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Billy Cobham - Total Eclipse CD (album) cover

TOTAL ECLIPSE

Billy Cobham

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This, the third solo album from Billy Cobham in less than two years, shows the gifted drummer taking his music even further back into his jazz roots and continuing to distance himself from the rock mentality that so influenced the first and, to a lesser extent, the second LP. It's just as well because I don't think he could have ever matched the genius of "Spectrum." (As it is, all of his subsequent albums ended up being compared to that masterpiece, anyway.) But "Total Eclipse" still entertains, mainly because of the caliber of fine musicians that contribute their admirable skills to the project.

As he did on "Crosswinds," Billy opens the album with a suite of different musical ideas strung together. This one is called "Solarization" and the opening segment of the same title has a rousing, frantic beginning featuring a tight horn section with sizzling electric guitar. Guitarist John Abercrombie will never fill Tommy Bolin's sizable shoes in Cobham's band but he turns in a pretty fierce lead here that is hard to overlook. "Second Phase" is basically some avant garde solo acoustic piano noodlings from Milcho Leviev that lead directly into "Crescent Sun," a smooth contemporary jazz number that features Glenn Ferris playing some excellent trombone. "Voyage" is a return to the earlier frenetic pace as Randy Brecker's trumpet, Billy's hot drumming and John's guitar take turns trying to top each other. "Solarization - Recapitulation" is a brief return to the original theme. Taken as a whole the entire suite is exciting in places but not particularly memorable when all is said and done.

"Lunarputians" reveals what really happened to Billy Cobham. He, like many others in that era, was seduced by the FUNK. This tune is pure James Brown in its feel from the get-go and it never lets up for a moment. I call it complex soul music and Ferris' expressive trombone gives it a real kick in the tail. One of the things I really enjoy about Cobham's music is his ability to create remarkable melodies and "Total Eclipse" has the best one on this album. It's standard MOR urban jazz but it has an infectious "walking" groove that will get your foot tapping in time. Leviev throws down an exemplary acoustic piano ride then, after a clever horn section breakdown, Mike Brecker steps up and delivers a searing soprano sax lead. Abercrombie's guitar solo gets a little too intense for the welfare of this tune toward the end, however, and he siphons off some of the momentum. I appreciate the lightning tempo of "Bandits" but it sounds like something Billy and bassist Alex Blake came up with one session when the other musicians were AWOL because, other than some small contributions from John, it's just the rhythm section running wild. Blake plays a lot like Stanley Clarke (except that he doesn't generate the cool tone that Stanley does) and Cobham takes a few bars for himself, showing that he is, indeed, a drummer foremost.

"Moon Germs" is basically a dance song that allows guest guitarist Cornell Dupree to add his veteran two cents worth before letting Mike Brecker clear the room with a blistering tenor sax solo. I'm not a huge fan of John Abercrombie's style and I'll tell you why. Here his brittle tone borders on annoying and there's really no excuse for it. 'Nuff said. "The Moon Ain't Made of Green Cheese" is next and it's a welcome but too brief change of mood in which Cobham performs on acoustic piano accompanied by Randy Brecker's delicate horn. Very nice piece. "Sea of Tranquility" is a brave, adventurous tune with an involved, intricate modern jazz melody that allows Mike, Milcho and John to stretch out a bit and fully demonstrate their individual virtuosity. A spacey intro on the Rhodes electric piano sets you up for a short flourish from the horn section followed by a four-minute drum solo on the closer, "Last Frontier." Billy's lone chording on the acoustic piano takes things out on a serene note.

While there's actually nothing to complain about, there's also very little to go totally nuts over, either. Many of the numbers are glorified jams and, while there's nothing inherently wrong with that approach at all, it makes it much less progressive in nature. Billy's lightning quick hands and feet are still as amazing as they ever were with Mahavishnu Orchestra but I get the sense that he was beginning to deplete his storehouse of song ideas about that time and bringing in the best players he could find was a smart alternative. It's good music, to be sure, but in the jazz world an album has to be extraordinary to rise above the norm. This one doesn't. 3.1 stars.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#124408)
Posted Saturday, June 02, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The year is 1974 and Billy Cobham is turning 30. To celebrate he released not one, but two fabulous fusion records: 'Crosswinds' and 'Total Eclipse'. Whereas the former has very much a 'sound portrait' feel, 'Total Eclipse' presents as much more composed and arranged. It is a more complex album with enhanced textures and an ambitious musical vision. A similarity with its predecessor is an opening suite: 'Solarization' is over 11 minutes in length with five sections. One soon notices a difference with an early solo by pianist Milcho Leviev on an acoustic piano! The next thing that hits is how John Abercrombie has beefed up his attack. His guitar solo in the 'Voyage' section of the suite makes one wonder whether he was stung by the comparisons to Tommy Bolin following his work on 'Crosswinds' - here he's fiery and focussed. His final solo on 'Moon Germs' is a ripper.

There are the expected funkier work-outs and even some humour - check out Billy elbowing out a drum machine on 'Bandits'. Another longer piece, 'Sea of Tranquility', dominates side two and contains some nice analogue spacey keyboards before the album rounds out percussively with 'Last Frontier'. To my ears Billy Cobham does deliver on his promises here: the album is complex, rocky, funky and very satisfying over repeated listens. When I began this review, I was expecting a solid three to four stars, but on reflection it is better than that. A good point of entry for 'prog' fans wishing to sample fusion. RATING: Vision & Innovation: 26/30; Playing & Composition: 28/30; Listener Enjoyment: 28/30; X-Factor [cover, imponderables, reviewer bias]: 8/10. Total: 90/100 -> 5 Stars.

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Send comments to BeeJayMelb (BETA) | Report this review (#246993)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars If this album stayed as heavy as the first section of Solarization, I might be calling this a masterpiece. But it is still a damn fine album. The other sections of the above mentioned piece are not bad, and it does come back to reprise the heavy intro.

The Brecker Brothers always make up an exceptional horn section, and here they offer no exception to that description. And Abecrombie provides some hot guitar solos over Cobham's always fime drumming.

Other good tracks on this album are Total Eclipse, which builds to a fiery jam, Moon Germs with a swaying bass line which is almost as good as songs on "Spectrum", and Sea Of Tranquility, which, after a slow start, builds very nicely.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#298204)
Posted Thursday, September 09, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars After the mellow and jazzy Crosswinds, Cobham returned to slightly more energetic fusion. The album isn't nearly as strong as the debut but it's a fun listen and a recommended Cobham album for rock audiences.

The opening four part suite Solarisation - Second Phase - Crescent Sun - Voyage - Recapitulation is one of the highlights. It hits the floor running with a dense and frantic intro that creates a threatening atmosphere reminding me of Magma. It gives way to a classic jazz piano piece, quite a contrast. The third section is mellow lounge jazz fusion, with a cool rhythm and thick in smoky atmosphere. The closing part is more energetic again with hyper-active drumming that would be literally copied in the 90s by the drum&bass techno acts. Check early Squarepusher.

The remaining tracks offer a variety of groove, funk, lounge and jazz. Highlights include the title track with its catchy trumpet melodies and virtuoso piano soloing. Also Moon Germs is an infectious track, with both dance and air guitar potential. The lengthy Sea of Tranquillity is another interesting piece, with a heavily syncopated funk rhythm and a fine mix of melody and relaxed soloing.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#333805)
Posted Thursday, November 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Third Billy Cobham solo album after the generally over-appreciated Spectrum and the generally under-rated Crosswinds, Total Eclipse is an excellent follow-up, well worthy of its two predecessors. Again released on the Atlantic label, produced by the excellent Ken Scott (who'd just broke Supertramp in the major leagues the previous year) and accompanied with a striking drawn artwork, TE features the same usual suspects you'd expect on his early solo albums, minus George Duke.

The album opens on a four-part 12-mins suite called Solarization, a wild and full-blown prog JR/F piece that clearly has its roots in the Mahavishnu mould (especially the opening movement) and has plenty of mood and climate changes to please Yes fans. The Mahavishnu- ian title track is another highlight in an album that holds no weak spots, despite its slightly weaker exit (on the flipside), while the ultra-funky Bandits provide a welcome break before flipping the wax over.

The flipside is also quite fine, opening on the very brassy Moon Germs (hey, the Brecker Brothers won't let you under-use their presence), but Abercrombie's fiery guitar quickly steals the show. The much-quieter Green Cheese presents itself a new-agey intro to the lengthy, lunar and excellent Sea Of Tranquility, with a good horn section and more reflective Rhodes sections separating more frenetic sections. Of course coming from a drummer, you can't escape the usual (almost mandatory, dare I say) drum solo, which indeed fills the closing Last Frontier.

Just as essential as its two predecessors, Total Eclipse is anything but that on this brilliant JR/F music, I always preferred Cobham's solo albums to say William's or Clarke's solo albums, but with Spectrum to Eclpse, Billy ranks with the top of the genre in terms od solo career.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#370178)
Posted Sunday, January 02, 2011 | Review Permalink

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