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Billy Cobham - Crosswinds CD (album) cover


Billy Cobham

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars

Expectations are set high...very high. After the "Spectrum", your life won't be the same. Especially considering the fact we are talking about the genius of William Cecil Cobham Junior. But, at the end of the day, it turns that "Spectrum" remains one hit wonder. Because nothing can reach it. And "Crosswinds" is not as half as good. I will try to describe and rate "Crosswinds" as a standalone unit. Although it's really difficult. No, first I must do my comparisons. Well, "Crosswinds" is quite different; first side is focused around Cobham's solo drum parts - and certainly, skill is here, idea is here, and "Storm" is a storm really. Hey ho for the impression! If you are familiar with Carl Palmer's drum solos with lots of noisy, hissy gongs, you will get the idea. Cobham is placing on a new level all that. But I'm missing that flashy outbursts and delicated monstrosity of Mr. Cobham - his trademark, at least in my eyes (ears). I'm missing that anxiety. The drumming is too homogenic - or shall I say hermetic - for my's like all the components and segments are cross-melted into something gray. Not too gray but...I was expecting more. Actually, it's not only the drumming; that's the issue of the entire album. It's blurry and homogenic - it's just passing through the ears without leaving any significant traces. To be less polite, it's somewhat boring.

To be honest, "Crosswinds" is not bad album. There are some nice and groovy moments here and there; "Pleasant Pheasant" utilises some nice funky grooves and lots of additional percussion (bongos); Abercrombie's guitar is enjoyable too. But save for the two bridges in the song, everything is going again down the slope, and again we have not so frutiful jam of session musicians. Not entirely unfruitful, mind you. However,the album suffers of some points of pointlessness in a similar way like, let's say, RETURN TO FOREVER albums - but RTF were able to caught listeners attention many more times during an average album playing time.

This album is not a missed idea, it's (somewhat) pleasant routine like many other jazz-rock albums.

For the something inspiring, go for the "Spectrum" first, and for the more prog tendencies and diversity, you might try "Magic".

Let's just say it's good enough to stay in one's collection, but it is definitely not essential.

Report this review (#119121)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars While his exhilarating, edgy "Spectrum" LP is a dazzling jazz rock/fusion tour de force, this album is more of a visit to Billy Cobham's roots in that it puts less emphasis on the driving, thunderous rock beats that characterized its predecessor and leans more toward traditional jazz colorings. Now that he had cultivated and established a solid fan base he felt would loyally support his music, Billy reunited with his old "Dreams" bandmates, Randy and Michael Brecker, to make a record that showcased the other angles and aspects of his composing ability. The result is "Crosswinds," a slightly uneven effort that contains some outstanding music nonetheless.

The first seventeen minutes is a bold four-part suite called "Spanish Moss - 'A Sound Portrait.'" With the sound of a howling wind and the tolling of distant mission bells wafting in and out between the segments, it's an enjoyable but unremarkable journey through nostalgic phases of Cobham's musical heritage. "Spanish Moss" is a sort of big band horn section piece that doesn't really spring to life until Lee Pastora flies into a hot percussion frenzy toward the end that is top drawer. "Savanna the Serene" is next and it's a smooth, laid back song that features Garnett Brown performing some very peaceful, understated trombone work as George Duke floats around him on the Rhodes piano. "Storm" is an impressive, flange-enhanced drum solo from Billy that leads into "Flash Flood," the uptempo finale to this would-be epic that allows Randy Brecker's blazing trumpet and John Abercrombie's too-timid guitar to take the spotlight. Pay special attention to Cobham and Pastora (along with bassist John Williams) as they lay down a squeaky-clean track underneath it all despite the odd time signature. Amazing stuff.

"The Pleasant Pheasant" is more along the lines of what we heard on "Spectrum." It's a toe-tapping, energetic tune where Michael Brecker throws down a superb saxophone solo and Duke follows it with an equally electrifying synthesizer ride. Billy's drumming is spectacular, as well, but when Abercrombie injects his jazzy guitar stylings into the fray you'll find yourself missing former axe man Tommy Bolin's fire and sassy attitude. (That's not a knock on John as much as it's a respectful acknowledgement of just how good Bolin was in his prime.) Next up is the drop-dead gorgeous "Heather," the apex of the album and one of my all-time Cobham favorites. Based on a single undulating synthesizer note, the song's beautiful ambience transcends the mundane and rises to a heavenly plane of existence. Michael's soothing sax and George's delicate Rhodes performances achieve a utopian groove and, if you allow yourself to succumb to its simple enchantment, the worries and stress of this world will seep right out of you long before the song ends. It's like a mental massage and it works for me every time. "Crosswind" ends the album on a positive note with its happy, funky melody and feel joyfully pulling you back into your body. Here Abercrombie takes the whole solo and he goes a long way toward redeeming himself, generating a lot more zip in his guitar shredding this time around. Once again, the rhythm section is tight as a damp cork in a bottle of vintage wine.

While this recording (and many others, for that matter) doesn't hold a candle to Billy's oft-referenced dynamic and thrilling solo debut, the progressive aura and sublime tranquility of "Heather" is worth the price alone. It's that good. If not for the underwhelming suite that begins the album this could have possibly rivaled his best ever. Still, this is the combined creative effort of a stellar list of extraordinary musicians and that makes it more than worth your while, to say the least. 3.7 stars.

Report this review (#122683)
Posted Friday, May 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Following the hugely successful debut album, it was only logical BC would go on with his solo career. The obvious thing one would do is duplicate the winning formula, but not make a carbon copy. BC had the guts not to use the musos that had appeared on Spectrum, but instead relied ona few big names: the Brecker bros, ex-Zappa man George Duke and guitarist Abercrombie as well a few other lesser known. With a superb sky shot, Crosswinds had everything going for itself, including a 17-mins+ four-parts sidelong suite called Spanish Moss.

While the eponymous movement of the suite starts off rather along the lines of Spectrum, Savannah is a little boring, partly because ultra slow, but also very predictable. Although I am never a fan of drum solos, I must say that Crosswinds holds maybe the best ever, in Storm. Indeed, it's pretty hard to believe there could be a more descriptive music than this drum solo depicting thunder, winds, rain, and others. The funky Flash Flood logically follow up harsh storm rainfall, but the Brecker bros are worth a full blow brass section by themselves, even if they still intervene with the tonalities of Tower Of Power. Probably their better moment in the suite, especially the Latino Santana rock moments.

The flipside starts slowly with Pleasant Pheasant, a slow percussive burner that can't be compared with the afore-mentioned boring Savannah track, as it is superb. The following Heather is another real slow track, with an almost hypnotic feel and a beautiful sax solo, courtesy of Brother Michael. The closing title track is a real wake up call, shaking you from your torpor, funking with your brains, twisting the horns section around each hemispheres,

Although Crosswinds doesn't enjoy the same reputation than Spectrum, it is unjustified IMHO. Indeed instead of three overly demonstrative drum solos, we get the most descriptive one ever, and apart one weaker track, the album is generally more even (in terms of quality), but might be a little less rockier, Abercrombie being a little too discreet, compared to Bolin. AAMOF, I think I enjoy Crosswinds a tad more than Spectrum, hence my slightly superior rating.

Report this review (#164190)
Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the tearing rock-jazz of his first solo album, Billy Cobham mellowed out somewhat on his second, with pleasing results. The theme of the album is nature and the increased use of horns - especially the trombone of Garnett Brown - add a more organic feel. It is not easy to review 1974's 'Crosswinds' without comparisons with its predecessor from 1973 so I will not even try. George Duke provides electric piano and other keyboards with more subtlety than Jan Hammer. Similarly, John Abercrombie's very tasteful guitar work is rich and interesting if less pyrotechnic than Tommy Bolin's on 'Spectrum'. Even the leader's drumming is less aggressive, though no less powerful (note the 'phased' solo on the 'Storm' section of the side-long suite 'Spanish Moss'). Perhaps there is a more funk-influenced feel on this album, certainly 'The Pleasant Pheasant' swings it's feathery ass off. With the Brecker Brothers horn propulsion throughout, 'Crosswinds' is a very satisfying and enlivening listen today. Could it be that this is a disc that evenly combines jazz, rock and funk components successfully? Worth seeking out to form your own opinion, I suggest. Vision & Innovation: 22/30; Playing & Composition: 27/30; Listener Enjoyment: 26/30; X-factor [eg: cover, extras, reviewer bias]: 8/10. Total: 83/100 -> 4 Stars.
Report this review (#246988)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Billy Cobham's second album sure has it's moments but some of it is too mellow for my tastes. John Abercrombie helps out on guitar while George Duke takes care of the keyboards. The Brecker brothers are on horns. This just isn't as dynamic or as good in my opinion as "Spectrum".

It starts off with two laid back tracks beginning with "Spanish Moss". The wind is blowing as drums and percussion come in. Horns follow as it does pick up. Electric piano before 3 minutes. The wind blows in to end it. "Savannah The Serene" is as the title suggests very serene. Mostly horns, light drums and electric piano. "Storm" again opens with wind as some powerful drumming comes in.

"Flash Flood" is uptempo with drums, percussion and electric piano as horns play over top. Guitar 2 minutes in. There's so much going on ! "The Pleasant Pheasant" is much like the previous track as it is uptempo with a lot happening. Nice drum work before 3 minutes followed by percussion, electric piano then guitar. "Heather" is over 8 1/2 minutes of very mellow music. "Crosswind" is my favourite mostly because of the prominant guitar of Abercrombie.

This is still a really good album, just not as great as his debut. A low 4 stars.

Report this review (#288887)
Posted Friday, July 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is certainly not the masterpiece that "Spectrum" was. But then, how many musicians ever capture lightning in a bottle twice? Judged on it's own merits this is still a damn fine fusuin album.

The four pieces of Spanish Moss - A Sound Portrait are just beautiful (and did Brand X ummm... borrow the rhythm of Flash Flood for at least one of their songs?), with some moments approaching "Spectrum".

Side two of the LP begins with, The Pleasant Pheasant, easily the best song on this album. By now you can probably tell that I favor the faster, flashier fusion pieces. Which is why the light, airy Heather is my least favorite (but not all that bad) track on the album.

This is actually a very good album, but of course, not a masterpiece.

Report this review (#297895)
Posted Tuesday, September 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Cobham's follow-up to his highly acclaimed debut Spectrum is another very good album in places. It's a bit on the short side and lacks a true gem to make it excellent overall but it is sure a pleasing title for fans of moody jazz and fusion that emphasizes the 'jazz' in jazz-rock..

On half of the tracks the focal point is still Cobham's drumming, while the other musicians play second fiddle and mainly provide atmospheric texture and subtle melodies. This works out wonderfully well on tracks like Spanish Moss, Flash Flood and Crosswinds. The other songs are fine as well but rather light-weight and they tend to fade quickly to the background of my attention, making this album a good choice if you have folks around but it's not a preferred choice when I want to actually listen to music.

With a thoroughly changed cast of musicians Cobham's music has become a bit less energetic and less rocking. Instead it's more jazzy reflective. It turns out for the good on each of the individual track and it makes for quite a consistent album, but the overall result may be a bit too mellow for rock fans.

Report this review (#331153)
Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | Review Permalink

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