"…Looking Down From The Stars…”
James Vincent issued a slew of jazz-fusion/funk albums on Columbia’s Caribou Records in the mid-to-late Seventies (a label more associated with Beach Boys solo projects) and “Space Traveler” is one of those highly regarded gems.
Re-issued 20 August 2008 in Japan-only, Vivid Sound Corporation VSCD-3367 is an exact reproduction of that 1976 LP originally issued in the USA on Caribou Records PZ 34237 - and it breaks down as follows (44:12 minutes):
1. (a) The Garden (b) Mankind
2. Drifting Into Love
3. (a) Alone (b) Space Traveler
5. Song For Jayme
6. How I’m Gonna Miss You
7. (a) Stepping Up (b) Walking On Higher Ground
The LP was produced by BRUCE BOTNICK of Elektra Records fame (The Doors, MC5 and Love) with all tracks written by James Vincent.
The musicians were:
Guitar and Lead Vocals – JAMES VINCENT
Keyboards, Synths, Moog – RONALD STOCKERT
Bass – VERDINE WHITE of EARTH, WIND and FIRE
Drums – HARVEY MASON [1 (a), 4, 6, 7 (b) and 8]
Drums – CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD [1 (b) and 5]
Drums – FREDDY WHITE of EARTH, WIND and FIRE [2 and 3 (b)]
Congas and Percussion – PATRICK M. MURPHY
Percussion, Tambourine and Backing Vocals – CARLA MAY
Backing Vocals – PETER CETERA of CHICAGO [3 (b) and 6]
Backing Vocals – SHIRLEY MATTHEWS, VINETTA FIELDS and CLYDIE KING
String and Horn Arrangements – JACK NITZSCHE [1 (a), 2, 3 (b), 5, 6, 7 (a) and (b)]
This audiophile-quality CD is one of those beautifully reproduced 5” card sleeves with an outer Obi and a protective cellophane wrap. Inside is a foldout page, which is entirely in Japanese (not much help), but beside that is the repro’d yellow inner sleeve of the original LP, which has clear and easy to read production and track-by-track musician credits.
But the real fireworks lie in the sound – 24-bit remastered in Japan by Engineer YOSHIRO KUZUMAKI of CM PUNCH – the SOUND QUALITY is breathtaking – clear, muscular and an absolute joy to listen to. There are some fans that will only listen to Japanese CDs because of their high quality – and this little beauty is a perfect advertisement for that viewpoint.
Musically it’s all funky string and brass bits with great spacey guitar-driven fusion centring all the tracks. The occasional vibes give it a spacey feel at times, but then its get funk-tight as the rhythm section of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Verdine and Freddy White perfectly compliment Harvey Mason on Drums. The vocals are only ok, but shared by Vincent and the famous session girls they at least make for a more varied listen. The styles vary too - “Drifting Into Love” could be a soul track off EWF’s “All ‘N All” album while “How I’m Gonna Miss You” is very Ronn Matlock meets Teddy Pendergrass meets Maxwell – old and new - and commercial too. The acoustic “Alone” allows him to show off his classical guitar virtuosity, which then segues into the lovely title track – probably his best fusion/soul work (lyrics above). “Firefly” is another funky winner too. Great stuff…
So there you have it… This Japanese remaster of “Space Traveler” is deleted now and is rare – but if you love your fusion with a little bit of soul and funk, then it is absolutely worth seeking out – even at a cost.
PS: the other two titles in this 2008 series are:
1. “Culmination” (recorded in 1971, released in 1974 on Caribou Records), Vivid Sound Company VSCD-3366
2. “Enter In” (released 1980 on Sparrow Records), Vivid Sound Company VSCD-3368