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Brian Auger - Happiness Heartaches (as Oblivion Express) CD (album) cover

HAPPINESS HEARTACHES (AS OBLIVION EXPRESS)

Brian Auger

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.51 | 7 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars OK, 2,5 stars if you wish!!!

Clearly BA'sOE's "album de trop", HH is one of the most insipid and syrupy album that manages to almost destroy the previous works. Indeed the MkII line-up of OE had never risen to the power of the first line-up (Mullen/McIntosh), but they had managed to score an excellent album in Closer To It, but it was all the way downhill from that moment onwards; something that even the release of two live albums in a row wasn't able to slow or hide. Part of the explanation comes from the OE reinforcements: in comes Lenny White, returning percussionist Laington, giving this an Afro-Latino feel reinforced by Litgerwood's irritating "soul" vocals (a sub-sub-sub Winwood), while ex-Jeff Beck Group Chaman takes over from the last original member (bar our fave Ogre) Barry Dean.

If anything, the album's ethnic artwork should already give you a hint as to what to expect musically, but it can't tell you how uninspired the songs are. Even in the 9-mins Spice Island, the spaces for instrumental interplay are without energy, lame, tired, soft and lacklustre. Yes, Brian has a few decent solos (rather incredibly, he's still Hamm(ond)ering away on his organ although this was 78) around the album, but you have to suffer lots of insipid music between them, and I'm not sure most progheads are up to such a "challenge". Clearly the commercial side of affairs had to be considered as well; the group probably having trouble managing to stay relevant to the industry's eyes in a rapidly changing music scene. Not sure Brian's troupe managed this (most likely not). Musically, you'd believe in a poor man's Steely Dan. If it wasn't for the closing Paging Mr McCoy (not sure he was aiming at Trane's pianist), finally some real energy, this album would be close to hypothermia, despite its Latino feel

To be a bit fairer, this album is not as bad as I make it out to be in the previous paragraph and fans of this type of music might even like it: let's face it the rhythm section has a very afro-funky-latin feel that is not suiting me, and if you like Litgerwood's insufferably mainstream vocals, this could be a fine album, aiming at a different market, but lacking the r'nb credibility despite many ethnic musicians' presence in the band. Brian's original rock fans having by now mostly turned away, this album probably accelerating the process.

Definitely not Brian's best moment in his lengthy career, this album is his trial at finding a new escape door, but as long as Litgerwood was around. Although the album is not really bad per se, it's best to avoid it. You'll probably thank me for this.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |

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