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George Duke - Faces In Reflection CD (album) cover

FACES IN REFLECTION

George Duke

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 6 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars One of the last full JR/F albums in Duke's lengthy discography, Faces In Reflection was originally intended to be called Faces, but George had to change it in the last minute, because there was a very recent release that bore that precise title. Recorded in the scorching heat of LA and released in early 74, the album bears a superb double African mask artwork and hints at an ethnic spiritual direction, which is not really overpowering to say the least.

The album was recorded as a trio, and outside Duke on keyboards, Leon Chancler (of Santana fame amongst others) on drums and John Heard on bass, and is very reminiscent of the highly-regarded Wired-era Jeff Beck albums, despite the total absence of guitars. Duke had just bought a ARP Odyssey synth to diversify his keyboard palette, and in doing so he thought that he'd sound different than Jan Hammer's Mini Moog synth, but alas much of the album is reminiscent of the Beck-Hammer collabs. Indeed right from the opening The Opening track, one is drawn to stuff like Freeway Jam in mind, and if Capricorn offers some scatting vocals from George, we remain in the same galaxy inspiration-wise. The double Piano Solos are more classically oriented, but bear an Alice Coltrane paw as well. With Psychomatic Dung (my fave in this album), we return to Beck- Hammer territory, but bear in mind that those albums were still a few years away, so Duke inspired the duo, rather the other way. The title track is divided in two parts, each ending its own side of the vinyl, an instrumental on the A-side and a sung-version (nothing cringey) on the flipside, both in 9/8.

Heard's bass is rather funky, while Chancler drums up a storm whenever needed, but knows when to slow down to be at the service of the music. Change of tone a bit on the flipside, as the opening bossa track of Maria Tres Filhos (a cover of Nascimento's famous track) is quite Latino-sounding, but it's a bit repetitive and overstays its welcome by a full two minutes. A fully-echoplexed keyboard opens North Beach and tears up a storm almost solo in a John Martyn fashion, and while it might sound a bit dated to jaded keyboardist wizards, it's still quite adventurous, especially for the times. Da Somba returns to Hammer- Beck land but in up-tempoed samba way (hence the title) including a bass solo and a drum solo. The remaster of this album was done in Berlin in the MPS (most promising sound) technique, and the album re-issued in a mini-Lp gatefold format with a black CD disc and it's quite a nice artefact of one of the best George Duke album, the start of a long collab between him and Leon Chancler.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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