Stomu Yamashta up to this point had gained great respect for his compositional skills in various styles of music ranging from Soundtracks to Jazz to Classical to Rock. In 1976 he formed this group with a line up that reads like a who’s who of jazz and progressive rock musicians. Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze, Michael Shrieve from Santana, Return to Forever’s Al DiMeola… This is almost like a jazz progger’s dream team!
The mood is a little less jazzy and more space rock than expected, considering the players involved. Orchestration from Paul Buckmaster contributes to this aspect of the piece greatly. Originally two sides of vinyl listing songs separately but merged together, the album is a full-blown concept piece that is superbly performed.
Vocalist Steve Winwood is in fine form here, predating his later mega successful solo career. Al DiMeola’s guitar work is amazing as always. Michael Shrieve kicks some major drums all over the place and seems responsible along with DiMeola for the Latin-influenced Santana-like passages here and there. The keyboard players, Yamashta and Schulze, are the real stars here as the spacey nature of the piece is naturally driven by the synthesizers.
There are passages that play games with time signatures (a 4/4 gets arranged to a 3/8, 3/8, 2/8 triplet, very worthy of note) and it gets funky at times like good jazz-fusion of the period (ie: Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck). I have only one complaint about the way that the songs work into one another. Instead of finding a way to make the segues work from song to song, the band often just chooses to fade out and fade in the next song at the same time. This does not make it as cohesive a progressive rock epic as it could have been. I also understand a decision was made to make the second half of the piece the first part of the album. This may make better musical sense, but makes the story (such as it is) a lot harder to follow. They of course remedied this in concert, but to me it is a gaffe that is forever unrectifiable.
Let’s see… who to recommend this to… Jazz fans of course will want to hear DiMeola and Shrieve at the top of their game. Fans of spacey music like Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream will want to hear this certainly. Rock fans that enjoy Winwood’s gorgeous tenor will like this as well. Appeals to some or none, depending on your preference of music. It definitely appeals to me.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 18th, 2011