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Brian Auger - Happiness Heartaches (as Oblivion Express) CD (album) cover


Brian Auger

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The late 70s were not good years for jazz fusion. Long expressive solos and extended group jam sessions were out of fashion and the various artists invoved in this genre struggled to find a way to be relevant in a changing music scene. On this record Brian Auger and his band opt for the jazzy RnB of bands like Steely Dan and Tower of Power in an attempt to sound current, and achieve mixed results. The vocal sections are rather mundane, but the instrumental sections really take off sometimes.

The group of musicians featured on here make up one of the best bands Auger ever put together. The rhythm section of White on drums, Langton on congas and Chaman on bass is capable of hitting some very nimble Latin grooves that past versions of his band could never touch. Auger rises to the challenge thrown down by his lightning quick rhythm section and kicks out many great solos. One of the nicest is the extended spacey electric piano ride at the end of Spice Island.

If this was an instrumental album it would have been one of the better fusion albums of the 70s, but unfortunately it isn't.

Report this review (#151658)
Posted Sunday, November 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars OK, 2,5 stars if you wish!!!

Clearly BA'sOE's "album de trop", HH is one of the most insipid and syrupy album that manages to almost destroy the previous works. Indeed the MkII line-up of OE had never risen to the power of the first line-up (Mullen/McIntosh), but they had managed to score an excellent album in Closer To It, but it was all the way downhill from that moment onwards; something that even the release of two live albums in a row wasn't able to slow or hide. Part of the explanation comes from the OE reinforcements: in comes Lenny White, returning percussionist Laington, giving this an Afro-Latino feel reinforced by Litgerwood's irritating "soul" vocals (a sub-sub-sub Winwood), while ex-Jeff Beck Group Chaman takes over from the last original member (bar our fave Ogre) Barry Dean.

If anything, the album's ethnic artwork should already give you a hint as to what to expect musically, but it can't tell you how uninspired the songs are. Even in the 9-mins Spice Island, the spaces for instrumental interplay are without energy, lame, tired, soft and lacklustre. Yes, Brian has a few decent solos (rather incredibly, he's still Hamm(ond)ering away on his organ although this was 78) around the album, but you have to suffer lots of insipid music between them, and I'm not sure most progheads are up to such a "challenge". Clearly the commercial side of affairs had to be considered as well; the group probably having trouble managing to stay relevant to the industry's eyes in a rapidly changing music scene. Not sure Brian's troupe managed this (most likely not). Musically, you'd believe in a poor man's Steely Dan. If it wasn't for the closing Paging Mr McCoy (not sure he was aiming at Trane's pianist), finally some real energy, this album would be close to hypothermia, despite its Latino feel

To be a bit fairer, this album is not as bad as I make it out to be in the previous paragraph and fans of this type of music might even like it: let's face it the rhythm section has a very afro-funky-latin feel that is not suiting me, and if you like Litgerwood's insufferably mainstream vocals, this could be a fine album, aiming at a different market, but lacking the r'nb credibility despite many ethnic musicians' presence in the band. Brian's original rock fans having by now mostly turned away, this album probably accelerating the process.

Definitely not Brian's best moment in his lengthy career, this album is his trial at finding a new escape door, but as long as Litgerwood was around. Although the album is not really bad per se, it's best to avoid it. You'll probably thank me for this.

Report this review (#160834)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars Brian Auger definitely is one of my alltime favourite electric piano and organ player. It was about five years ago, I was lucky to see him playing with his band (including Scotsman Alex Ligertwood!) at the tiny venue 'Schiller', situated in my hometown. Well, afterwards, he was having more than 75(!) years in the back at that time, I thought he'd never become (really) old or outdated, never ever. Man, still exciting stuff he was delivering on the stage. This album has been published in 1977, which means more than 40 year ago. The title, well, somewhat contradictive as such in one way, though actually typical life experience, or not? I always had the feeling it's a rather underestimated effort. Every song shows another Brian Auger stamp on it, the keyboard work is simply fantastic. Maybe one reason that I still have the vinyl in charge, purchased in the very early years.

Brian Auger has a prolific crew on his side as the current Oblivion Express. Examplarily the aforementioned Ligertwood, having a singing voice beyond comparison, or Lenny White on the drums, also working with fusion acts like Chick Corea's Return To Forever aso. 'Happiness Heartaches' is another album which constantly accompanied my 'prog career' during recent decades. Roundabout 40 minutes of well made progressive jazz rock/fusion music. Not much later Alex Ligertwood joined the Santana band. I'm inclined to hear his influences on both the crews, that means on this occasion too. In order to highlight a particular song, Spice Island always makes my day when listening to this album. Auger goes prog here in full blow. The composition features different layers and moods, just great. A recommendable album.

Report this review (#2488447)
Posted Tuesday, December 29, 2020 | Review Permalink

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