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Brian Auger - Closer To It! (as Oblivion Express) CD (album) cover

CLOSER TO IT! (AS OBLIVION EXPRESS)

Brian Auger

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.68 | 14 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

After the solid reconsidering of their musical direction after the disputable Better Land, You'd have thought that our favourite Ogre would've been pleased with the much better (and aptly-titled) Second Wind, Brian surprises everyone by getting rid of almost everyone on his band bar bassist Dean. Gone are Mullen, McIntosh and new-coming Litgerwood (which IMHO was always irksome with his high- perched voice) and in is the percussive duo of Lennox Laington and Godfrey McLean, while unknown ills ruffles the strings. While this album has come out under three different artwork (including the luggage photo), the blue and silver train (on wheels!!) artwork is the one to remember and it would represent the band's logo for the few years to come.

Clearly the percussive ideas emanating from the group Santana were making inroads within a few English groups: first Traffic with Low Spark and Kwaaku Reebop's arrival and now BA'sOE with Lennox. This changed the Express' sound immediately to a more Latin feel, often referring to Santana's absolute masterpiece Caravanserai. Right from the moment the needle lands on the wax, you get your congaskin slapped a few times, telling us that indeed changes are just around the bend. With Brian resuming vocals (and never so well than on this album, if I may so say, Brian) although it was wisely buried in the final mix, Whenever You're Ready is a slow funky starter, but Brian's incredible crescendo on the organ builds the track to pure heaven that the lyrics (never Brian's strength either) don't seem to matter and Auger raises the tension by saturating a tad more his organ when needed between verses, dropping it during them. Masterful. The following Happiness is a long semi-funky groove that wears its name quite well, because the positive nature of the music is really bringing Happiness Around The Bend, especially the great Laington congas rolls up and down your speakers and Brian's electric piano finger running up and down the scales of your skin. Light On The Path is returning to a more Santana-esque spirit right from the delicious intro, and if Brian does Rollie excellently, Mills pulls in a credible (but no-more) Carlos, but nevertheless the track is a standout on an album loaded with them. Brian opens the flipside with a reprise of McCann's sardonic Compared To What, which is deceptively simple at first, but when deciphering the ever-increasing tension... Ever heard Brian play the mellotron? Jump on the Inner City Blues train (that right, the Gaye one) and hear him toy gently away at it. You can imagine that such a slow response instrument as the mellotron wouldn't be very suited to our favourite Ogre's furious playing and rapid-fire fingers. Well, I've no recollection of Brian ever using it again, but here his mellotron layers are very considerate and bring depth. The closing Voices Of Other Times track is again in the Santana realm, but Brian's vocals seem to point out to an era that has yet to come for Carlos' gang. If it were not for Brian's Hammond, you'd probably think of Santana's Amigos album from 76, with Mills failing to convince us, but was it not lost in advance??

Although a rather short album, Closer To It can be considered Brian's Closest To IT, because of the infinitely positive vibes exuding from this album. Easily Brian's top album, he still plays a mot f tracks from this album in concerts three decades later. In some ways, Brian's second Oblivion Express hit the summit on the first try, but itwould be downhill from now on.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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