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Weather Report - Tale Spinnin' CD (album) cover


Weather Report


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.58 | 117 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars |B-| A diverse, over-complicated, groovy, and occasionally beautiful work of jazz-fusion.

Tale Spinnin' seems the be considered somewhat of the red-headed stepchild of the group's early work (as in before the famed Heavy Weather, I suppose). As it has been awhile since I've done a review on here, I figured I'd do this one since I should probably give my LP copy back to my old friends (from whom I borrowed it) at some point soon. As this is my first real excursion into Weather Report's music, I don't have other albums for comparison, so this review will be very much focused on the album in it of itself (unlike most reviews on it) in the context my general understanding of jazz-fusion, which is limited but not in ignorance.

I think this bit from the liner notes can tell a lot about the unique variety of jazz-fusion that this particular album might possess: "The harmonies of Tale Spinnin' come from street celebrations, the harmonies of different peoples of different cultures gathering to participate in the most basic and essential of musical activities, song and dance." And as it also says in the liner notes, harmony, for Weather report, is synonymous with music itself, and that dance itself had a lot to do with their mentality in creating the album.

Thus, I wonder how much of the red-headed stepchild praise on this album is really due to the use of dance harmonies with may not be well understood by more heavily "western culture" oriented people, where the traditional harmonic format is sufficiently different, and thus perhaps less relate-able to most of us in America or Europe, not unlike Piazzolla's work with tango (though he had even more western art music influence, for sure). This might just be speculation on my part, but I've been exposed to enough Latin American music to have some foundation in that assertion, I hope.

Anyway, on to my musical analysis: Man in the Green Shirt was, as far as the liner notes say, inspired by an old man in a green shirt dancing off to the side to the St. Thomas Steel Band's performance in the Virgin Islands. Lots of creative, brilliant Latin-American percussion for the whole piece, with some great melodies and song-like solo work on the Soprano Sax by Wayne Shorter, one of the biggest names among jazz Saxophonists. I love the dialogue that he and Josef Zawinul have in the between the saxophone solos. This is definitely a complex and heavy piece of jazz fusion. The album quickly breaks into Lusitanos, which is a slower, more groovy, with a heavily "wah"ed out bass, and thick chords from Zawinul. I think this is a pretty cool and interesting piece, really, and Shorter really sings the sax. There's some pretty crazy, awesome work on the piano by Zawinul, which is a real treat since you don't often hear just regular acoustic piano in jazz fusion, or at least I haven't. Between the Thighs (interesting enough title if I might say so...) is probably my favorite work off the album, starting off with a fantastic, groovy riff from the guitar by itself with lots of wah, and the whole piece is just great in the way it unfolds itself into a real dance-able groove, and I especially like Al Johnson's work on bass. I see why this ended up the longest work on the album, I think the band just really locked into a great vibe about the material for this track, and thus kept jamming on it, adding new great ideas to previous great ideas. Flipping the LP over (I know, aren't I so old school...), the piece Badia has a very folk-ethnic sound, using non-western percussion in a solemn, meditative way, with piano harmonies and acoustic bass bends adding to the meditative sound, eventually with a sweet synth melody, and some instruments I've never heard of, Melodica, Mzuthra, West Afric (??). I'll probably look those instruments up after this review. What's more, the main melody is apparently based on a japanese-influenced melody sang by the drummer, Ndugu. it's a really great, beautiful work of art music, probably among the band's best, I'd expect. Freezing Fire is definitely the opposite of the last trick, starting off with more frantic sort of druming, with some heavy, thick long-tone chords from Zawinul, and to me this piece really is the weakest part of the album, the long-tones just don't compliment the fast playing by the drums and bass, it's just a really weird and overly complicated piece, and even Zawinul's solo playing just sounds really technical and, just "there", not adding much to the appeal of the piece, in my opinion, though he plays around with harmony in cools ways every so often. I don't know what the band was thinking making this piece, let alone what they might have been getting at. The next piece Five Short Stories, luckily, starts off with slow, beautiful piano playing, with some great timbre texture experiments with saxophone and organ. There are no drums in the entire work, just lush playing from the two musicians, Shorter and Zawinul.

I'd say I personally enjoy and respect this album enough the warrant it a bit more credit than many others seem to. I understand why some might find it a difficult album, and it does really stretch the ears of the listener on numerous occasions. [However, the main weakness I find in the album, which I recall finding in other material (here and there) that I have heard over the years, is this, from the liner notes: "The music of Weather Report has always been built upon the foundations of details, on the smallest touches," which I feel that the band, whatever their positive attributes, sometimes really fail to see the forest for the trees, often forgetting about the album - and sometimes even a particular piece - as a whole cohesive work, and focusing a bit too much on complicated details constantly.]

Nonetheless, as an enthusiastic, yet occasional connoisseur of jazz-fusion, this is an album which is I always enjoy putting on to simultaneously groove and contemplate, and I do think it to be an "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection", particularly for the jazz-fusion listener.

Isa | 4/5 |


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