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Jan Hammer - The First Seven Days CD (album) cover


Jan Hammer

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars First a note of thanks - it was only through recommendations on this site that I heard of this album.

Labels can be unfair - there's really only two kinds of music, good or bad - but if we are attaching labels then this album strictly falls under the category of symphonic rather than jazz/fusion. A carefully constructed series of pieces that on first listening owe little to either the Mahavishnu Orchestra or "Miami Vice" , Jan Hammer's first solo album is a set of compositions that represent, as you would expect, the first seven days of creation. Hammer concentrates on composition and creating moods, rather than showing off his technique, though this comes across too. To give a crude description - it's more laid back than say Six Wives of Henry VIII, but more involving than Jean Michel Jarre's sometimes soporific work. "Oceans and Continents" is the piece that stays most in the mind, with its haunting melody laid over piano. For the "Sixth Day- People" Hammer makes clever use of violin, to represent the sophistication of the human spirit.

Highly recommended - the CBS re-master is excellent quality. Small warning - the CD is typical length for the time, i.e. around 40 miniutes, and there's no bonus tracks, but the quality of the music hopefully means you won't feel cheated.

Report this review (#72167)
Posted Friday, March 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here's one of those rare albums that not only sounds just as good as it did in 1975, but has actually improved with age. The first solo project by the keyboard ace of the original MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was (by Prog standards) only a modest instrumental concept album at the time, which might be one reason why it plays so well over 30 years later.

Maybe there were just too many keyboard virtuosos strutting their stuff in the mid 1970s, and an undemonstrative artist like Hammer was simply lost behind the glare of all those sequined capes. And maybe a little time and distance were needed to best appreciate the seamless blend here of so many different influences: prog rock, jazz-rock fusion, world music, middle-European folk songs (Hammer was a native Czech), the Western classical- orchestral tradition, and of course all the emerging trends of late 20th century electronica.

Or maybe, in retrospect, it's simply the glorious sound of all those vintage analog keyboards. The sonorous mini-moog and mellotron intro to "Darkness/Earth in Search of a Sun" has to be one of the more dramatic album openers in modern rock, and when the sequencers rev into action and the drums (played by Hammer himself) kick in, it's hard not to experience a twin shiver of nostalgia and exhilaration.

The album is loosely drawn around the biblical myth of Genesis, with each of the seven tracks representing another day of creation. But don't worry, there's no religious agenda behind it: Hammer admits in his liner notes he was only looking for an excuse to record an LP's worth of music, and besides (he adds), each metaphorical day might have actually lasted several million years. After all, wasn't the sun itself supposedly made on the third day?

The music itself might be said to be its own eloquent act of creation. It helped to jump-start what continues to be an incredibly prolific career: check out the dizzying list of Hammer projects, both solo and in collaboration, on his pages here at Prog Archives. It's an impressive résumé to be sure, but at the top of the list his debut effort still stands apart as something truly special.

Report this review (#106294)
Posted Saturday, January 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Jan Hammer: The First Seven Days - Fresh from working with the much lauded John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the time was right for Hammer to explore the limits of the new fusion of jazz, rock, and world music (before it even had name) on his own. The album and song titles are simply chosen to stimulate the imagination, and they really do. Not a single note is wasted, nor is any track given over to self-indulgence; each track is measured out to just the right length. Themes are often led by piano movements, but Hammer makes judicious use of percussion and violin as well as sequencer-driven rhythm tracks. A master at the synthesizer and keyboard, "The First Seven Days" showcases his skills and imagination, e.g., his use of portamento in simulating electric guitar solos. To sum up, Hammer really makes this fusion master piece musically infectious; he as produced an ageless eclectic mix of nearly all that the progressive music movement seeks to accomplish. Absolutely essential.
Report this review (#125481)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars First post-MO album from Hammer, and a bit of a surprise move, away from the usual JR/F that we expect from him. While there are jazzy touches on TF7D, this is definitely more of an electronic music album, probably the one that gave him his electronic wizard reputation. Coming with an acclaimed artwork (although I find it completely average and even borderline overly naïve), this is a concept album (Jan disclaims it, but it's tough not thinking of it as such) that relates the Christian genesis of our world, without the religious content. This was his first shot at producing an album, and he did so in his brand new studio at home, somewhere in upstate New York and he plays every instruments on it, which means a wide array of keyboards and drums/percussions.

The album starts on some strong mini-moog, mellotron-filled track In Search Of A Sun, but the following Sun/Light is less enthralling, with the Sun part an unconvincing piano piece, while the Light sounds like it comes from rejected Tomita tapes, although this is not as violent a criticism you would believe (early Tomita s extraordinary stuff). Similarly to Sun, I find Oceans And Continents boring repetitive piano pieces, sometimes interrupted by a clumsy Wakeman or Emerson personification on synths over a bunch of synth layers. Plants and Trees sound like a Debussy piano piece (although Hammer was probably thinking more of Dvorak when writing it).

The flipside starts on the third day and Animals. The anachronic jungle beats might induce you to hear wild animals, but normally there is no humans yet to make these drum beats yet. I find this piece quite clumsy and dated, no matter my previous remark. The People has Jan playing some violin (real? 'cos the guitars on the second track was fake), while Seventh Day returns to the uneventful Sunday of a certain creator already bored of his new toy. Maybe Jan was bored as well.

While I've always respected Hammer's career and achievements, I've often been irritated at how some people make him out to be such a wizard of electronic music and especially at calling this album a masterpiece to be filed among the best. It would be easy to say that somehow Hammer missed the nail with this album, but it's more complex than that!! While TF7D is a good album, we're far away from the Germans, or Isao Tomita, etc. let alone some of the more adventurous Hancock in terms of electronics: Hancock's electronics in Mwandishi and much later with Rock It is certainly a worthy answer to Hammer's Miami Vice (BTW: I find both pieces atrocious piece of 80's crap). While usually hailed as a masterpiece by many, I beg to differ about this album, but I'm one in a small minority... But don't say I didn't warn you.

Report this review (#184252)
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wonderful album, one of the all-time greats in progressive music (at least in this jazz-rock oriented sub-genre) and, in my opinion, highly underestimated. It would be, however, classified predominantly as progressive-electronic because the presence of fusion and jazz elements is more difficult to observe than in other Jan Hammer's albums (most significantly audible in "Plant and Trees" and "Animals"). Fortunately, Jan Hammer decided to resign here from the exploration of funky-territory and soul-like vocals like on albums "Like Children" and "Oh-Yeah!". "First Seven Days" is archetypical concept-album, where the myth of world creation from Holy Bible's Genesis is illustrated by seven tracks (days), different in terms of moods and styles. All tracks are clear-instrumental, full of strong melodies and complex rhythms. Opening ("Darkness") and final ("The Seventh Day") are exceptionally beautiful and emotional. Sound landscapes and sonoric detailsare highly refined as for 1975. Masterpiece, five stars.
Report this review (#322208)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I wasn't expecting this when I picked this up. The former keyboardist for MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA has created an album here that is almost the polar oposite to what his former band used to release. Maybe that isn't too surprising since they didn't breakup in exactly the best of terms as it seemed to be a McLaughlin versus the rest of the band attitude before they folded the tent. So yeah none of that high energy, intense fusion that we were used to hearing. I always think of this guy that came in my store a few years ago and we got talking about music and MAHAVISHNU ORHESTRA came up and he related how he couldn't listen to "Birds Of Fire" all the way through because it just too much for him. I was grinning when he told me that. It was just too overwelming for him. He should listen to "The First Seven Days" because this is about as laid back as your going to get. In fact I kept thinking of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays' "When Witchita Falls..." album. This was the first record Jan produced for himself in his newly built studio in his home in upstate New York.This is all about Hammer and the variety of keyboards he employed including piano, Fender Rhodes, electric piano, moog, sequencers, synths, string synths and mellotron. While I wouldn't call this a mellotron album it is on all but one track but it's used in the background usually. I do like when the mellotron choirs come to the fore though.There is a guest percussionist and violinist helping out as well.

"Darkness / Earth In Search Of Sun" opens with a spacey atmosphere including mellotron.The synths start to kick in before 2 1/2 minutes followed by drums as the atmosphere disappears.Great sound ! Jan describes this song as feeling like your lost groping in the dark when suddenly this gigantic globe which is slowly spinning reveals itself. "Light / Sun" opens with piano then it turns spacey before 2 minutes as the piano stops.The tempo picks up 4 minutes in then back to that spacey sound after 5 1/2 minutes.

"Oceans And Continents" is as Jan describes "Probably the most visual piece on the whole album, this goes back to Van Gogh, painting vast brush strokes from left to right and as far as the eye can see, a landscape painting". Piano to start then these intricate sounds come in after 2 minutes. "Fourth Day-Plants And Trees" is a short, laid back piece that reminds Jan of his homeland. "The Animals" is percussion and synths led early on. Cool sound. A change 4 minutes in as it becomes a little more aggressive.

"Sixth Day- The People" is as Jan describes it "turning from pure acoustic into a much more lush electric thing, the entrance of people, humans". Mellotron ends this one in style. "The Seventh Day" is Jan's ode to joy so he says. Piano to start then it becomes fuller a minute in. Nice. Even fuller 5 1/2 minutes in.

A good album that i have to be in the right mood for. A low 4 stars but this one is an interesting and laid back listen.

Report this review (#497789)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Jan Hammer blazes a new trail on his first solo album post-Mahavishnu. "The First Seven Days" is a very compelling listen. Instead of in your face jazzrock, Hammer goes progtronica.

The titles of the songs and the elastic mood of the music does a terrific job portraying the concept of the beginning of the world laid out in the Christian Bible. Hammer is about the only musician you hear, except for an extra percussionist on two tracks and a violin on four tracks.

Every note is quality. I should think most discerning prog listeners would put this somewhere from good to great, in my house it's great. Definitely a mood piece though, when taken cover to cover.

For some reason, this album has always reminded me of the album "Layers" by Les McCann. Probably because they're both one man synth mood workouts, probably because they are both in my top 50 albums.

Report this review (#1366756)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars For a couple of years while I was finishing up with college (around 1975), Jan Hammer was "it". It was a transitional time in jazz, and while Mahavishnu was already starting to wane, Grover Washington and smooth jazz were coming on strong. Meanwhile, Jan hung in there and produced a couple of stunningly original albums - this one and "Oh Yeah". In retrospect, their place in the grand scheme of things fusion-wise was quixotic yet curiously enduring. They kind of stand alone as a testament to the times and foreshadowed later developments in electronic music with a kind of naive yet charming simplicity. I was pretty much like Jan and his music too - bold, at times a bit crass, but never dull - and so I really dug it.

Anyway, but "simple" is not really an appropriate term to use here. "The First Seven Days" is harmonically rich and paints dense, exotic colors with what electronic sounds were available at the time. It's really a series of vignettes or soundscapes with structure, each dealing with one aspect of the story of creation. Taken as a whole, this is Jan Hammer in all his glory - spacey, technically brilliant, funky, tender and unabashedly 70's in all its bold colors. Darkness/Earth in search of Sun starts things off well with a good old fashioned jam after an ominous, dark start. Light/Sun features Jan on piano and reminds me of the Mahavishnu Jan we all loved so well. His keyboard work has always been instantly identifiable. Next up is Oceans and Continents, one of my favorite tracks. Jan's soaring Moog hovers over a simple piano line, and the result is peaceful and tells a timeless story. The first side concludes with "Fourth Day - Plants and Trees, possibly his best work on the album. All of Jan's compositional skills and technical prowess are on display here as he temporarily shelves the Moog in this short but elegant piece.

Side two gets you rolling with a fun number, "Animals". It seems the animal life evoked a bit of funk and tribal drumming in Jan. You can almost see the chimps, zebras and gazelles strutting their stuff. "The Sixth Day-The People" seems to evoke a sunrise and indeed likely deals with the subject of the emergence of man. It feels like the animals are suddenly uncertain as to their future now. Will this spell their demise? Humans have now arrived on the scene, and you can almost imagine those first important questions are being asked here - who am I? How did I get here?

The final track, "the Seventh Day" is suitably grand and a wonderful way to close the album. It is resolute and builds to a terrific climax. What we've just witnessed is the work of a superior being, and its hand touches us all with spiritual enlightenment. Uplifting and proud, it marks the close of this notable album. "The First Seven Days" is ambitious, entertaining and a quintessentially charming example of that mind altering mid 70's era and the "dawn of the synthesizer age". Thank you, Jan - I wore this record out!!

Report this review (#2285317)
Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2019 | Review Permalink

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