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Bela Fleck and The Flecktones - Flight of the Cosmic Hippo CD (album) cover


Bela Fleck and The Flecktones


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.67 | 19 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Since no one else here seems to be aware of this band's presence on the site yet, I suppose I should start reviewing other releases by Mr. Fleck to continue raising the awareness.

Last time I reviewed what is thus far the most enjoyable Flecktones record I have ever heard, ''Outbound'', and if you haven't heard it yet, I suggest you go searching for it right away, as it is a true Jazz-Rock gem! This time, however, I am going to review the band's second studio release (Which happens to be the first album of theirs I ever layed ear on), ''Flight of the Cosmic Hippo''.

For starters, I should explain how I came across this band and ultimately, this album. Once upon a time, there was a troubled teen who was home-schooled his whole life untuil High-School, at which point he decided to drop out and take his GED as an alternate way of getting through his education. That kid happened tp have the same last name as Bela Fleck, so he was always asked by people around him if he was either related to, or at least knew about him. I did in fact not know who Bela Fleck was, but all of the questioning eventually led me to look him up and find out what he was all about.

Thanks to misinformation, I was led to believe that Bela Fleck was an old codger who played Bluegrass music out in the sticks. I had no idea how brilliant he truly was until one of my teachers at my GED study hall lent me a CD of her son's. That CD was ''Flight of the Cosmic Hippo''. My initial reaction was in fact not immediate praise and admiration; it took time for me to 'get' the music. Of course now I'm a huge Bela fan, and never intend to look back.

As I've said before, Howard Levy-era Flecktones isn't by any means my favorite incarnation, but his piano stylings are nice for what they are. He's not the virtuoso that the other band members are, but maybe he doesn't have to be; after all, his subtle (if not sometimes redundant) harmonica and keyboard add a nice Jazzy flavor to the otherwise straightforward pallet of sound painting present in early Flecktones music.

The band had yet to find themselves, it seems, and as a result, the compositions here very often feel unsure of themselves, remaining just a notch below the greatness they could have been. It's no doubt these guys were always talented and skilled, but their full potential would not be realized (in my opinion, anyway) until Jeff Coffin would replace Levy with his amazing Saxophone sounscapes.

What we here on 'Flight' is a slow-paced, sometimes repetetive but overall enjoyable ride that is much more experimental Bluegrass than Jazz-Rock/Fusion (the latter genre would become much more prominant in later years for the quartet). The most enjoyable tracks for me were ''Blu-Pop'', ''The Star Spangled Banner'', the very cleverly-named ''Jekyll and Hyde (and Ted and Alice)'' and ''Michelle''. But even with those solid tracks present on the record, nothing particularly jumped out at me or made me want to listen to it again and again (Something Coffin-era Flecktones does for me all the time).

I guess what I'm trying to say is . . . this album is good; certainly better than most of the pop crap out there at the time of the album's debut, but it isn't really for people of my taste. It has already begun to grow on me, and I have no doubt that I will warm up to the material sooner or later, but because it never spoke to me directly, I can;t give it any more than an average score, or else I would be lying to myself.

So ''Flight of the Csomic Hippo'' for me is worth listening to, but nowhere near the calibur later Flecktones albums would become.

3.5 out of 5 Stars. Semi-Happy listening.

JLocke | 3/5 |


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