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Weather Report - Heavy Weather CD (album) cover

HEAVY WEATHER

Weather Report

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.68 | 185 ratings

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thehallway
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Weather Report took some twists and turns during their career, Joe Zawinul's increasing focus on the poppier side of jazz being one of them. In between the realms of ultra-cheesy pop and groovy fusion is where the best of the band's music lies, with Heavy Weather probably being the defining album of this period. Because of the line-up, and the synchronised peaking of the songwriters' talents, it is fairly agreed upon that this was the band's crowning glory; not just their finest work, but the album that launched them into a new level of stardom and artistic respect.

Hit single 'Birdland' is primarily responsible for this, opening the record with a groovy bang and a plethora of unforgettable melodies. There has not since been such a good example of a jazz instrumental that you can 'sing along' to. The piece also broadcasts Zawinul's genius harmonically and rhythmically. His more laid-back ballad 'A Remark You Made' only confirms the power of the five-man group, albeit in an entirely more stylistically varied way. Wayne Shorter's tasteful sax licks, Joe's keyboard and synth dabbling and Jaco Pastorius' virtuosic fretless bass always share the limelight three ways, which is undoubtedly more interesting than when members of bands take it in turns to really play well (and play mediocre backing for the rest of the time). These guys have a unique and consistent balance between soloing and backing, such that none of them are ever really doing either. It's a teamwork that is rarely seen in jazz.

Pastorius offers 'Teen Town' as a vehicle for spouts of syncopated bass and sax, driven by relentless percussion and drums. The closer to side one, 'Harlequin', is not up there with the band's best work, lacking a great melody or rhythm to focus in on. Still, the song has some quality playing and interchanges. 'Rumba Mama' was recorded live, and showcases drummer Acuña and percussionist Badrena doing their thing. They prove that what they bring to the table is really what completes Weather Report; without their thick walls of syncopated rhythm, the band wouldn't have half of it's characteristic drive and energy.

'Palladium' is Shorter's finest composition in my opinion, exchanging a variety of grooves and melodies in an explosive atmosphere, it's progressive structure lending itself towards the carnival- esque climax where steel drums hammer out the main melody. The saxophonist has always been known for his handling of harmony, and there is no shortage of that here either; it should have closed the album! Zavinul's 'The Juggler' is very sweet, with acoustic guitar adding something really special, while the finale belongs to 'Havona', Jaco Pastorius' first major composition. It's a driving piece of music with great bass and chords, but maybe that's it.

In some ways, Heavy Weather is just a high-quality songbook, where other Weather Report albums have been more flowing and thematic. That works in it's favour though, because of the aforementioned surge in writing ability from the band's main writers, as well as their consistent virtuosity when playing together, their chemistry, and their diverse handling of moods. There is little on the album I would change, apart from the running order perhaps. Would I even classify it as jazz? I would classify it as a landmark piece of art that drew upon jazz, amongst other, more modern musical styles.

thehallway | 5/5 |

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