Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"Places And Spaces" by DONALD BYRD - A Review Of The 1975 Blue Note LP Reissued On A 1997 "Rare Groove Series"...

This review is part of my "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters Soul, Funk & Jazz Fusion" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:

 “…Funky Nirvana…” – Places And Spaces by DONALD BYRD (1997 CD Remaster)

With a near 60-year career stretching back to 1955 (he passed away in 2013) – Michigan’s DONALD BYRD was smart enough to see the musical writing on the wall in the early Seventies. He jumped at the chance to move from straight-up Jazz and began a run of peerless Jazz Fusion masterpieces that Funk fans adore to this day.

Beginning with his “Black Byrd” album in 1972 on Blue Note, “Street Lady” in 1973 and “Stepping Into Tomorrow” in 1974 - he finally made his way to what I think is his bona-fide masterpiece – 1975’s “Places And Spaces”. Whenever a copy would turn up in Reckless (even back in the early Nineties) – we’d give it pride of place on the wall – and it would last hours rather than days (priced at £30 back when thirty smackers was a huge amount to pay for a vinyl LP). And the passing decades haven’t diminished its Funky impact one jot. In fact it not only stands up as a great overall listen today (2014) – but only seem to get hipper with time.

The vinyl LP was originally released in November 1975 in the USA on Blue Note BN-LA549-G and Blue Note UAG 20001 in the UK. The 1997 CD remaster on EMI/BLUE NOT CDP 8543262  is part of their BLUE NOTE RARE GROOVE SERIES and features a mere gatefold slip of paper as an insert. But the remaster is fabulous – full of detail - all that string and trumpet playing hitting your speakers with lovely full-bodied clarity (35:51 minutes).

The album has only 7 tracks – all of which are Trumpet Fusion Jazz (Flugelhorn too) with some intermittent scatting vocals on the chorus by KAY HEATH and the MIZELL Brothers. With the strings arranged by WADE MARCUS – songwriters LARRY and FONCE MIZELL seemed to give BYRD the fusion tunes he needed to let rip. It opens with the joyous party-time of “Change (Makes You Want To Hustle)” – a playlist winner if ever there was one. Kay Heath’s vocals lead the chorus on the upbeat “Wind Parade” and then we’re onto one of the album’s highlights – a huge funky tune – “Dominoes”.

As if it couldn’t get any better than a perfect Side 1 – Side 2 opens with the best – the glorious title track. It never ceases to send me – especially the warbling Trumpet solo he does towards the end. “You And Your Music” turns up the funky drums and piano (Harvey Mason and Skip Scarborough) while “Night Whistler” gets all slinky Steely Dan (circa Royal Scam and Aja) with cleverly treated echoes on the lead instruments. It ends on a Temptations cover version – “Just My Imagination” which is oddly the least successful of all the tunes. He would follow “Places And Spaces” with the equally popular “Caricatures” in 1976 (they used its drawing sleeve on his “Best Of” CD).

I’ve loved “Places And Spaces” for 40 years now – what a winner. In truth I do wish the CD wasn’t so basic – and I’d love to hear any kind of outtakes from the sessions – but that’s another reissue. In the meantime – get this funky joy into your life real soon….yeah baby…

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