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Billy Cobham - Billy Cobham Live: Flight Time CD (album) cover

BILLY COBHAM LIVE: FLIGHT TIME

Billy Cobham

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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3 stars Half man-half octopus Billy Cobham demonstrates why he is not only one of the foremost drummers on the planet but also validates his knack for selecting the right assemblage of talent for his musical endeavours. This particularily short-lived lineup of Barry Finnerty on guitar, Don Gronlick on keyboards and Tim Landers on bass proved to be one of the tightest and most appealing to appear with Cobham over the six years that had elapsed since Cobham departed the firebreathing Mahavishnu Orchestra. Gone were the R&B afflictions of this period and a (slight) return to fusion convictions heard on the 1973 Spectrum album.

These recordings, taken from two shows in Kohln and Stuttgart Germany in 1980 show many sides of Cobham and how he can make a group jive. From cleverly crafted syncopations to taking chances with tricky rock meters Cobham guides the well oiled ensemble through a myriad of moods without getting too up front, although he manages to throw in the odd exhibition here and there starting right from the title track which is introduced with some drum gymnastics just to get things rolling allowing the then 23 year-old Landers to get into a cool solo bop bass groove. Despite the intensity it is obvious that this is not going to be the conflagrated rave up of Spectrum. The first such indication are the much more fluid guitar lines of Barry Finnerty. With just enough reverb added to give his playing a solid rock feel, he does fly off into freakout mode at times but the controlled melodic keyboard backdrops of Don Grolnick prevents him from turning anything into another Tommy Bolin Quadrant 4 firestorm. Two pleasant suprises are the sensuous groovin' pieces 6 Persimmons and Princess where Gronlick's concentrated keyboards and Finnerty's fine guitar lines and informal technique are accorded center stage with Cobham adding and taking away in the right places. The Whisperer and Anteres funk it up but everything manages to stay tight and precise with Finnerty's rock affinities showing through. The finale, Jackhammer features more soloing from Finnerty where Cobham almost turns into the machine he was during his Mahavishnu Orchestra days constantly keeping the pulse flowing.

One of the lesser known albums in the extensive Cobham catologue, this lineup never recorded a studio album, but was nonetheless one of the more radiant and together collaborations that Cobham recorded with up to that time. An oft overlooked jewel.

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Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Review Permalink

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