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Larry Coryell - The Free Spirits: Out of Sight and Sound CD (album) cover


Larry Coryell

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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5 stars Something was brewing in the lower east side of New York City in the spring of `66. Released on New Year`s Day 1967 this relic is probably the coolest, hippest and farthest out and overlooked recording of the `60s bar none. These cats ventured where no one dared tread in 1966, blowing every band away in their path with their galvanizing psychedelic performances that contained an uncanny concoction of blues, rock,folk, East Indian and be-bop. Considered by afficiados to be the first jazz-rock recording ever The Free Spirits`Out Of Sight An Out Of Sound was exactly as the title implied, radical stuff, as guitarist Larry Coryell would recall years later.

The band consisted of players who were mostly weaned on more traditional jazz stylings started out playing just that before being swayed by mastermind Coryell more in the direction of rock with his affections for the music of Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Reluctant at first, the other members which included Jim Pepper on woodwinds, Chris Hills on bass, Bob Moses on drums and second guitarist Columbus Baker, the only member with no jazz backround, eventually took his cues and consolidated their individual virtuosic musical abilities to create hybrid music that wasn`t heard until several years later by such groups as Tony Williams`Lifetime, Weather Report or during Miles Davis`Bitches Brew Sessions. Even so, at the time these young aspiring musicians could not be considered musical visionaries in the least, they were just five cats who hooked up and were just doing their thing much in the same way as many bands were doing back in the free thinking latter half of the sixties.

After a scant two month`s tenure at one of New York City`s east end`s grooviest clubs, The Scene, they were invited to cut a record for ABC records with veteran engineer Bob Theile who had previously worked with the likes of jazzmen John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. Unfortunately, Theile didn`t hold rock musicians in the same regard and the recording didn`t come off as most of the band expected and was hurriedly completed with none of the original compositions exceeding much more than 3 minutes which didn`t allow for much freaking out instrumentally. The album didn`t compare to the intensity of their live performances which , according to many who witnessed them, were full of improvisation and flair. Notwithstanding the shortsightedness of corporate types the album featured competent musicians who could hold their own in any jazz ensemble of the day while at the same time playing music which was socially and culturally in tune with the hippie generation, singing about peace and love which could be compared to The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas and The Beatles complete with stoned out vocals and twangy guitar by Coryell who even played sitar on a couple of tracks. What really made the music jive was the inclusion of Peppers avant crazed tenor sax and flute cries on tracks like the acid soaked Don`t Look Now, the hippie anthem I`m Gonna Be Free and Storm which was certainly one of the first pop songs to feature the flute. Bob Moses` pertinacious be-bop tendencies on the drum kit, which are in evidece throughout, also gave their sound a certain smoothness which gave the record even more groovy hip feel.

Don`t expect any of the improvisational guitar wizardry of Larry Coryell here ( he hardly solos ), but it`s interesting to hear this early marriage of different musical sensibilities from a group of cutting edge musicians which just grooves and moves. One of the few examples of psychedelic jazz from the sixties. Imagine John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery meets The Beatles and Hendrix. Those who think Miles invented fusion should definitely give this gem a spin. A veritable unsung artifact of rock 'n roll history.

Report this review (#186597)
Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Larry Coryell Leads Us into 'The Next Big Thing' With this Jazzy, Soulful Rock Group!

I hadn't realized until today, while getting ready to listen through and review another by the great Larry Coryell, that The Free Spirits was neatly tucked away as part of his discography: I accept! It really can't be understated the sheer monumental necessity of early albums such as this one, Out of Sight and Sound, this short-lived group's sole release. [See my note below for some of my usual recommendations in the pantheon of early Jazz Rock/Fusion. This will be a review of the 2006 remaster edition with one bonus track.]

In the most rambunctious, high-energy way possible, Out of Sight starts off with "Don't Look Now", with rapid drumming and a mix that is filled out from headphone to headphone. The horns are awesome. There's something about the vocal melodies that speak more to whiteness, sounding a bit like Roots Rock (or a bit like the Rolling Stones, really). As I feel is true for much of this album, given its time and place, it's hard to say how much this will appeal to the Fusion fandom as 'pure' Jazz Fusion. Up next is a favorite of mine. "I'm Gonna Be Free", with Coryell playing, according to liner notes, an actual sitar, is naturally a psychedelic Raga-inspired piece! Drums are minimal and cymbal-based as the bass, sitar and guitar drone beneath, playing some two or three chords. The solo instrument heard throughout, even during verses, is flute performed by Jim Pepper. Good melodies.

"Ibod" is next with a sparse verse over soft acoustic guitar arpeggios and a booming bassline. The use of the horn section as it comes in around minute 1 is just delicious. Ultimately, this is a Blues number. Again, quite like it, but it isn't what we know of as 'Fusion', and at most barely passes for what we know as 'Jazz Rock' [not so uncommon throughout]. Up next, for a positive turn, we have "Sunday Telephone", which has a lot going for it! This has awesome vocal and instrumental melody (Got the hook!), a groovy beat and then... Pepper brings on the tenor sax for an at-first free solo. This is followed by a Beat-inspired (like, maybe Beatles-inspired) guitar solo and riff. Continuing in this admittedly Psychedelic/Jangle Pop-inspired style, we have "Blue Water Mother". For another angle, if "Sunday Telephone" sounded like proto-Gong [as it did to me], this song could be a Soft Machine tune. Great melody, which is itself jumbled up during the verses with... just a weird cacophony of vocals at times. Decent harmonies, though.

Returning to The East, we have "Girl of the Mountain", which sort of shifts into Western folksy. Nice vocal performance from, I assume, Chip Baker. Some more great, memorable melodies, but all over a very light, clean ensemble. Overall, it was fleeting. And then we pick things back up with the guitar-driven "Cosmic Daddy Dancer". Close harmonies rap over a quick, at times wild, beat as Larry solos on top. Then we get a much- welcomed sax solo from Pepper, as he flies across the left-side speaker. I think folks'll like this'n. The next one is likely my favorite from The Free Spirits, "Bad News Cat". This song just has a great melody, with killer close harmonies. Maybe sonically similar to the Mod Soul of early The Who? Or like the Small Faces? Anyway, I love this one. Jazzy Pop Rock, basically.

"Storm" is a sultry number. I love these vocals! Geeze. Pepper returns to soloing on flute, over a sort of Bossa Nova something. Seriously, simply delish. This is followed by "Early Mornin' Fear". Again with the great close harmonies(!), this one has sort of an R&B vibe. And then we get a searing, then blissful sax solo. Super rockin' at the end! Yeeeee!!! Total shift in feeling then on the soft, sweet, melancholic "Angels Can't Be True". Not a fantastic song, in my opinion, but the saxophone, as should now come as no surprise, is just great. Its strongest moments are in what sound like the bridge, approaching minute 2. "Tattoo Man" next is a pretty great White R&B track. Bobby Moses on drums really shines here; he's had his moments, but it's really workin' here. Finally, we have the bonus track "I Feel a Song", which has a very live sound to it. The vocals and guitar are echoey and distant and the result is much muddier and lo-fi. Nice sound. I feel I detect piano? It's hard to say. The ending is quite cool, to say the least.

Despite this album coming down for me to an exact True Rate of 3.5/5.0 track-to-track averaged, I wholeheartedly believe in the significance of this album: Excellent addition, ladies and gentlemen. An excellent addition. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Though preceding most all Fusion, The Free Spirits' Out of Sight and Sound is contemporary to the absolute earliest that Jazz Fusion and Jazz Rock had to offer in the late-60s: Duster and Lofty Fake Anagram (Gary Burton, 1967), Child is Father to the Man and Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T, '68), Song of Innocence (David Axelrod, '68, !!!), Those Who are About to Die Salute You and Valentyne Suite (Colosseum, '69), Uncle Meat and Hot Rats (Frank Zappa), Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago, '69), Miles Davis' electric band(s) but I always think specifically Emergency! (Tony Williams, '69, !!!) and Elastic Rock (Nucleus, '70, !!!). Before even this, the only work I can ever think of truly coming before this, which I do broadly recommend--though more R&B than it is Rock--is The Graham Bond Organisation's The Sound of 65 (indeed, from '65) featuring none other than Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, even before the idea of Cream, I must assume, and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. This is always worth a mention when talking about the genre's foundations. Let's call that 'Vital Information' ;)

Report this review (#2899304)
Posted Tuesday, March 14, 2023 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. I'm sure a lot of people over the years have picked this album up just to hear what Larry Coryell sounded like in 1967. At least that's why I got it. This is the band THE FREE SPIRITS who released this one record in 1967, a five piece with Coryell singing and playing lead guitar. The other four guys are Jazz men who had to be convinced to lower their standards to play this poppy, straight forward music. There's a fair amount of variety here though with blues, r&b, jazz rock, psychedelic and pop being touched on. Larry does a good job on vocals but man he's almost invisible when it comes to the guitar. This is more about the smooth sax. I'm sure there were some give and take going on during these sessions.

That opener is a tough one for me but the next track "I'm Going To Be Free" is pretty cool with Coryell playing sitar. A huge BEATLES and Hendrix fan we're just missing the Hendrix part of the equation on this album. Coryell is doing his Bob Dylan impression on "Girl Of The Mountain", some flute here too. Jazzy guitar on "Cosmic Daddy Dancer". Back to sax on "Bad News Cat" a pretty good number. Catchy like a lot of this. More of that sax on "Early Mornin' Fear" and "Angel's Can't Be True" before ending with "Tattoo Man" a poppy closer. Honestly a tough listen but again this is 1967!

Bumped to 3.5 stars because this is at times one of the earliest examples of jazz/rock and I like that adventerous spirit even with the variety. Still if you want to hear Coryell at his best check out his "Barefoot Boy" and "Offering" albums or there's a couple he did with THE ELEVENTH HOUSE, then that ET CETERA record "Knirsch" he guested on.

Report this review (#2904641)
Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Review Permalink
2 stars I came round to this album after going through the Larry Coryell discography. Though labeled as jazz-rock album, the jazz part of the description is questionable. I would describe it is an upbeat rock album with traces of psychedelia supported by guitar and flute. Forays into jazz are heard when listening to the muscular saxophone lines. Coryell keeps a surprisingly low profile when playing and the future potential is yet to be displayed. Some tracks have a grooving/bluesy character ("LBOD") or have an accessible melody ("Girl of the mountain"). Definitely interesting to listen to it for historical reasons, this album pales in the contemporary world of fusion and jazz and it not really distinguishable on its own.
Report this review (#2970989)
Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2023 | Review Permalink

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