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Weather Report

I Sing the Body Electric

Columbia 5128972 [49:31] ADD





Unknown Soldier [7:57]
The Moors [4:40]
Crystal [7:16]
Second Sunday In August [4:09]
Medley: Vertical Invader/T.H./Dr. Honoris Causa [10:10]
Surucucu [7:42]
Directions [4:37]

Josef Zawinul – Electric & Acoustic Keyboard
Wayne Shorter – Reeds
Miroslav Vitous – Bass
Eric Gravatt – Drums


Dom Um Romao – Percussion
Andrew White- English Horn
Hubert Laws, Jr – Flute
Wilmer Wise – D and Piccolo Trumpet
Yolande Bavan, Joshie Armstrong, Chapman Roberts – vocalists
Roger Powell – Consultant
Ralph Towner – 12-string Guitar

In 1971 Weather Report released their highly influential, very successful, self titled album and started on a pathway that would eventually define an entire genre of music. Few other bands in jazz were influential in the way that Weather Report was, incorporating electronic instruments and rock beats into their sound to fuse together two entirely different, nearly antithetical realms of music. When "I Sing the Body Electric" was released, with the sound the group had experimented with while on tour in Japan, Columbia claimed that "’I Sing the Body Electric’… demonstrates a musical step beyond the band’s first, artistically successful recording Weather Report." As it has gone down in the annals of music as one of the truly great recordings in jazz, this would have to be considered an almost laughably reserved endorsement of the recording.

For those unfamiliar with early Weather Report, however, this is not Heavy Weather. Jaco Pastorious was not yet with the band, and you will not find anything quite like "Birdland" here. The album is full of churning, moody, intense music that is far closer to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew than to the later near-pop recordings that Weather Report would create. "Unknown Soldier" is a moody anti-war musical statement that defies both jazz and rock, never allowing itself to be classified as anything other than great music. Recorded live, "Vertical Invader/T.H./Dr. Honoris Causa", "Surucucu", and "Directions" form what was the original second-side of the album, and serve as adventures in time-signature and musical form. These recordings are a testament to the time the band spent in Japan, and are very much a document displaying a defining point in the history of jazz.
Indeed, much of this album is a deconstruction of what had come before as much as a construction of a new form of music. Taking the group-improvisation methodology of Dixieland, combining it with the instruments and sensibilities of a rock & roll jam band, and the virtuosic technique of a collection of the greatest of bebop musicians, this was truly fusion in the truest sense of the word, and before the word became a trite appellation for anything that happened to be pop/rock music that had an improvising trumpet or saxophone instead of a vocalist.
As far as the remastering, the studio tracks clean up incredibly well. There seemed to be some analog noise in the live recordings, but with the crowd noise and the wide variety of metal percussion equipment heavily utilized by Eric Gravatt during these performances, the noise is hardly noticeable. It certainly would not be considered distracting.

There is nothing that can be said about this album that has not been said before. It stands the test of time, still sounding fresh, new, and vibrant. It was incredibly influential and successful. The individual musicians on the album are recognized as belonging on the Mount Olympus of modern music. It is simply one of the great albums of the 1970s. If you have never had the opportunity to discover I Sing the Body Electric, you really should.

Patrick Gary

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