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Brian Auger - Straight Ahead (as Oblivion Express) CD (album) cover


Brian Auger


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.31 | 21 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Whatever took Brian to break up in MkI Express, he seemed content enough to keep the MkII line-up together for a while only making small arrangements such as Ferrone replacing McLean on the drum stool. To say that Brian was trying to emulate or duplicate the artistic success of Closer To It, would be a gross exaggeration. In spite of a thunderous train-tunnel artwork and its inaptly-titled Straight Ahead (whom would point to the same rapid 200 MPH cruising seed of his Oblivion Express train past), but here we're aboard a suburbs omnibus train, unable to pick up enough speed despite the few tracks along the way and the relative length between the stations.

Although hinting at Santana's realm, even the percussions don't have the right energy level and once Brian comes in on vocals, you just know that the following 9-mins will a rough time to stay awake. Don't get me wrong Brian's electric piano is fantastic, but the groove is a real bore and the group almost slips into lukewarm cool/fusion with a dreaded percussion/drum duet to nail the coffin shut. Much more interesting is the recycling of Bumpin' On Sunset (already done during the Trinity days, but here in a better version, even if it overstays a bit (11 minutes) its welcome by the time the needle rises from the wax slice. Indeed, the group find instantly its slow cool, neat groove and stay in it for the duration (just like they'd done with Total Eclipse on the debut Oblivion album), giving our favourite Ogre plenty of space to expand, yet not much happens, Brian's use of strings synth being no more convincing than his spell with the Mellotron on the previous album. Not a bad track per se, but lacking the energy for you avoiding the plunge into snoozeland.

While the flipside starts with a surge of energy with the funky title track and most likely the only one that would fit on the previous CTI album, it is a brilliant track with Mills maybe finding its best use. The 8-mins Change is again almost worthy of the CTI because of its energy level, but again the funk element is probably responsible of it and here the percussion break kicks ass, the whole thing being only vaguely similar to Santana, this time. While the flipside was out to repair much the damage done of the A-side, unfortunately the closing Dean-penned muddy ballad You'll Stay In My Heart crushes whatever hopes you had to have anther album close to four stars, instead sensibly lowering the rating to a definite non-essental level.

Soooooooooo, was Closer To It an accident, or did Brian ever consider doing an album sounding like the previous one? Can't blame the man for refusing to play it safe, but this implies taking risks and increasing the chances of hitting the bull's eye. Anf indeed, such was the case here.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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