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Nucleus - Chris Spedding: Songs Without Words CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.90 | 21 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars Who could believe when Chris "Punk Motorcycle Mama" Spedding was actually a jazz guitarist first and foremost? Indeed, having passed through the ranks of the Battered Ornaments, both with and without their leader and "Beat Poet" Pete Brown (he got sacked from his own band the day before their Hyde Park concert), and then as the amazing junior guitarist of Nucleus (for the first three albums), where he became the first member to leave to start his solo career. Songs Without Words is his very first album, which for some strange reasons only got a Japanese release. So a full year before his "official" debut Backwood Progressions (don't be fooled by the name, it is anything but prog), this absolutely fabulous record was the next logical step to Nucleus and the line-up he managed to assemble for this album is simply stunning, even if there are no "stars", and there is not one single weaker moment through the album. Graced with a stunning artwork (the back cover is equally awesome), this album is one of those true lost progressive jazz rock gems.

Very few details (maybe more in Japanese) are given on the lone and sole Japanese CD re-issue (the "Progressive Rock Series) of the early 90's), and even the full line-up is difficult to read, but the recently deceased Paul Rutherford is on trombone, Nucleus' John Marshall is on drums, and either Potter or Mitchell are on bass and keyboards.

Starting out on an old Battered Ornaments composition (Pete Brown is credited as well), the first minute gives you an idea of the tone of the album to come: inventive jazz-rock with some improvised with plenty of superb interplay and outstanding soloing. The 14-min Station Song is a stunning piece where Rutherfiord's trombone shares the lead role with Spedding's guitar, and it even manages to steal the spotlight. The unrepresentative Plain Song is an incredibly stunning acoustic guitar and bowed contrabass, joined later by a wild over-saturated sax, are inducing spine chills, goosebumps and tears of joy. Too bad this track is the only one of the genre on this album, because as unrepresentative of the album, it certainly is the main highlight.

The 9-min Song Of The Deep starts out on a much jazzier tone, which could be a bit repelling at first, but the band soon has the track veering into a full-blown avant-garde jazz, without going too dissonant, even if Rutherford and Spedding are giving it their all. Another pure example of mastery of their subject. The only track that was written as a group effort is Forest Of Fable picks up where Deep had left it at, and is a collective improvisation going bonkers and atonal. New Song Of Experience is a piano- driven exploration where all the musicians are giving their all in order to keep the original idea on track and ultimately fail and end the song in complete chaos! Once again simply stunning!! The closing I thought I heard Rovbert Johnson Say starts very slowly but as a natural consequence of the previous track's disorder. But soon the band has the track going bonkers and at the limit of rupture, only to slowly die out as a phenomenal album like this one should have.

If you've ever heard the trombone never so well put upfront, jump on this album, as I can only think of Quebec's prog folk group Brèche and their sole album, where that instrument gets so much attention. Oh, BTW, Mr. "Motorcycle Mama" Spedding hates this album and never intended it for release, so it got a Japan-only release, fortunately without him being aware of it!! Yes, "Mr Rockabilly-punk freak" Spedding , you wouldn't know a good album if you recorded one. And it just so happens that those jazz- inflicted records of the late 60's-early 70's are the only worthy records, you've ever done in your life! Most of your rock career was nothing but a bloody waste of your rather exceptional guitar-playing talent. Just thought that one day, you might get to read this and take the full slap in your face to come back to reality! A real masterpiece if you ask me, and the progheads and jazz- rock fans who have heard this will easily agree!!

Sean Trane | 5/5 |


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