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



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ERIC GALE

Ginseng Woman/Multiplication

BGO Records CD1078

 

 


Ginseng Woman

  1. Ginseng Woman
  2. Red Ground
  3. Sara Smile
  4. De Rabbit
  5. She is My Lady
  6. East End, West End

Multiplication

  1. Oh! Mary Don’t You Weep
  2. Thumper
  3. Multiplication
  4. Morning Glory
  5. Gypsy Jello
  6. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

Eric Gale (guitar) with various accompanists

Recorded 1976 and 1977 [73:50]

 

Guitarist Eric Gale made a large series of discs but only a very few were made under his name. For so prolific a player – he’s reckoned to have played on over 500 LPs – the meagre return is a dozen discs as leader. That’s hardly a unique occurrence of course, and many a great sideman has never been allowed to shine, his name emblazoned on the cover or jacket of a disc. But Gale, the ‘frustrated saxophone player’ certainly enjoyed a degree of exposure in these two LPs made in the mid 1970s.

The accompanying musicians are many and various. Foremost is Grover Washington Jr – foremost in the degree of his contributions – but accomplished musicians like Steve Gadd, Bob James, Richard Tee and Hank Crawford (on the second album, Multiplication) all make their presence felt. So too does the large vocal contribution, somewhat on the groovy side of things, and the horn section, heard really only as colour backing – which is a great shame as sitting relatively idle in its ranks were Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Randy Brecker, Eddie Daniels, and Jerry Dodgion. Mention must also be made of the large string section on some tracks in both LPs; they were led by the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, the exceptional David Nadien and I only need to add the names of the following to show the consummate, if underused, musicianship available to studio bookers; Pollikoff, Lookofsky, Alsop, Kohon, Vardi (Emanuel), Shulman et al.

Ginseng Woman is the weaker of the two albums. It has a busy soul vibe in places, notably the title track, and sports music that strongly reflects Gale’s Barbadian heritage. Washington’s use of the tin whistle in Red Ground is novel. There’s a heavy production on Sara Smile with its Reggae hues and overdubbed vocals and understated Gale solo. Catchy but insistent, De Rabbit exemplifies both the strengths (catchy Calypso riffs) and the limitations (too samey) of Gale’s approach, and also the arranging of Bob James.

For the second album there is more of a theme in mind. The set opens with a Spiritual with a Gospel cum Soul solo that sits appropriately. Thumper is an ebullient tribute to the clarity of Gale’s playing whilst Washington shines on the Lee Ritenour song, Morning Glory. Throughout this particular album, arrangements are tight and there is a far more convincing feeling of identification with the material – which is also stronger. Symmetrically, the LP ended, and so does this well filled disc, with Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child which, whilst not at all Down Home, is more rootsy than anything in Ginseng Woman. It’s Hank Crawford who takes the committed alto sax solo here. It ends the disc on a real high.

Jonathan Woolf



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