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Larry Coryell - The Free Spirits: Out of Sight and Sound CD (album) cover


Larry Coryell


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.42 | 21 ratings

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4 stars Larry Coryell Leads Us into 'The Next Big Thing' With this Jazzy, Soulful Rock Group!

I hadn't realized until today, while getting ready to listen through and review another by the great Larry Coryell, that The Free Spirits was neatly tucked away as part of his discography: I accept! It really can't be understated the sheer monumental necessity of early albums such as this one, Out of Sight and Sound, this short-lived group's sole release. [See my note below for some of my usual recommendations in the pantheon of early Jazz Rock/Fusion. This will be a review of the 2006 remaster edition with one bonus track.]

In the most rambunctious, high-energy way possible, Out of Sight starts off with "Don't Look Now", with rapid drumming and a mix that is filled out from headphone to headphone. The horns are awesome. There's something about the vocal melodies that speak more to whiteness, sounding a bit like Roots Rock (or a bit like the Rolling Stones, really). As I feel is true for much of this album, given its time and place, it's hard to say how much this will appeal to the Fusion fandom as 'pure' Jazz Fusion. Up next is a favorite of mine. "I'm Gonna Be Free", with Coryell playing, according to liner notes, an actual sitar, is naturally a psychedelic Raga-inspired piece! Drums are minimal and cymbal-based as the bass, sitar and guitar drone beneath, playing some two or three chords. The solo instrument heard throughout, even during verses, is flute performed by Jim Pepper. Good melodies.

"Ibod" is next with a sparse verse over soft acoustic guitar arpeggios and a booming bassline. The use of the horn section as it comes in around minute 1 is just delicious. Ultimately, this is a Blues number. Again, quite like it, but it isn't what we know of as 'Fusion', and at most barely passes for what we know as 'Jazz Rock' [not so uncommon throughout]. Up next, for a positive turn, we have "Sunday Telephone", which has a lot going for it! This has awesome vocal and instrumental melody (Got the hook!), a groovy beat and then... Pepper brings on the tenor sax for an at-first free solo. This is followed by a Beat-inspired (like, maybe Beatles-inspired) guitar solo and riff. Continuing in this admittedly Psychedelic/Jangle Pop-inspired style, we have "Blue Water Mother". For another angle, if "Sunday Telephone" sounded like proto-Gong [as it did to me], this song could be a Soft Machine tune. Great melody, which is itself jumbled up during the verses with... just a weird cacophony of vocals at times. Decent harmonies, though.

Returning to The East, we have "Girl of the Mountain", which sort of shifts into Western folksy. Nice vocal performance from, I assume, Chip Baker. Some more great, memorable melodies, but all over a very light, clean ensemble. Overall, it was fleeting. And then we pick things back up with the guitar-driven "Cosmic Daddy Dancer". Close harmonies rap over a quick, at times wild, beat as Larry solos on top. Then we get a much- welcomed sax solo from Pepper, as he flies across the left-side speaker. I think folks'll like this'n. The next one is likely my favorite from The Free Spirits, "Bad News Cat". This song just has a great melody, with killer close harmonies. Maybe sonically similar to the Mod Soul of early The Who? Or like the Small Faces? Anyway, I love this one. Jazzy Pop Rock, basically.

"Storm" is a sultry number. I love these vocals! Geeze. Pepper returns to soloing on flute, over a sort of Bossa Nova something. Seriously, simply delish. This is followed by "Early Mornin' Fear". Again with the great close harmonies(!), this one has sort of an R&B vibe. And then we get a searing, then blissful sax solo. Super rockin' at the end! Yeeeee!!! Total shift in feeling then on the soft, sweet, melancholic "Angels Can't Be True". Not a fantastic song, in my opinion, but the saxophone, as should now come as no surprise, is just great. Its strongest moments are in what sound like the bridge, approaching minute 2. "Tattoo Man" next is a pretty great White R&B track. Bobby Moses on drums really shines here; he's had his moments, but it's really workin' here. Finally, we have the bonus track "I Feel a Song", which has a very live sound to it. The vocals and guitar are echoey and distant and the result is much muddier and lo-fi. Nice sound. I feel I detect piano? It's hard to say. The ending is quite cool, to say the least.

Despite this album coming down for me to an exact True Rate of 3.5/5.0 track-to-track averaged, I wholeheartedly believe in the significance of this album: Excellent addition, ladies and gentlemen. An excellent addition. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Though preceding most all Fusion, The Free Spirits' Out of Sight and Sound is contemporary to the absolute earliest that Jazz Fusion and Jazz Rock had to offer in the late-60s: Duster and Lofty Fake Anagram (Gary Burton, 1967), Child is Father to the Man and Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T, '68), Song of Innocence (David Axelrod, '68, !!!), Those Who are About to Die Salute You and Valentyne Suite (Colosseum, '69), Uncle Meat and Hot Rats (Frank Zappa), Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago, '69), Miles Davis' electric band(s) but I always think specifically Emergency! (Tony Williams, '69, !!!) and Elastic Rock (Nucleus, '70, !!!). Before even this, the only work I can ever think of truly coming before this, which I do broadly recommend--though more R&B than it is Rock--is The Graham Bond Organisation's The Sound of 65 (indeed, from '65) featuring none other than Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, even before the idea of Cream, I must assume, and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. This is always worth a mention when talking about the genre's foundations. Let's call that 'Vital Information' ;)

DangHeck | 4/5 |


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