strokes mix the memories of music’s past with Towner’s own experiences and expressions.


For an album that features one artist using only acoustic guitars, piano and gong, this definitely has its moments. As much as this seems to come out of his work with the group Oregon, a close listen reveals some clear differences. It’s not only more personal, this reveals different influences. At times, this recalls Weather Report at their most reflective, but here Towner strips the body down to bone and ghost.

— winch (author of )

 

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Toots Thielemans (1959) The Soul of Toots Thielemans (LP) Signature (SM 6006)

Toots Thielemans

The Soul of Toots Thieleman 

Recorded 1959, released 1960

Signature (SM 6006)

**** recommended

For this 1959 date, Toots is backed wonderfully with three Americans, Ray Bryant (Philly) on piano, Ray’s brother Tom on bass, and Oliver Jackson (Detroit) on drums, all the members helping to set the tone for the meeting and helping bringing Toots into their country, planting the sound deep into American soil, Ray getting plenty of time to get his piano into the conversation.


Of course, as the billing suggests, this is Toot’s album, his last name showing on all the credits of the originals on this set, his playing gracing every selection, the talented Toots alternates between harmonica and electric guitar, even whistling through his original “Brother John” that closes the set.


Toots shows he was not just an outstanding harmonica player, but a great guitar player as well–showing this clearly on cuts such as “Lonesome Road”–showing that the harmonica can color in a selection as much as any horn, and showing that the electric guitar can do the same. While blues and jazz guitar players revealed the ability for the guitar to offer rhythm and lead at the same time, adding electricity offered even more, making it easier for the guitar to fill in the song with colors much like horns had done for centuries.


This whole set is thoroughly enjoyable, a mix of originals by Toots and tunes by others—old tradition songs and jazz standards, Garner’s “Misty,” Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” and Parker’s “Confirmation”–the meeting laid back yet swinging, taut as a congregation yet relaxed as a Sunday afternoon, swinging like a porch swing with autumn in the air, the warmth of summer mixing with the latter parts of the year, youthful as young man, yet thoughtful as an elder. This might not be a great album, but it’s certainly a good one.

— winch (author of

 

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Cornell Dupree (1978) Shadow Dancing (LP) Versatile Records MSG 6004

Cornell Dupree

Shadow Dancing 

1978

Versatile Records MSG 6004

Produced by Vic Chiumbolo

*** noteworthy
Most listeners wouldn’t expect much from a session guitarist running through the then-current hits, but Dupree was no run-of-the-mill session artist, and he manages to keep this set tasteful and contemporary, interesting and enjoyable, not a small feat for 1978. While the contributions from Hank Crawford, Jimmy Smith, and others come through clearly, this is Cornell’s album.


Unlike many rock, jazz and blues musicians, Dupree understands that the contribution of all instruments–even guitar–should remain part of the song. And although these are all instrumentals, they all sound like songs, with Cornell’s playing not only helping move along the rhythm, but also providing voices delivered with the stabbing licks and understated harmonics.

Side one is a run through the hits, starting with a fusion of Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” and Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” and then the third cut, “The Closer I Get To You,” effectively slows down the proceedings. The song had been an important part of the story of the friendship and duets of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, and Dupree’s instrumental version seems both a tribute to that story and a testimony to the power of Cornell’s playing. The harmonics are wonderfully placed and then punched home with slow but stabbing licks. (Sadly, the version would serve as memorial for Donny Hathaway and his struggles with mental illness, as Donny would suffer a fatal fall from his balcony about the time this album was released.) While a version of Stephen Bishop’s “On and On” might seem a bit silly after that heartfelt number, it’s actually great placement, Cornell and the band picking up the pace and using the tune as a launching pad, swinging the hit until the trail-off grooves.


Side two comes as no disappointment, opening with an extended version of Freddie Scott’s 1963 “Hey Girl” (Goffin-King), and while this cut concludes with a Cornell workout, like much of the second side, the song allows room for the contributions of other member of the band to come to the front. If the version of Steely Dan’s “Peg” seems unnecessary, the set ends with a grip on the groove, first with a surprisingly effective version of Dolly Parton’s “Two Doors Down” and finally with the workout conclusion of Dupree’s own “The Creeper.” On this final cut, Cornell gets to stretch his fingers but also pulls back to give Jimmy Smith and the horn players some room to fill in the groove. If the album had weaker moments, this last cut makes one forget all that.


This isn’t an essential listening, but after Cornell graced hundreds and hundreds of classic and noteworthy soul and jazz recordings with his guitar, it’s nice to hear him have a chance to put his licks in the spotlight. While many jazz enthusiasts won’t find this an especially interesting outing, fans of guitar playing or the slick funky stuff of the late 70s should definitely find something to enjoy in these grooves.

— winch (author of

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