Friday, 11 March 2016

"Eyewitness/Modern Times/Casa Loco" by STEVE KHAN (2016 Beat Goes On 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Blue Shadow..."

April 2015 saw Jazz-Fusion virtuoso Guitarist STEVE KHAN have his first three Solo albums from the late Seventies on Columbia's Tappan Zee Records reissued by Beat Goes On of the UK in proper style. 

Just shy of a year later BGO now follow that splurge with another 2CD set – this time reissuing Khan's desirable and long-deleted albums from 1981, 1982 and 1984 on Island's Fusion/Avant Garde label 'Antilles' and Sire's 'Passport Records'. 

The three Antilles/Passport albums (the second was initially a Japan-only 'live' set) have been off the musical radar for decades on both vinyl and CD – so Jazz-Funk fans like me have yet more cause to celebrate. Here are the fret-bending details...

UK released 4 March 2016 (1 April 2016 in the USA) – "Eyewitness/Modern Times/Casa Loco" by STEVE KHAN on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1228 (Barcode 5017261212283) features 3LPs on 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (61:51 minutes):
1. Where's Mumphrey?
2. Dr. Slump
3. Auxiliary Police
4. Guy Lafleur [Side 2]
5. Eyewitness
Tracks 1 to 5 are his fifth studio album "Eyewitness" – released November 1981 in the USA and December 1983 in the UK (both) on Antilles AN 1018

6. Blades (For Wayne Gretzky)
7. The Blue Shadow (For Folon)
Tracks 6 and 7 are Side 1 of his sixth album – the LIVE SET "Modern Times" – initially only released 1982 in Japan on Trio Records AW-25016 but then reissued in the USA and Europe in 1985 on Passport Records PJ 88001 – first time on CD

Disc 2 (67:04 minutes):
1. Penguin Village
2. Modern Times
Tracks 1 and 2 are Side 2 of his sixth album - the LIVE SET "Modern Times" – initially only released August 1982 in Japan on Trio Records AW-25016 but then reissued in the USA and Europe in 1985 on Passport Records PJ 88001 – first time on CD in 2016

3. The Breakaway
4. Casa Loco
5. Penetration
6. Some Sharks [Side 2]
7. Uncle Roy
8. The Suitcase
Tracks 3 to 8 are seventh album "Casa Loco" – released 1984 in the USA on Antilles Records AN-2010 and in Europe on Antilles/Island 206 516

The packed 20-page booklet repro's all artwork and track-by-track musician credits along with in-depth liner notes from noted Musicologist MATT PHILLIPS (writer, musician and founder of the Sounds Of Surprise Jazz Music website). Along with a couple of choice snaps of Khan - there are new black and white photos of his key players Jordan, Jackson and Badrena - while the text includes new interviews with Khan about the making of the albums. The outer card wrap that now accompanies all BGO CD releases gives the whole shebang a classy feel and there's new 2016 remasters by ANDREW THOMPSON that let all that musical expertise shine through. Both CDs sound stupendously good with "Modern Times" first time on CD and "Casa Loco" not touched since the very early days of the medium in 1984. His band for all three records was – STEVE KHAN – All Guitars, ANTHONY JACKSON – Bass Guitar and Contrabass, STEVE JORDAN – Drums with MANOLO BADRENA on Percussion and Vocals.

Brought to Columbia Records by the Blood, Sweat & Tears Drummer Bobby Colomby and Keyboard Wizard Bob James (James Produced and provided the liner notes for his debut album) – Californian Khan quickly proved his sessionman mettle with his debut "Tightrope" followed by "The Blue Man" (both 1978) and then "Arrows" in 1979. After a brief stint with Arista in 1980 for the "Evidence" LP – we pick up here in 1981 for "Eyewitness" on Antilles Records.

All songs are Jazz Fusion instrumentals firmly in the groove of Funky – stuff like the sexily slinky 7:28 of "Where's Mumphrey?" and the bedroom-loving 8:25 of "Dr. Slump" feels like George Benson, George Duke and Narada Michael Walden got together and decidedly to get well – funky. His stunning feel and playing on "Dr. Slump" alone is worth the price of admission (don't let the corny name put you off). It sounds like the love child of John Mayer meets Robin Trower (Trower circa "In City Dreams" and "Caravan To Midnight") – one long Soulful smooch solo that would reduce even the most resilient of ladies to the lurve quivers. It's properly fabulous stuff and the remaster truly gorgeous. The trio on Side 2 of "Auxiliary Police", "Guy Lafleur" and "Eyewitness" also allow the drumming and percussion of both Jordan and Badrena to shine – completing what is probably his most perfect album in the genre. Sweet as...

I've never heard the live set "Modern Times" album before so its expertly rendered Fusion is new to me. All four tracks are in excess of ten minutes and some over twelve. My fave is the tight-as-a-politician's tax returns Drum/Bass Funk of "The Blue Shadow" which walks a tightrope between George Duke and Phil Upchurch - where Anthony Jackson slaps his Contrabass while Steve Jordan hammers those skins. Soon they're joined by Khan in what is an almost Zappa number. Recorded at "The Pit Inn" in Tokyo in Japan on the 3rd and 4th of May 1982 – the whole album was recorded using the CBS/Sony Studio Remote Unit - and man does it tell. Stunning stuff...

After the Fusion highs of one and two - the 3rd album "Casa Loco" from 1984 doesn't open promisingly – “The Breakaway” clearly hoping for some kind of crossover hit. It abandons the cool breeze feel of "Eyewitness" and goes instead for treated sound effects that sounded funky and contemporary at the time but unfortunately now sound dreadfully dated. Things improve immeasurably on the 12:37 minute title track. Originally mastered by the legendary engineer Greg Calbi (Supertramp, Paul Simon) – the audio on this sucker is awesome and also features rare vocals from Badrena as he ad-libs howls to the South American soundscapes. Written by Steve Leonard – "Penetration" tries hard but just gets lost in some ill-advised horrible rock riffage. "Some Sharks" again has vocals in Latin but ends up feeling like badly focused Santana. "Uncle Roy" swings in a Stewart Copeland Police kind of way while the finisher "The Suitcase" again feels like a scrappy Fusion-Rock tune that doesn’t know how to be one...

Even if the third album kinda lets the side down somewhat - overall this is another winner from BGO in their on-going reissues of forgotten Jazz Fusion albums that deserve a second-go-round (see my review for their first Steve Khan release "Tightrope/The BlueMan/Arrows"). Those first two albums alone are worth every penny and big-time welcome additions to the format. And fans will love the classy presentation and top-quality audio too. Out of the shadows and into the light. Nicely done indeed...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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