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Brian Auger - Open CD (album) cover

OPEN

Brian Auger

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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js (Easy Money)
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars This is a very eclectic album from Brian Auger, unfortunetly most of it is not very good. The album starts off nicely with two 60s instrumental hipster lounge jazz numbers that feature Brian's great Hammond playing. This is a great style for Brian and shows his playing progressing nicely from his first album. Both of these songs also have much better production than his first album and feature a warm analogue sound with a big natural reverb background that you would expect from a classic 60s RnB-jazz record.

The third song is an awful rock song that features Brian on vocals, It sounds like a bar band covering Winwood's I'm a Man except they forgot the lyrics and the chorus. This song is followed by Lament for Miss Baker, a nice piano ballad that mixes Ellington style jazz with French neo-classical music. It would be nice if Brian recorded more songs like this. Side one closes out with Goodbye Jungle Telegraph that opens with Martin Denny style log drums and bird calls before stumbling into a free RnB-jazz percussion groove with an uncredited saxophone solo and weird keyboard sounds from Brian. I think they were trying for a Sun Ra type thing here but didn't quite succeed.

Side one must have been the opening set because they bring on vocalist Julie Driscoll for side two. Julie isn't a bad singer, but she tends to over-sing in an attempt to sound more RnBish. The first two songs on side two are covers of classic 60s soul songs. No one, but no one should ever ever cover classic 60s soul songs. There is no way you can improve on that sound unless you approach the songs ironically, ie punk or metal styled covers.

These two songs are followed by a nice Brit pop-psychedelic song called A Kind of Love In. Julie and the band sound much better with this style. The last two songs on the album are pretty bad with their cover of Season of the Witch being one of the longest most tedious songs I have ever heard. Brian's solo toward the end of the song sounds like he is falling asleep.

In a few years Julie would drop her glamorous RnB pose and become Julie Tippet and join her new husband Keith's avant garde jazz-rock band Septober Energy in which she would lead utopian hippie chants while the horn players tried to drown her out.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#162214)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
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3 stars Not an Open and Shut case...

It's quite easy to hear why this album was not a big hit at the time, with the elevator music sound of the opening track - this is the piece that grabs the audience's attention, and unfortunately, grabbing is the one thing it does not immediately do, despite the sawing and cry of 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4...

Initially, this interpretation of the Long John Baldry classic is delivered like a kind of watered-down Booker T (whose influence along with that of Jimmy Smith pervades this album), then, when the octaved guitar of Gary Boyle joins with a simple ostinato, the elevator begins its descent towards oblivion.

The tantalising sounds of Auger's Hammond B3 insinuate their presence, until about a minute and a half into the piece, where Brian unleashes a few of the fireworks he's rightly famous for - stabs and slides based on some of Jimmy Smith's techniques, but much more aggressive.

Isola Natale has much more impact, as the bass is brought higher in the mix, and a heavy groove is settled into immediately. Boyle's insistent octave guitar keeps trying to take us back to the elevator, and some of the sixth and minor seventh-based progressions follow suit, but then launches into some sharp blues licks, making this a somewhat more satisfactory fusion effort. The big event, of course, is the return of Auger's B3, and despite the fact he seems to be going through the motions, there's still a lot of fire being delivered here, and no unnecessary bluster. There's not an awful lot of invention, though, so as the first homespun track on the album, again, impact is lost.

Everything then goes cuckoo for the second self-penned number, Black Cat - quite literally, and a rich, deep, funky groove is delivered with aplomb - exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to hear in, say, an Austin Powers movie. Groovy, baby, grooooovy. This whole piece is concentrated on the groove, but that is not to say that this is all there is, because there are plenty of delicious little details, and the band rocks like a steam train on a particularly twisty bit of track. It kinda resembles something by Traffic, but much more groovy.

There then follows the delicate jazz-piano piece Lament for Miss Baker - a quite wonderful change of style, and side one is rounded off by Goodbye Jungle Telegraph, which begins with quasi-tribal drums and overblown recorder, which increases in intensity as the groove twists and turns, delivers a round of surprises, and emphatically dances around barefoot, putting me in mind of some of the more experimental Krautrock bands who would appear later in the decade. The wailing sax is pure jazz, but the percussion-driven music, including an incredibly percussive B3, puts me in mind of some of the bongo-backed hippy music that was so popular in psychedelic circles at the time.

If you take this as a percussive piece, it works spectacularly, with nice pathos in the highs, lows and dramatic curves.

Fliping the album over reveals a couple more covers (the first track on side 1 is a Long John Baldry cover), and we kick off with a heavy version of Tramp, originally written but never recorded by Jimmy McCracklin. Instead, Lowell Fulson had a hit with this piece that is well worth checking out, and later, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas ripped the soul out of it with Booker T and the MGs, providing what has proven to be a very samplable backing.

Auger and the band more than do the piece justice, though, fusing rock, soul and jazz into a delightful proto-prog edifice - and here we hear Driscoll for the first time, attempting a kind of Janis Joplin meets Grace Slick style vocal - quite successfully.

The only thing that lets this cover down really is the horn section, which is rather stilted - the Sly and the Family Stone version of this section works a lot better.

This is followed up with another Stax-soul/Blue Note derived number, Pops Staples evergreen Why (Am I Treated so Bad), delivered lugubriously rather than laid back, but still just as enjoyable as the Booker T-backed original (even if it is tricky to determine the difference).

A Kind of Love In is the kind of thing that Auger deserves all the recognition he's recently been getting for - that familiar insistent single note rhythmic ostinato that makes and drives the piece will either get on your nervers in no time, or keep your head bobbing and your foot tapping throughout.

A warped Big Ben chime then introduces the Booker T/Stax influenced Break It Up, which really should be kept a secret from the samplers. Driscoll's vocals sound more assured with this original number, going into Aretha Franklin territory in style, if not spirit. The vocal improvisations intertwine well with the piano, and the fadeout comes all too soon.

The album is wrapped up with yet another cover (it was still common practice for bands to release albums that were only 50% original material in 1967, although many were breaking away from this restrictive tradition) - a version of Donovan's Season of the Witch. Driscoll attempts to vocalise with some of the lines, but these come across as over repetitive.

Just before 3 minutes into the piece, there is a surprising breakdown with some brilliantly delicate and highly expressive B3 playing, demonstrating that Auger was no Smith imitator, but a great interpretor of his style, which is superbly built back into the song over the course of the next two and a half minutes.

When Driscoll's vocals reappear, they feel even more overdone and repetitive, and the piece ends unsatisfactorily - as Easy Money says in his review, it really sounds like Auger is nodding off for this one...

In summary, some real highs and no real cringe moments until Season of the Witch, on an album reasonably light on filler that takes a while to get going. If you're already a fan of the funky Stax sound, then this album could go two ways - you could hate it for the jazz-rock-soul fusion treatment, or you could really dig it.

An interesting document from the cauldron that eventually produced Progressive Rock, which was London's Progressive music scene in the late 1960s - there are better albums by Auger, not least the 1964-67 collection, also with Julie Driscoll.

This album would also be a welcome addition to fans of the Hammond B3 sound, as Auger gets almost unheard of emotion out of the instrument - frequently.

For anyone else, if you can find a cheap copy, it's got some great Austin Powers moments that'll really get your Mojo working baby...

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#181614)
Posted Wednesday, September 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Brian Auger is one of the best interpreters Hammond organ, and a great jazz musician. Despite all the 60 has got to be appreciated and judged fabulously, until 1969 was able to release the album that launched him as a star. This "Open" is the debut album of Trinity, a sort of backing band of same Auger and Julie Driscoll, secretary of Giorgio Gomelsky in 60's and ex Steampacket (with the same Auger). Recorded in 1967 in five hours at London's Chappel studio "open" is not a Prog album in the strict sense but, at the same time, Open is not a Proto Prog album. Due to the greater maturity than other contemporary Prog albums "Open" already plays Prog, remaining, however, a simple example of jazz rock, although very eclectic. Sure there are times now almost ridiculous songs ("Lament For Miss Baker, for me) but it is hard to miss that "Open" is a good example of Jazzy Prog POP.

The opening track is "In and Out" (Montgomery), a fantastic composition of POP Jazz with a delicious big band arrangements, melodic guitar and hammond in a sort of musical duel. Hammond soli are great. "Isola Natale" (Brian Auger) is another great track, example of West Coast Jazz with a fantastic echo of "She's Not There" of Zombies as in "Isola Natale" is more than a veiled reference to it in the beautiful Hammond riffs. "Black Cat" (Brian Auger) is a powerful savage Rhythm'n'Blues with big band arrangements, great Hammond and Auger voice. "Lament For Miss Baker" is just a lament with a savage feel and good piano intro a la Nina Simone. "Tramp" (Fulson Mc Cracklin) is the debut song by Julie Driscoll in Open. "Tramp" is a good Soul Funky song (and previously a hit for Otis Redding and Carla Tomas) that is perfect for Julie's strident voice. Good in this song the riff of horns and good is also Hammond solo by Auger. "Why (Am I treated So Bad)" (Staples) is another good song for Julie and is perfect for the gentle atmosphere of the B side of "Open",presenting more or less the same style as the previous song but with a slower Soul rhythm and without a big band arrangement, despite the presence of horns. "A Kind Of Love In" (Auger, Driscoll) is another Rhythm'n'Blues song with great power and magic (and feeling). "Break It Up" (Usher) is another Rhythm'n'Blues, today not perfect but with good power, good piano and Funky Soul vocal parts (male chorus, female soloist). "Season Of The Witch" (Leitch) is yet another cover of Donovan's hits, here expanded enormously (but without becoming psychedelic). "Season Of The Witch" is a perfect song for Julie's voice, powerful, strident and magic. This is the last song of Original "Open" Lp but 2004 Sanctuary remastered version present also 4 bonus tracks."I've Gotta Go Now" (Pappalardi) is a perfect Rhythm'n'Blues/ Rock'n'Roll song but with POP atmosphere, although powerful and engaging, as well as a little wild and previously unreleased. "Save Me" (Ousley, Franklin, Franklin) is a great Funky Soul, perfect for Julie's voice with good horns and great power. "Save Me" was the second Trinity single, first with Julie. "The Road To Cairo" (Ackles) is a great song out in a sinle, a great relaxing power ballad with great strings and julie interpretation. Probably "Road To Cairo" is my preferred song in this edition of "Open" but at that time it was normal so magical songs as "road To Cairo" were not included in an LP. "This Wheel's on Fire" (Danko, Dylan) is another song for a single release (with "Black Cat"!), that present a good contortion of the atmospheres original, thanks to a Bluesy Beat arrangements. Too bad that the tape in the archives was not totally perfect, because it presents a slight distortion.

What I understand from listening to "Open" is that they are in front of a really nice album. Regardless of whether we want to consider "open" Prog or Jazz (not that it changes a lot) this should be stated. One side of the album is anything to Auger, the other is all for Julie. And the atmosphere change. Of course, many songs are similar. But Julie is the presence of changing things. A natural talent (probably greater than that of Brian Auger) made ​​ available to the Trinity and dosed carefully, so that, once the album is to me a little sad and I have to start tp listen to "open".

Today "Open" can not be called a masterpiece. Maybe it was not even in 1968. Nonetheless, "Open" is a little gem in the ocean of Jazz and Rock.

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Send comments to 1967/ 1976 (BETA) | Report this review (#625513)
Posted Friday, February 03, 2012 | Review Permalink

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