Thursday, 2 July 2015

"The Captain's Journey/Feel The Night/Rio" by LEE RITENOUR (2015 Beat Goes On 2CD Reissue - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review By Mark Barry...

"...Sure Feels Fine..." 

Beat Goes On of the UK has already whetted the appetites of Lee Ritenour fans in 2014 by reissuing his 1976 debut album "First Course" (on Epic Records) last year on BGOCD 1163 (see separate review). And like that classy start – this follow-through 2015 2CD set gives us three albums on Elektra Records from 1978 and two from 1979. Here are the funky kicks and zippy licks...

UK released June 2015 – "The Captain's Journey/Feel The Night/Rio" by LEE RITENOUR on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1189 (Barcode 5017261211897) puts 3 albums onto 2CDs and pans out as follows:

Disc 1 (38:46 minutes):
1. The Captain's Journey – Part 1: The Calm, Part 2: The Storm
2. Morning Glory
3. Sugarloaf Express
4. Matchmakers [Side 2]
5. What Do You Want?
6. That’s Enough For Me
7. Etude
Tracks 1 to 7 are the studio album "The Captain's Journey" – released August 1978 in the USA on Elektra 6E-136 and in the UK on Elektra K 52094

Disc 2 (75:44 minutes):
1. Feel The Night
2. Market Place
3. Wicked Wine
4. French Roast [Side 2]
5. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
6. Midnight Lady
7. Uh Oh!
Tracks 1 to 7 are the studio album "Feel The Night" – released January 1979 in the USA on Elektra 6E-192 and in the UK on Elektra K 52141

8. Rio Funk
9. San Juan Sunset
10. Rainbow
11. A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That [Side 2]
12. Simplicidad
13. Ipanema Sol
14. It Happens Every Day
Tracks 8 to 14 are the studio album "Rio". It was initially released in Japan entitled "Lee Ritenour In Rio" on JVC Records VIJ-6321 – but was re-sequenced and re-titled "Rio" in 1982 and reissued on Elektra E1-60024 in the USA and on Elektra K 52350 in the UK. This CD uses the 1982 configuration of tracks. To sequence the 1979 Japanese original use tracks 10, 9 and 8 as Side 1 with 14, 13, 12 and 11 being Side 2.

There’s the usual card slipcase, a 20-page booklet with full musician and recording credits and new liner notes from Mojo's resident Jazz columnist CHARLES WARING that include a new interview with Ritenour especially for this release. Co-Produced by Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin - and with maestro Bernie Grundman mastering the records in most cases  – it comes as no surprise that the remastered CDs (done by ANDREW THOMPSON at Sound Mastering in London in 2015) sound utterly amazing – stunning musicianship and audio pyrotechnics ahoy. These are warm recordings where all the instruments get heard with Ritenour’s amazing guitar fret-scaling taking centre-stage on the mostly instrumental tracks.

Beloved by fans as a bit of masterpiece when it comes to Soulful Jazz Fusion - "The Captain's Journey" album featured a virtual smorgasbord of world-class session-player celebrities – Steve Gadd on Drums, Paulinho Da Costa and Steve Forman on Percussion, Anthony Jackson and Abraham Laboriel on Bass, Dave Grusin and Patrice Rushen on Keyboards, Dave Valentin on Flute, Ernie Watts on Saxophones, Jay Graydon on Guitars and special guests Patti Austin and Bill Champlin on Lead and Backing Vocals.

"Morning Glory" is probably the most commercially-funky tune on the album – Bill Champlin (of the band Sons Of Champlin) does the honours on Lead Vocals while Steve Gadd plays Drums, Abraham Laboriel slaps the Bass, Jay Graydon plucks Rhythm Guitar and Dave Grusin hits the keys on his Fender Rhodes Electric Piano. It's a wickedly catchy groove and wouldn't be amiss on say George Benson's "Give Me The Night". It was edited down to 3:57 minutes and put on a 45 in the USA (Elektra E-45511) with "Sugarloaf Express" as its flip (amazing they didn't use the full album cut at 5:53 minutes as a Promo 12" – but alas). Another audiophile winner is the slinky "That's Enough For Me" where Patti Austin and Tom Baylor add those crucial backing vocals giving the whole Funk, Guitar and Strings feel a bottom end that is dancefloor friendly (Austin co-wrote the song with Dave Grusin). The album ends on the gorgeous acoustic guitar of Grusin's "Etude" which oozes Spain by the Sea with a breeze in your face and a Marguerita in your hand (Grusin also wrote "What Do You Want?").

Ritenour went hell-for-leather towards the emerging Funk market with the "Feel The Night" album as is evidenced by the opener – a guitar boogie that aims for the dancefloor as well as the lobes. Ace-axeman Steve Lukather and keyboard whizz David Foster join him on the upbeat "Wicked Wine" while Crusader keyboardist Joe Sample puts in an appearance on the Latin-flavoured brass-funk of "French Roast" (wicked sound quality). But no matter how jolly and upbeat it may be - I can't listen to "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" because I think of the hideous Leo Sayer original. Better is "Midnight Lady" - a really pretty acoustic smoocher where Ritenour plays the classical guitar with warmth and lovely feeling. It finishes on the dancefloor bells and whistles funk of "Uh Oh!" - where our Lee has clearly been absorbing The Crusaders before they released "Street Life" and thinking – I'll have me some of that.

Although he goes entirely acoustic for the "Rio" album - slap-bass opens "Rio Funk" where our hero sounds more like The Brothers Johnson than Lee Ritenour. He then hits you with a superb cover of Deodato's "San Juan Sunset". Again he surprises you with the mellow soft-shoe-shuffle of "Rainbow" which he gives a Brazilian groove. He makes the acoustic somehow sound like Jazz electric guitar on "A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That" (Dave Grusin does a lovely Keyboard solo). But my fave track is a tune I've adored for decades – Joe Sample's ballad "It Happens Every Day" which he debuted on the Crusaders' "Free As The Wind" LP in 1977 on ABC Records. Ritenour simply plays the lovely piano runs on a gut-string acoustic – and with Ernie Watts on Soprano Sax – it's as sweet as mellow Jazz Fusion gets.

Beat Goes On are getting damn good at this quality reissue malarkey. Fans should not hesitate for a moment...and the inquisitive should just dive right in...

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