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Nucleus - Ian Carr with Nucleus: Labyrinth CD (album) cover

IAN CARR WITH NUCLEUS: LABYRINTH

Nucleus

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.61 | 50 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars With this awful artwork sleeve depicting heroic-fantasy cartoon, we're dealing maybe with the lower point of Nucleus's often brilliant discography. Obviously unable to keep a stable line-up for now (as most of his older group members had fled to Soft Machine), and after Ian's solo album of Belladona, Labyrinth will be presented as Ian Carr With Nucleus, until he found a more stable group. With only Smith and Babbington remaining from Belladona (with Babbington about to leave for SM also) and with Wheeler (who had appeared as a guest in Solar Plexus), this line-up lacks cohesion and it really shows in the music. At times, the musos are so cacophonic, that it sounds really under-rehearsed, despite having some of the best London Jazz Scene guests, like Gordon Back, Tony Coe or Norma Winstone. This album is again pulled from a commissioning order around the Minotaur myth.

Opening on the fairly dissonant Origins (obviously representing the chaos of the genesis), the album stabilizes on the spell-binding and groove-friendly Bull-Dance. However, Labyrinth sinks quite low with the near-atrocious Ariadne, first with a dissonant piano (courtesy of Beck), then one of Winstone's less inspired performance in the 70's in the second part. On the flipside, the two-parts Arena returns to dissonant free-jazz stuff in the opening movement, while the brass slowly elevate the nascent groove, only to let it croak in a dissonance death. The happy-sounding up-beat Exultation features some much-better (and improvised) Winstone vocals, slowly ending in a slightly dissonant chaos, before reviving it for another merry-go-round spin, then having a drum-fest courtesy of the old RCQ buddy Tomkins and Trinity Thacker. The closing Naxos features Coe's bass clarinet and gives a third shot at Norma. Along with Julie Driscolll (by now Tippetts) Norma Winstone is one of those 70's British jazz vocalist that had some very (many) interesting moments; but clearly here, it is not one of them.

For confirmed fans of Nucleus only, but then again, even Nucleus' worse albums are always quite interesting and certainly worthy of an investigation, before deciding to pass up on it. Because it is hooked up with another not-so-strong Roots album, the BGO 2on2 reissue of Labyrinth is not the first choice of Nucleus, but one day, I'll find time to own it.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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