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Lenny White - Venusian Summer CD (album) cover

VENUSIAN SUMMER

Lenny White

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.78 | 21 ratings

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Logan
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4 stars Men are from Mars, sexy women are from Venus ... it being summer, they can forego clothes... I've always been interested in astronomy and have often trained my telescope on Venus, beats looking at Uranus, so I do know what I'm talking about, butt I digress.

Speaking of Venusians, what a beautiful album cover. It's the kind of imagery that I would like to paint on the side of my van cum love-mobile. It has wall-to-wall carpeting by the way -- I better stop this train of thought now before this review, I use the term loosely, gets completely off the wall and I get put up against the wall.

Lenny White is the drummer who played on the seminal album by Miles Davis, "Bitches Brew", and also played on the most excellent, musically better than "Bitches Brew" in my opinion, "Red Clay" by Freddie Hubbard. He also performed on Eddie Henderson's masterpiece, and I believe one of the greatest albums in JRF, "Realization" (which is what initially drew me to explore Lenny White albums). In fact, Lenny White has played with a great many of the jazz, and jazz fusion greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Benny Maupin, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, various Return to Forever guys obviously, but we forgive him ;), and Larry Coryell. This album and "Adventures of Astral Pirates" are my favourites under his name.

What particularly makes this album special is the "Venusian Summer Suite", and how sweet it is! It ranks amongst my favourite pieces of music in the jazz-rock universe, and this is the heart of the album. It starts off in an electronic, cosmic, and beautiful manner that is reminiscent of western art music composers such as Holst and Debussy (in fact, I thought I recognised the specific theme -- maybe not that original but still so wonderful). It is very much a Dr. Patrick Gleeson slice and it is his contribution that makes the opening so superb. It transitions fantastically into stirring, exciting, exhilarating (now I'm being really exasperating) jazz-funk. What a great track; one of the best in jazz-rock/electronic, and it should appeal to those who love music such as Herbie Hancock's "Sextant" and "Crossings" as well as Bennie Maupin albums -- adding this suite to a cosmic funk session (playlist) with tracks such as Bennie Maupin's 'Quasar' (the version from "Slow Traffic to the Right"), Eddie Henderson's 'Galaxy' off "Sunburst", 'Languidity' from Sun-Ra, and similar funky cosmic excursions is an epic thing to do.

If the whole album was up to the standards of the "Venusian Summer Suite" this album would get a five from me. It's not, but there is more to get pretty excited about.

"Chicken Fried Steak" and "Away Goes Trouble Down the Train" is good, fun and enjoyable, but nothing terribly remarkable. Pretty standard bluesy jazz-rock and rather boring for me. If you like electric guitar-oriented music and pretty bog-standard blues and rock-and-roll, this might hold considerable appeal. I still find it fun, but while these these pieces have their moments, I have tended to skip them. Still, it presents another side to the music and gives contrast, so as part of the album package, it makes the album better. Erm, sort of. Still, not the greatest start for an album for me. Of course things soon improve with the 'suite' that follows.

"Prelude to a Rainbow Delta", another very Gleesonish work (I'm pretty sure Gleeson composed it as well as performed), is a wonderful and short ambient electronic piece. It's reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and ilk (also hear such forays with Art Zoyd and Patricia Dallio's electronic work).

"Mating Drive" is terrific, driving JRF which starts off in the electronic world like "Venusian Summer Suite" then picks up steam -- strong technical drumming by White if not terribly imaginative (his drumming, though good technically does generally fail to particularly appeal as I don't find him to be a very creative drummer). Still, a damned fine "rockin" piece with enough jazz-funk to satisfy.

The final track, "Prince of the Sea" is also very good and rockin' jazz-rock (maybe a little too rockin'/ electric guitar oriented for me). Hardly a favourite track in jazz-rock fusion, but well-done. I wish it had more of an experimental edge, but very good never-the-less for what it is. I do wish it had more subtlety; however, it is still an excellent piece of jazz-rock and definitely enjoyable for me. I expect this would be the highlight of the album for quite a few. If you love Al Di Meola's electric guitar style, and like shredding or whatever you'd call this guitar-style. then you'll love this. This is the track I'd recommend to those into power metal and guitar hero music since the guitar style is reminiscent of shredding and hints of Eddie van Halen et cetera. I love the way it ends with a gong and seagulls -- pretty Zen (and maybe a touch cliché)

I'm giving this album a four because I do think it's very well-executed and it has some great music on it. Just for the "Venusian Summer Suite" alone I think this is pretty essential. Lowlights for me include guitar-work which is just not altogether my style (Coryell does good work on this, but I feel like Al Di Meola is not that 'elegant' here). The highlights include the electronics, great jazz-funk, and fine keyboard work.

On the whole I prefer "Astral Pirates," but this has such great music included that this is the most essential work I've heard from Lenny White's self-named albums. However, it has too many "mainstream" moments for me to consider this whole work amazing and, as if with a lot of jazz-rock, the compositions can suffer from overdone instrumental showmanship.

One I'd definitely recommend to many, but not so much, considering the bulk of the album, to those who prefer their jazz more experimental (as I often do). If you're more mainstream-oriented, then this could appeal hugely and open up new musical passions, but there's music for most everyone to really enjoy.

Logan | 4/5 |

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