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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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A Sign of the Times / Simplicity

BGO Records BGOCD 991



A Sign Of The Times
1. A Sign Of The Times
2. The Phoenix Love Theme
3. Nowhere Man
4. Dindi
5. A Summer Song
6. Moment To Moment
7. It Was A Very Good Year
8. Are You There (With Another Girl)
9. What Now My Love (Et Maintenant)
10. Softly As I Leave You
11. Sweet September

Joe Pass - Guitar
Chet Baker - Flugelhorn
Frank Capp - Drums
Bob Florence - Arranger, conductor

12. You And Me
13. 'Tis Autumn
14. Luciana
15. I Had The Craziest Dream
16. Nobody Else But Me
17. Simplicity
18. The Sands Of Time
19. Sometime Ago
20. The Gentle Rain
21. Who Can I Turn To
22. Where Was I (Donde Estuve Yo)

Joe Pass - Guitar
Hagood Hardy - Vibes
Julian Lee - Piano, organ
Bob Whitlock - Bass
Colin Bailey - Drums


This CD contains two LPs from the mid-sixties: A Sign of the Times from 1966 and Simplicity from 1967. Producer Dick Bock seemed to like taking jazz musicians and putting them in pop contexts, presumably in the hope of a crossover hit or two. The sleeve-note virtually admits this by describing the material on the first album as "12 tunes right out of popsville". Dick Bock said he chose tunes for Joe Pass that took the guitarist into "light pop" territory.

Most of the tracks on A Sign of the Times could have been recorded by any capable guitarist (e.g. Bert Weedon?). Joe Pass was a remarkably skilful jazz musician, despite the years he spent fighting drug problems. After he signed with Norman Granz in 1973, Joe made some excellent jazz albums solo or with such artists as Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, but this album is a sad disappointment. Bock surrounds Joe Pass with lush, soupy arrangements by Bob Florence, submerging most of Joe's individuality.

There are occasional exceptions, like Moment To Moment (a Mercer/Mancini composition, not the Doobie Brothers' song), in which Pass's flashing guitar work survives despite background cooing from the female chorus. Chet Baker is apparently on flugelhorn but he doesn't get much chance to show his talent. On the title track he sounds more like Herb Alpert than the jazz trumpeter we knew. All in all, this LP might be described as "smooth jazz" or "easy listening" but it certainly doesn't give a full picture of Joe's brilliance.

The second LP, Simplicity, is better because it backs Joe with a small jazz group rather than a large pop orchestra. The guitarist uses a semi-acoustic instrument and his playing is mostly understated, but this subtlety at least shows some of Joe's ability. The title track is a good example of this delicacy, with vibes and piano adding to the refinement.

These two LPs were previously reissued on CD by Euphoria in 2002. The personnels are not clearly listed on the sleeve, so I dug them out from elsewhere, although they may not be correct. To sum up, the second LP is better than the first but neither of them rates as essential listening unless you are an extremely keen Joe Pass fan.

Tony Augarde

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