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Nucleus - Ian Carr: Belladonna CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.79 | 54 ratings

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5 stars "Belladonna" is the end product of the first upheaval in Nucleus' storied career, and as par for the course of cheeky British humor, the title refers to a deadly poison that can either kill or cure! The previous album Solar Plexus had already instituted some alternative directions, a jazzier approach with less rock and less Chris Spedding guitar with Ian Carr doing all the songwriting, leaving Karl Jenkins to play more and not write. Both these gents would leave, with Allan Holdsworth and Dave MacRae now joining the core. The rhythm section has been completely revamped as well, au revoir Messieurs Clyne and Marshall, welcome Roy Babbington and Clive Thacker. Add guest pianist Gordon Beck and percussionist Trevor Tomkins and boom, a new line-up! Wholesale changes can be a perilous move but the makeover succeeded in maintaining a certain fusion sound which was still in its infancy stages, searching for its own fold in the rock clouds. "Belladonna" is a new chapter in the Nucleus progression and one I simply find irresistible and like my co- conspirator mellotron storm, this is my fave after the eminence of "We'll Talk About it Later".

The title track lifts off from the ramp and ventures forward on a 13 minute plus excursion into the fusion laboratory, slithering Trevor Tomkins (of future Gilgamesh repute) percussives flirting with the mellifluous trumpet from Mr. Carr. If an example is needed to convey the importance of the bass guitar in a jazz-rock context, one of my all-time favorites Roy Babbington provides the rationale with a funky and incessant bass pattern that is inexorably affixed to the streaming beat, forcing the various other instruments to latch onto the groove and play to their hearts content. The windblown instruments gust ferociously while Holdsworth's fretboard scratches below the surface, lying in wait as his lunge will happen later, all the antagonists bulging into an organized form of cacophony that is just beguiling. When the sonic clouds part towards the end and give way to a gentle breeze that recalls the intro, there is a sense of lusty sensuality that parallels the music, oozing a certain afterglow that comes after good loving.

"Summer Rain" is another laid back piece where the sensational e-piano mirrors the sound of droplets hammering at the windows, roving bass and obedient drums carve out a cool rhythm that showcases Kiwi Dave MacRae's fabulous mastery of the evocative keyboard instrument. Inspiring to say the least, torturing a piano into believing it's a synth!

"Remadione" continues on the same brilliant principle, after a brief intro that has no forewarning of the upcoming deluge, the lads kick into a muscular attack, Babbington's rugged bass lighting up the stage for Holdsworth to finally show is considerable mettle, where speed and technique are welded together by emotion, proof of what a stellar guitarist he was and would continue to become.

"Mayday" has the urgency of a horny teenager, mindboggling guitar wristings that moisten the dissonant platform, Brian Smith's sax blaring like some allegedly unwilling partner but in fact, in heat from the start. This is real good music, kids!

Wondering why I salivate at the mere mention of Babbington? Well "Suspension" proves it without pomp or circumstance, as this one take masterpiece proves, the man just treats his discreet instrument like a leader, non content to merely follow like good lad. He sets the tone. When one has such a perfectly groomed highway to travel on, it comes to no surprise that Carr delivers his finest trumpet solo ever. Unreal impressions of utter glee.

To close off this complete masterpiece, "Hector's House" has by now the band gunning on all cylinders, a well-oiled Nucleus (pffff! That was easy) of dedicated performers, creating timeless music where the whole is just as good as the solo parts but when Holdsworth takes aim, his machine-gun playing is truly remarkable, a preface of things to come. Descriptive? Fast, heavy, metallic, fluid and just plain devastating.

There are rare times when giddy laughter takes over as I listen to some marvel and it's not derogatory at all. Au contraire, the panicky laugh is just a defense mechanism rooted in disbelief. Nucleus does that to me, in so many different ways and for so long now, reminding me that like Bach, Mozart, Bartok or Liszt, good music is a timeless reflection of one's innermost feelings and as such a welcome relief to our judgmental, cold and hypocritical daily routine.

5 undisputed pretty ladies

PS This one is for you John Davie!

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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