Release number thirty one (number twelve from Taylor’s Universe) from the prolific Mr. Robin Taylor poses the question or comment, 'Worn Out' for the title. You won’t find any evidence of his music or his band being as such. His 'Kind of Red' started a new direction for the group of musicians and 'Worn Out' continues along that similar path. He's added the expertise of Karsten Vogel (a long time collaborator of his) and Jon Hemmersam on guitar, which is another big plus in the lead department. Every bit as tight and well conceived as ‘Kind of Red’, this recording has the new found formula by multi instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and producer Taylor. You have to admire his many years of continued output. The bulk of musicians in this world would have simply run out of ideas and motivation by this time with the massive amount of artistic production that makes up his discography.
The release begins so heavenly (‘Floating Rats’) with ambient Terje Rypdal style along with Palle Mikkelborg sounding trumpet, but quickly changes into a Univers Zero like bridge, then shifts again into a more experimental space, oh so nice!. A balanced trading of trumpet by Hugh Steinmetz and lead guitarist Jon Hemmersam. Just as you think it’s ending with a reprise of the intro, it takes off again with Zeuhl/prog fusion the likes of Philharmonie, Crimson, and Art Zoyd.
‘Munich’ (track two) has a Soft Machine, ECM oriented beginning with splendid sax (which also appears at the meat of the song two minutes later) then jumps into a brisk choppy psychedelic jazz groove giving way to ethereal syncopated part with Lois Nipper doing some very nice voice. But it’s not done yet. In comes syncopated drums Frippoidian lead guitar and the best drumming Klaus Thrane has done yet (really letting loose here), no longer keeping the more restrained and secure drumming as he did on ‘Kind of Red’. When it is all done, this is an absolutely killer ten plus minute arrangement! A favorite of this writer.
‘Imaginary Church’ (track three) begins with a simple layout then explodes into a more blues part instantly changed into a Crimson/Taylor formula, only Robin can pull off. ‘Jens in Afghanistan’(track five) is a whimsical pause but after three minutes in, it surprises with a cool Weather Report oriented fusion. Once again, brilliantly arranged. ‘Sergeant Pepperoni’, the final track, is a mix of cool jazz and Holdsworth like jam with beautiful sax and tasteful smart lead guitar from Hermmersam. The second half of the composition is huge with some truly butt kicking drums and thick layers that slowly build to a fading end. A very nice ending.
Everyone puts on a stellar performance throughout with both Jakob Mygind and Karsten Vogel on saxes, Hugh Steinmetz on trumpet and flugelhorn, Klaus Thrane on drums, Louise Nipper on voice, and master Robin Taylor on guitars, basses, keyboards, percussion, and allsorts. This is his best line up ever in my opinion. Some of this music reminded me of the classic The Long Hello (delicious side project of some VDGG members) with both fusion and some real pretty acoustic guitar and piano thrown in. I am also reminded of a more modern VDGG without Hammill (since there are no lyrical vocals) but less here than on ‘Kind of Red’. Robin’s new formula has jelled and is very robust now. Simply put, if you liked ‘Kind of Red’ you’ll love ‘Worn Out’. The same deceptively simple but surrounded by great arranging and brilliant concept is Robin Taylor’s trademark. Also his penchant for going down one path only to suddenly lead you down another is abundant here. I can see many who listen haphazardly or randomly, not committed, driving or with earbuds and pocket device, will miss the boat completely. Music from Taylor’s Universe takes attentiveness and a mood of studied listening to get the intended results. Headphones are very encouraged but earbuds be damned. Highly Recommended!
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on July 7th, 2013