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Jean-Luc Ponty - Enigmatic Ocean CD (album) cover

ENIGMATIC OCEAN

Jean-Luc Ponty

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.28 | 215 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Of all the fusion albums I own, there are three albums that really changed my opinion on the genre itself. The first was Bill Bruford's second album One of a Kind, which really opened my eyes to the zany and highly syncopated side of fusion. The second was Al Di Meola's Elegant Gypsy, which opened my eyes to the guitar-dominated fusion sound (and being a guitarist I could definitely see a new inspiration in my playing). And the third is this album, Jean Luc Ponty's 1977 album Enigmatic Ocean. His style of fusion ranges on a tight groove and some dynamic unison runs and motifs with the keyboard, guitar, and of course his signature violin (which utilizes a lot of different guitar effects on this album, such as wah and phasers). The lineup for this album couldn't have been any better, too, featuring guitarist extraordinaire Allan Holdsworth (who was on One of Kind, ironically). Future Zappa alumni Allan Zavod also gets a good go on this album (Ponty was himself a Zappa alumni so the connection to Zappa is extended a bit more) on the keyboards. And Daryl Stuermer (of future Genesis fame) gives a nice performance overall alongside Holdsworth on the guitar.

The album opens with a short but sweet Overture, which sort of sets the mood in a way to what the album would sound like. The Trans-Love Express starts off the journey with a fantastic bass performance from Ralph Armstrong (who is superb throughout the entire album). The tight groove in the rhythm section is further augmented by various runs and melody lines from Ponty and Holdsworth. Mirage begins with guitar arpeggios and some underlying mixed percussion (as well as well-timed bass harmonics). Ponty's violin utilizes a phased effect on this track and his budding experimentation with effects proves to be most effective. Zavod's keyboard solo make good use of the keyboard and has a sensational floating feel to it. The first of two suites on the album is the title track of Enigmatic Ocean (which is spread out over four parts), which clocks in at a bit over 12 minutes. It begins with an atmospheric keyboard laden introduction that turns into an arpeggio based keyboard motif. This song is also the first to feature some lead guitar work from Holdsworth, who exchanges licks with Ponty at many points of the song itself. Holdsworth's signature style of very noodly and fluid runs comes through with flying colors on this piece as well. It's a fantastic piece in the end, with every musician giving their best and coming through successfully as well.

Nostalgic Lady and the second suite The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea round out the album with more fantastic instrumental performances. Nostalgic Lady has one of the most addictive bass lines I've ever heard, especially when put as a counter melody with the stellar unison guitar/violin work. It's probably my favorite non-suite track of the album and it really is a perfect blend of melody and cohesiveness. The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea is the second suite of the album, this one running a bit over 13 minutes. It begins with a tight groove from the rhythm unit, an underlying unison guitar theme and a violin lead on top of it all. The second part opens with a brilliant piano motif from Allan Zavod and some superb guitar from Stuermer and Holdsworth. The song ends with a fantastic bass groove (man Armstrong can really play the bass). Armstrong puts on the distortion in the middle of the song and offers a solid bass solo. The song reaches a fantastic climax when from what I can grasp Stuermer gets a chance in the spotlight and offers up a mean guitar solo (you can actually tell it's Stuermer as he and Holdsworth have terribly different soloing styles). In the end, this piece finishes off the album in epic fashion and is one of best fusion pieces I've ever heard.

Overall, I'd rank Enigmatic Ocean amongst my top three fusion albums ever. Everything about this album is perfect, from the stellar overall mix and sound, to the fantastic musicianship (fantastic is actually an understatement). If you're looking for high energy and melodic fusion, then you'll find a lot to like about this album. If you're a fan of the violin, then this album also comes with a high recommendation. Actually, I'd recommend this album for anybody who is just getting into fusion and for those who are into fusion but don't know who Jean-Luc Ponty is. Masterliness. 5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 5/5 |

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