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Weather Report - Sweetnighter CD (album) cover

SWEETNIGHTER

Weather Report

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.72 | 97 ratings

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daveconn
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Sweetnighter has been called a "transitional" record, which is what polite critics say when good bands make erratic albums. Little if anything on here comes up during a discussion of the band's best work, yet like Miles Davis' sessions from the late '60s listeners have pored over these songs looking to connect the musical genius to the music itself. What sets Sweetnighter apart from other Weather Report albums (and in fact ultimately defines the effort) are two extended pieces from Zawinul, "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and "125th Street Congress," that feature the band riffing over funky grooves in a sort of stationary workout. The former features a wah-wah guitar effect from Zawinul (who seems intent on re-inventing his instrument for each track here), only revealing the musical ghost in the machine at the end. On "125th Street Congress," it's Wayne Shorter's turn to take the lead with some lightning-fast solos drawn from the fount of Miles, the song underpinned all the while by Andrew White's remarkably funky bass line. Though some critics have suggested that the softer, flightier compositions in between give the record variety and balance, for me the scales are irretrievably tipped to the weightier tracks. Shorter's predictably sentimental "Manolete" is too sleepy by design to penetrate our consciousness, even when the percussion rattles in our head like a Mexican jumping bean. Zawinul's "Adios" is a pleasant nod to Coltrane's ethereal experimentation, but clocking in at under three minutes it's ultimately no more than an intermission. The one song that actually does serve to balance the extended funk jams is Miroslav Vitous' "Will." More substantive than "Adios," this track benefits from Zawinul's mesmerizing tones, perhaps serving as a direct inspiration for some of the music on Brian Eno's landmark Another Green World. The mysterious "Non-Stop Home" closes things out, driven by the dual engines of drummers Eric Gravatt and Herschel Dwellingham while Zawinul and Shorter carry out a musical dialogue on some different plane. Recorded in the first week of February, the songs on Sweetnighter are no more than catalysts for Zawinul and the band to experiment with new sounds and explore rockier (or at least funkier) terrain. With two drummers and two percussionists (Muruga, Dom Um Romao), the rhythms are more pronounced than usual, which can be seen as confining (especially in contrast to the liberating influence of Jaco Pastorius). Labelling Sweetnighter a transitional effort belies the point that Weather Report was always a band in transition. It's an interesting piece of the puzzle, if not an integral one.
daveconn | 3/5 |

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