Saturday, 30 July 2016

"Free As The Wind" by THE CRUSADERS (2016 Japan-Only Universal SHM-CD Reissue/Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...I Felt The Love..." 

Re-issued as part of Universal's Japan-Only 'Fusion Best Collection 50' Series of SHM-CD reissues - one of the very best Crusaders studio efforts "Free As The Wind" gets another go-round on CD. I've bought both 1977's single "Free As The Wind" and the 1974 double-album "Southern Comfort" (2LP set onto 1CD) on these SHM-CDs and they sound beautiful to say the least. Here are the breezy details...

Japan-Only released 6 July 2016 (deleted 5 Jan 2017) - "Free As The Wind" by THE CRUSADERS on Universal/MCA UCCU-90187 (Barcode 4988031159606) is a straightforward CD Reissue/Remaster from the 'Fusion Best Collection 50' Series onto SHM-CD of the 1977 ABC Records LP and plays out as follows (42:49 minutes):

1. Free As The Wind
2. I Felt The Love
3. The Way We Was
4. Nite Crawler
5. Feel It [Side 2]
6. Sweet 'n' Sour
7. River Rat
8. It Happens Everyday
Tracks 1 to 8 are their album "Free As The Wind" - released July 1977 in the USA on Blue Thumb Records BT-6209 and July 1977 in the UK on ABC Records ABCL 5226. "Free As The Wind", "Sweet 'n' Sour" and "It Happens Everyday" written by Joe Sample - "I Feel The Love" by Norbert "Stix" Hooper - "The Way We Was" by Robert "Pops" Popwell - "Nite Crawler" by Larry Carlton - "River Rat" by Wilton Felder and "Feel It" by Larry Carlton, Lamont Dozier, Robert "Pops" Powell, Norbert "Stix" Hooper and Wilton Felder. Produced by STEWART LEVINE and THE CRUSADERS - the LP peaked at No. 8 on the US R&B charts.

THE CRUSADERS were:
JOE SAMPLE - All Keyboards
WAYNE HENDERSON - Saxophones
LARRY CARLTON - Guitars
ROBERT "POPS" POPWELL - Bass
NORBERT "STIX" HOOPER - Drums

Guests:
DEAN PARKS - Guitar (All Tracks)
ARTHUR ADAMS - Guitar on "It Happens Everyday"
ROLAND BAUTISTA - Guitar on "Feel It" and "River Rat"
RALPH McDONALD - Percussion (All Tracks)
PAULINHO Da COSTA - Percussion on "Feel It"

Disappointingly you get a gatefold slip of paper as your inlay - SHM-CD or not - and an outer Obi strip with the 'Fusion Best 50' logo - but nothing else. It's threadbare for sure but the Audio isn't. There is no mention of mastering or remastering anyway - or least I can't make out if its there because none of the Japanese notes, Obi or inlay has any English. But I can tell you this thing sounds gorgeous.

There can't be too many Crusaders fans out there who don't hold a candle for "Free As The Wind" - two 4-track sides of brilliant Jazz Funk with a Soulful twist (the "Gold" 2CD anthology set features no less than 6 of its 8 tracks). The second those cymbals and strings kick in for Joe Sample's title track "Free As The Wind" - I'm in Funky Nirvana and mush (God I miss that guy). We go commercial Funk with Stix Hooper's "I Felt The Love" - and we finish the side with two out-and-out winners - Popwell bopping "The Way We Was" and Larry Carlton's Steely Dan brilliant "Nite Crawler" - a genius groove he would revisit the following year when he did his own version on his Warner Brothers debut LP "Larry Carlton" in 1978.

Side 2 opens with the carnival vibe of "Feel It" giving listeners the first of two guest appearances on Guitar by Roland Bautista - the second being the cool "River Rat". Things go Fusion Funk with Sample's second track on the LP - "Sweet 'n' Sour" - a near nine-minute Crusaders neck-jerker. "River Rat" Funks like Graham Central Station or even the Average White Band - 2:29 minutes of Saxophone grooveiness. It ends on Joe Sample's beautiful and classy "It Happens Everyday" - a slow and sweet piano instrumental that may well put you in the mood for 'lurve'. Sample did an updated version of it on his 1997 CD set "Sample This" and Hubert Laws did a flute cover of the song on his 1978 LP "Say It With Silence" (you can't keep a good melody down).

The SHM-CD format doesn't require Audiophile equipment and will play on all standard players. It's just a better form of the CD format with deeper retrieval of the musical details - I have about 20 and the sound is brill on the lot of them.

It's presently about 1500 Yen – that’s about $15 or £11 - and "Free As The Wind" is an all-time crave - I had to own it. Despite the slight let down on the presentation front - it's a stone cold five-star mother for me. Buy and enjoy and God Bless you Joe Sample for all the decades of musical brilliance...

PS: CRUSADERS and other related titles in Japan's 'FUSION BEST 50' Series of SHM-CD reissues (all released 6 July 2016):
Use the Barcode to locate them on Amazon...

1. LARRY CARLTON - Discovery (Universal UCCU-90179 - Barcode 4988031159521)
2. LARRY CARLTON - Kid Gloves (Universal UCCU-90180 - Barcode 4988031159538)
3. LARRY CARLTON and LEE RITENOUR - Larry & Lee (Universal UCCU-90181 - Barcode 4988031159545)
4. THE CRUSADERS - Chain Reaction (Universal UCCU-90186 - Barcode 4988031159590)
5. THE CRUSADERS - Crusaders 1 (Universal UCCU-90190 - Barcode 4988031159637)
6. THE CRUSADERS - Free As The Wind (Universal UCCU-90187 - Barcode 4988031159606)
7. THE CRUSADERS - Images (Universal UCCU-90188 - Barcode 4988031159613)
8. THE CRUSADERS - Southern Comfort (Universal UCCU-90185 - Barcode 4988031159583)
9. THE CRUSADERS - Standing Tall (Universal UCCU-90189 - Barcode 4988031159620)
10. JOE SAMPLE - Voices In The Rain (Universal UCCU-90191 - Barcode 4988031159644)

PPS: see also my review for the Platinum SHM-CD reissue of Joe Sample's "Rainbow Seeker" - also from Japan - use Barcode 4988005865526

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