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Ohm - Circus of Sound CD (album) cover

CIRCUS OF SOUND

Ohm

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.58 | 10 ratings

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Negoba
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Pour a Little More Rock in that Fusion Stew

Ohm: is one of, if not THE, best modern jazz fusion outfit in America right now. The band actually has roots to the late 70's when Chris Poland, Rob Pagliari, Gar and Stu Samuelson played in a L.A. fusion group called the New Yorkers. They were considered a group of prodigies at the time and in the early 80's Gar and then Poland were tapped for the first incarnation of Megadeth. Years later, following rehab and around the time of best friend Gar's death, Poland decided to return to his roots with Rob Pagliari resulting in the amazing Ohm:. Several drummers have rotated through the group, most notably Ginger Baker's son Kofi, who plays on the second half of the disc here, Circus of Sound.

Where the songs on their debut disc had been incubating and maturing live for a very long time, tracks for subsequent albums have been written and recorded with more spontaneity. Amino Acid Flashback sees the band in a softer jazz vein than the debut, and 2008's Circus of Sound moves the other direction, cranking the distortion a little, and rocking a bit harder. This is sure to please fans who came via the Poland / Megadeth connection as this disc is the closest of the three to sounding like Joe Satriani. At the same time, as the album moves through three different drummers, it also settles back toward jazzier beats and the sound that Ohm: fans have become accustomed to.

After almost wearing the debut disc out, I was a little unsure about this one at first. The compositions aren't quite as developed on a few songs (more jamming), and some of the drumming is a little more straight (rock) than complex (jazz). The spotlight is even more firmly on Poland than ever, not that he doesn't earn it. In fact, he plays like a demon. His huge palette of tones, courtesy of an amazing touch and enormous rack, is on display though his core soloing tone sounds a little more like a guitar and less like a sax / keyboard as it does on earlier albums. Poland's trademarks are smooth-as-silk speed legato runs, unparalleled articulation including microtonal bending, and very individual note choice and phrasing. His playing continues to improve and his work on this record may well be his best.

Despite 53 minutes and 14 songs, the album never gets stale. The music actually spans fairly widely from aggression to tenderness to funky fun. The compositions continue to be very good, and there is no doubt this is a band, not just a solo artist. Pagliari's fretless acrobatics are excellent as always, and he incorporates more effects this time around, including wah. The three drummers are all excellent, with Kofi Baker not surprisingly sounding the most at home with the trio. At the same time, both Joel Taylor and Frank Briggs are seasoned veterans and contribute their own color (Taylor's is more in the pocket rock, while Briggs more acrobatic and funky).

After giving this disc the repeated listens it deserves, I like it very much, and I'm very appreciative that the band was able to produce three albums that simultaneously have a unified sound between then and still each have their own distinct flavoring. I actually gave this album 5 stars at first but over time I've found myself reaching for the debut album much more often. Its compositions are just a little more robust, and the record a bit more band oriented. Still, this record is excellent and highly recommended.

Negoba | 4/5 |

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