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Tony Williams Lifetime - Emergency CD (album) cover

EMERGENCY

Tony Williams Lifetime

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.65 | 18 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Certainly one of the most groundbreaking albums in the PA database, along with The Nice's debut and a few others, many people signal this album as the birth of jazz-rock, although some will point out that if it was released before Bitches Brew, it was released after In A Slilent Way, where Tony Williams and McL met. And to be truthful, I'm not sure we can actually call this album jazz-rock, but more something like psych-jazz. It also has the reputation of being one of the worst & amateurly recorded albums ever, and even a semi- recent remastering job can't help that much has to erase some almost unforgivable errors as buzzing amps and other noises, but it's also part of the legendary rawness of this project that was about breaking new grounds and uncharted musical continents. So there is plenty of risk-taking and this inevitably leads to some lesser moments or even flawed ventures. So if we have here one of the most adventurous album around that time, and despite it's historical importance, we must be indulgent on its negative sides, which can be hard to ignore at times.

Although IASW was not Williams' last album with Miles (he would appear on one track in BB), Tony felt it was time to fly on his own and he took with him still unknown (despite also playing on IASW) McL and organist Larry Young to found the raw trio of Lifetime. In take it that the bass is played on pedals or Young's organ. As awfully recorded Emergency was, the album was critically acclaimed by the press, despite the horrible sound, and while the latest Cd reissue is an improvement over the vinyl and the first Cd issue, but there is plenty that simply couldn't be dealt with, especially Young's malfunctioning organ (actually the studio's organ).

If the title track starts out the album jazz enough it digresses often into weird psych phrases, without referring to rock, while the following Beyond Games (sung "iffily" by Tony) does have a rockier background, mostly due to McL's electric guitar, but overall the dominant aspect interfering with the jazz is the psychedelic spirit, more than rock or psych rock. . There are some real lengths and indulgences on this album (much more than in the next two) that are making you wonder if they shouldn't have tried for a single crammed to the brim disc.. I am aiming here at the 12-mins Where and Sangria For Three. Don't get me wrong, there are some real tracks, as in songs, on the album: the Carla Bley's Vashkar immediately preceding the impressive Spectrum Road track, but they never seem in a hurry to close, always looking for an occasion to improvise or jam.

Certainly a groundbreaking album, but when listened to in the wrong context, it can also be couple-breaking if you insist playing it during mating sessions or lunch-heaving if you did your mayonnaise during the spinning of Emergency!! It had been roughly 15 years since I'd heard Emergency prior to writing this review and after these three listen, let's bet it'll be another 15 years before I go back and spin it. This first "dirty" album is a bit the anti-thesis of what is usually thought as a very slick and clean jazz-rock of what was to come in Weather report, RTF or even with McL's next project, MO.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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