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Passport - Second Passport CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.42 | 51 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Saxophone ace Klaus Doldinger's second PASSPORT album saw the band, in 1971, still trying to find its musical feet. Unlike the more refined electronic jazz rock of their upcoming albums the sound here is closer to pure fusion, if that isn't an oxymoron, and surprisingly funky coming from a quartet of such scruffy looking young Germans (the blond, bespectacled Doldinger is the notable exception to the group's hirsute grooming policy at the time).

But a certain focus was still lacking at this early, embryonic stage of their career. It would take another few albums for technology to catch up with Doldinger's ambitions, judging from the yardstick of this album's limited keyboard array: mostly primitive electric pianos and clavinets, with a few modest synthesizer runs and a little un-credited mellotron flute.

And the band itself still needed some fine tuning. The lean, clean voice of Doldinger's trademark tenor/soprano saxophone is, as always, the axis around which everything turns, but the classic PASSPORT line-up wouldn't emerge until the album "Looking Through", two years later. In retrospect the obvious weak link here is drummer Brian Spring, a serviceable musician for the time but no match for the nimble pyrotechnics of his replacement, the amazing Curt Cress.

Still, the music shows a youthful vitality that can still be invigorating, from the upbeat, toe-tapping energy of the album opener "Mandragora" to the playful curtain closer "The Cat From Katmandu" (love that title). "Fairy Tale" is a luminous, luxurious vamp on a well-known traditional melody, with a cool ersatz bossa-nova vibe to recommend it, and John Mealing's over-cranked organ solo over the slow, heavy 3/4 shimmy of "Registration O" wouldn't be out of place on an early CAN or AMON DÜÜL recording. The latter half of the album (Side Two, on my still pristine vinyl copy) in particular stretches out more, with extra room allowed for open improvisation.

It was never too challenging an album, even its day, but this is easily the best of PASSPORT's early releases (at any rate it's the only one I still own, which says pretty much the same thing), and the music is a pleasant change of pace from the copy-cat trends of most European Prog Rock. Plus it sports another cover of unique, Magritte- inspired surrealism from the same Hamburg art studio that designed all of the group's classic '70s albums, each of them as distinctive a hallmark as Roger Dean's work would prove to be for YES.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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