Sunday, 8 June 2014

"Air" by AIR (2008 DBK Works CD Remaster of their Rare 1970 LP on Embryo Records) - A Review by Mark Barry


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"…Mister Man…"

Part of Herbie Mann’s European touring band – Long Island’s AIR made only one album – their self-titled debut on Embryo Records SD-733 issued in the Summer of 1971.

This superb April 2008 DBK Works CD reissue of "Air" by AIR on DBK Works 543 (Barcode 646315054323) is a straightforward remaster of that rare and desirable American vinyl LP (42:48 minutes).

Not to be confused with the French Ambient/Electronica group of the same name – the American AIR was a four-piece Jazz-Rock-Fusion group that featured lead singer and principal songwriter GOOGIE. She was married at the time to the Group’s Keyboardist TOM COPPOLA (she later went under the name of Carolyn Brooks Gotlieb). JOHN SIEGLER provided Bass with MARK ROSENGARDEN on Drums and their mentor HERBIE MANN produced the album.

1. Realize
2. Mr. Man
3. Baby, I Don’t Know Where Love
4. Martin
5. In Our Time
6. Man is Free [Side 2]
7. Sister Bessie
8. Lipstick
9. Man’s Got Style
10. Jail Cell
11. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free

Session brothers RANDY and MIKE BRECKER added Trombone and Saxophone to "Realize", "Mr. Man" and "Sister Bessie" while JAN HAMMER plays percussion of "Lipstick". Randy Brecker adds solo trumpet to "Man Is Free" and Mike Brecker plays Soprano Sax on "Lipstick". All 11 songs were written by Googie (she also played piano, organ and harpsichord) excepting two -"Sister Bessie" which was a Moogy Klingman original (later with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia) and the Nina Simone standard, "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" (written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas) which was recorded live at Googie’s House in the Bronx.

The CD remaster by GARY HOBISH is superb – adding real clarity and muscle to the piano, congas and fusion type rhythms. The basic 8-page booklet provides some period photos and short liner notes by Googie and Bassist John Siegler as well as recording info.

Embryo Records was distributed by Atlantic in the States (hence the SD catalogue number) but for many - this obscure Vocal Fusion album passed them by. I picked up on it via Atlantic’s 2004 CD compilation "Right On! Volume 5". Begun in 1999 - that series (along with the "Natural High" compilations) reintroduced a young Rock/Soul audience to Rare Grooves and Breaks across the huge WEA catalogue. The monster track on this album for them is "Mr. Man" – a fabulous Soulful Jazzy groove that’s part Chicago, part Blood Sweat & Tears and part Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. It’s a killer - and always brought customers to the counter whenever I played it in Reckless (Soho, London). Their sound is even reminiscent of Soft Machine, Linda Hoyle’s Affinity and the keyboard Prog of ELP meets Freeform Jazz.

Other highlights include "Man's Got Style" (very Mr. Man) and the lovely piano vocal of "Jail Cell" and the funky brass breaks in "Man Is Free". It's not all genius for sure - and after a while the vocal wailing can grate - but there's enough on here to see why it's so revered amongst aficionados. 

A very cool reissue of an expensive and desirable piece - kudos to all involved…

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