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Fusion Orchestra - Skeleton In Armour CD (album) cover


Fusion Orchestra

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A little-known powerhouse of a band, Fusion Orchestra was one of the best of the many long-lost British groups that celebrated the new progressive sound of the early 1970s. Leader Jill Saward takes the reins as firmly as any male musician of her time and belts out a wail that could put some off, but her flute playing and contributions on synthesizer are of high quality and more than make up for any Ann Wilson-like hollering. And the band just rocks; Colin Dawson carves out tasteful and intelligent hard riffs on guitar, Sten Land fleshes things out on synth, guitar and horns, and Dave Bell & David Cowell are an ideal rhythm section. This, their only album, was easily trodden upon by the giant that prog had become by 1973. And that's a real shame, because this record, quietly released in '73 and a bit frayed at the edges, contains some of the most creative and distinct heavy progressive rock up to that point, and is a treasure seeker's find from that all too brief era when the majority of British rock was, in one way or another, 'progressive'.

Though guitar-based and hard rockin' by nature, the band incorporated all sorts of things that were now available to the rock ensemble including classical structures, Baroque flirtations, smoky jazz fusion, street party fun, and metallic harmony. Best of all, they had a yearn for what a band could do within the standard rock format without becoming experimental, as on eleven minute 'Sonata in Z'. 'Have I Left the Gas On?' will remind of Tull but also of Babe Ruth sans the Spanish guitar, and the fabulous title cut is not to be missed. Out of place 'When My Momma's Not at Home' is an awful pop tune but 12-minute heavy symphonic blues opus 'Talk to the Man in the Sky' has great double-guitar lines, bedroom keyboards, and driving riff-rock that defies anything Rush would do in following years.

A rare find by an exceptional band that progressed and rocked equally well, and mandatory for fans of all those glorious second tier groups during this electrifying period.

Report this review (#154820)
Posted Sunday, December 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Matthew T
4 stars For me this is classic progressive music from the time when it was all new and the genre had only really been going for a few years and this album contains those neccesary elements, a real rock feel with time changes and fairly lenghty compositions and it is has quite a heavy rock vibe throughout with the occasional acoustic interlude or as with track 1(Fanfairy Suite for 1,000 Trampits part 1 ) and the last track 9 ( part 2 same title) which are short fanfares used as an introduction and a closing of the album. Track 4 Ok Boys, Nows Our Big Chance is is less than a minute in time and is a great little harmonica led song with a country vibe but moves along nicely as the drummer is right on it as he is throughout the album, (very energetic).

And now for the guts of the album my favourite track is the 2nd Sonata in Z which runs for just under 12 minutes and starts with that drummer belting that kit again with a fairly quick lead solo and then Jill Saward comes in with the vocals, who really is giving this a go and putting all into it as she does throughout the album. She also does the flute throughout the album when required and do not forget that harmonica on track 4 which she plays as well, electric piano,12 string guitar on one track. ( a real talent ). I will add as well that the band has that twin guitar attack vibe at times and throughout this track you get a flute solo, heaps of guitar solos and even harmonica towards the end. Great stuff.

Now as you all know I am a bit of a lazy bugger and I will say track 2 is just as good as is the whole album. As I keep mentioning heaps of great solos on various instruments. Skeleton in Armour, the title track gets moving along right from the start with a driving heavy rock tempo and then quitens down for 2 quick solos and then back to that driving rock that they play. Also the track , When my mommas not at home is basically a a rock number but like it I do as, yep as I said before delevered with that energetic feeling this band has.

Jill Saward released some jazz albums in the eighties and nineties. Why this band is not better known is a mystery when there are albums out there people say are rare classics and not half as good as this little job.

Report this review (#207955)
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmmmmmm.............. Why am I listening, let alone, reviewing this ?

This type of music is pretty far of the path I normally follow on my way into the sunset and a life with tenthousandonehundredandseventynine women in Eldorado. But I will give it a try anyway.

This band does a pretty standard British mix of blues, rock, folk and progressive rock. Their sound is pretty early 1970s where everybody were experimenting with music, drugs and politics. Fusion Orchestra spent most of that time on the road, playing in every bus shelter, pub and music hall from the Lerwick in the north to Land's End in the south. The result is an album like Skeleton In Armour where you can feel that their place is on the road and not in a sterile studio. And that is a very good thing about this album, which is anything but sterile.

I have my gripes with this album though. I am not that big fan of the vocals here. I feel that Jill Saward is perhaps a jazz vocalist and not a good rock vocalist. But I am not so sure if a male vocalist could had done the vocal lines on this album any better. This album does not really have any great tracks too.

The positives about this album is that the songs are overall good. Not great, but good. The songs are also full of small details well worth checking out. I am most happy when the flutes is coming in and the Jethro Tull vibes comes flying around like a cruise ship through a chimney.

And that is really what I can say about an album which for me is off the beaten track. It is a good album, but not a great one. Hence my stars.

3 stars

Report this review (#274511)
Posted Saturday, March 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Fusion Orchestra came from London, formed in 1969 by three friends, guitarists Colin Dawson and Stan Land along with drummer Dave Bell.First rehearsals were carried out with session bassist Dave Wheeler, before Mick Sluman became their regular bassist.Several gigs at colleges and festivals later Sluman would leave his place to Dave Cowell in 1971, while they would recruit in a surprising move teenage female singer Jill Saward, who would bring along her talents on keyboards and flute.They signed a contract with the small Mother Records label, but no seeing their sound transformed into a studio album, they opt out and found a home on EMI Records.By the time they had become a live beast, playing at well-known clubs and having built a strong fame in the Greater London area.In November 1973 Fusion Orchestra's debut would be released under the title ''Skeleton in armour''.

The album contained mostly long tracks of jazzy Psych/Progressive Rock and if you could imagine the energy of MARSUPILAMI, the aggressive parts of BABE RUTH and the haunting atmosphere of CATAPILLA, you are in a good way.Fusion Orchestra proposed what exactly their name was brought up for, a tight and furious mix of old, psychedelic moods with frenetic, jazzy interplays in a progressive amalgam with loose parts, powerful instrumental battles and high-speed gears.They played fast-paced music with passion, changing directions with comfort and combining harmonica solos, edgy guitar playing, folky flutes and nervous piano lines in the same track.They were lucky to have an extremely technical and relentless rhythm section, which often covered Land's and Dawson's talents with its extremely skillful playing.Talking about the long tracks, it's very surprising that the band played almost constantly in an up-tempo mood with speedy grooves, interesting breaks and great female vocals by Saward, who occasionally offered some nice piano textures and good flute drives between the dual guitar attacks of the album, basically performed in a style crossing Rock and Jazz Music.Moreover this quintet delivered some laid-back movements, often with a light Classical nature, between the frenetic instrumental passages and even performed in a typical straightforward Rock style at moments to reach a wider audience and remain faithful to its roots.

Internal conflicts, the lack of a secure contract and line-up changes led to Fusion Orchestra's dissolution in mid-70's.Dave Cowell was replaced on bass by Paul Jennings in 1973 and the band also expanded the line-up with the addition of Martin Slavinec (aka Martin Lee) on keyboards.Lee would quit soon and he was followed by Land, a departure after which the band never fully recovered.By 1975 the only founding member left was Dave Bell.The farewell concert of Fusion Orchestra took place in Birmingham, on 4 May 1975.Saward would later become a member of the Jazz-Funk act Shakatak.

Interesting jazzy Progressive Rock with numerous psychedelic overtones, showered with energy, dynamics and endless breaks.Great and strongly recommended stuff...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1160737)
Posted Sunday, April 13, 2014 | Review Permalink

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