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Cozy Powell - Over the Top CD (album) cover

OVER THE TOP

Cozy Powell

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Raff
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Many people would not readily associate the name of the late, great Cozy Powell with a 'highbrow' musical style such as Jazz-Rock/Fusion. The flamboyant, hard-hitting veteran drummer, the powerhouse behind such high-profile, hard rocking acts as Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group and Black Sabbath (not to mention a brief stint replacing Carl Palmer as the P in ELP), was not renowned for the subtlety of his approach to drumming. Having been considered a as a replacement for both John Bonham and Keith Moon should bear witness to the fact that Cozy, though by all means a very skilled, highly regarded practitioner of his craft, was certainly not cut out of the same cloth as the likes of Bill Bruford.

However, Cozy was not only about bashing the living daylights out of his kit. As someone who had been a fixture of the British rock scene for over thirty years by the time of his tragic death, for his first solo outing he was able to assemble a cast of musicians to die for - many of them associated with seminal jazz-rock band Colosseum and its later incarnation, Colosseum II. Powell's rhythm sidekick is none other than bass legend Jack Bruce, whose overall performance is nothing short of awe-inspiring; while guitars are provided by Irish hotshot Gary Moore, Dave Clem Clempson (of Colosseum and Humble Pie fame), and former Babe Ruth and Whitesnake member Bernie Marsden (a longtime friend and collaborator of Powell's). Current Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey (another of Cozy's longtime friends and musical partners) and Jeff Beck collaborator Max Middleton are responsible for the lush tapestry of keyboard sounds.

Wholly instrumental, Over the Top is bookended by two tracks that are in some ways a statement of intent: the grandiose yet infectious Theme One (known to most proggers in VDGG's version), and the no-holds-barred drum extravaganza of the title-track, based around an extract from Tchaikovsky's Ouverture 1812 (which was soon to become Cozy's live showcase), complete with artillery and sumptuous orchestral arrangements. The remaining five tracks, however, more than hold their own against those two exhilarating pieces - my personal favourite being the aptly-titled, fast-paced Killer, punctuated by Bruce's deft, dynamic bass work, and further enhanced by Gary Moore's own trademark blend of technique and emotion. The slower, melodic Sweet Poison and the bluesy, wistful The Loner (dedicated to Cozy's mentor, Jeff Beck) both feature sterling performances from Clem Clempson on guitar and dazzling keyboard work from Max Middleton (who wrote both tracks); while the Bernie Marsden-penned El Sid offers further proof of Jack Bruce's chops as a four-stringer.

Those who loved Colosseum II's three albums and Jeff Beck's Wired and Blow by Blow will find this album essential listening. Anyone looking for the perfect blend of stellar musicianship and emotional intensity will not be disappointed by Over the Top, an album miles away from the often sterile display of technical skill that seems to plague modern-day progressive rock. Indeed, an excellent addition to the PA database - 4.5 stars for this forgotten masterpiece.

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Send comments to Raff (BETA) | Report this review (#196934)
Posted Friday, January 02, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm very glad to see a review of over the top here ! All Raff says in his review is absolutely true. When I was around 16 y.o., me and friends used to go to the beach listening in last volume some exciting music...eh..eh...good times around 1979... there were 5 teens in the car and the only one into prog was me....but, everybody used to go crazy with the 3 first Cozy Powell tracks taped (especially the literally killer - also some Eloy castle in the air, pilot to paradise and Illuminations were favorities to the teens).

They put it in last volume as the sound quality is outstanding, very prog with de luxe keyboards and killer guitars ala Colosseum II electric savage (1977, ****1/2) and war dance (1978, ***), Iīd add to Raff Jeff Beck mentioned reference albuns also there & back (1980 ****). This is a style of instrumental prog very tasteful, unique, uplifting, original, fantastic, killer and please it has very few with jazz or jazz-rock (except for some few moments); itīs really a new intrumental prog uplifting language; Colosseum II electric savage may be the matrix for the genre (?) There are others records or tracks in albuns in this style with more keyboards driven than Jeff Beck and using star wars synth effects, they are from late 70 to early 80. Example Bernie Marsden head the ball cut. Slaughter in Robot Village by canadian FM is another track example.

Do you want to know why Emerson and Lake choose Powell for the 1985 ELPowell album ? Listen to Over the top and you will discover that was not only because his name begin with P : itīs very prog...Every bass player should listen this album as it presents the most vivid bass sound I ever listened in any album I remember (by not less than Jack Bruce). Revolutionary mixing sound technology ? Maybe even for nowadays, the album still sounds in 2009 not dated. LAST will be the FIRST, as Raff says Over the Top, an album miles away from the often sterile display of technical skill that seems to plague modern-day prog rock. But take care the next Cozy Powell efforts were not so good as this one. To over the top my **** for the unique and sensational result.

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Send comments to Prog_Veteran (BETA) | Report this review (#197065)
Posted Saturday, January 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Cozy Powell - a guy who needs no introduction.

First solo album of this renowed drummer is from 1979 entitled Over the top. Yes indeed is an album over the top, with some of the finest musicians of that decade and still respected today for their contribution to the music, Gary Moore (again a musician with a long CV), Don Airey on keys (ex Rainbow , Uriah Heep, etc), Berni Mardsen (ex Babe Ruth , Whitesnake), Clem Clempson also on guitars (Humble Pie) and Max Middleton from Jeff Beck fame. The music on this first solo output is jazz rock, something between Dixie Dregs and some lighter version of Jeff Beck solo releases combined with unmatch sound of Moore's guitar make from this first album to be a pretious one in jazz rock history. Here are pieces from fast drum beats to more paced ones to even some realy slow traks, all is here. The musicians contribute to the album a lot, and is clear that Cozt left them to make some improvisations here and there, thats wahy the album is good as a whole not only because is a Cozy Powell solo effort. Not many peoples knows Cozy as a jazz rock drummer, thay know him more from colaboration and aswell as full time member in bands like, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Michael Shencker Group (MSG) or ELP (Emerson, Lake and Powell). His contribution to the drummers improvements skills are without doubt unmatch and very well reicived by many musicians worldwide. Not very much to add, but if you like bands as Dixie Dregs , Jeff Beck you might give's this album a try. His solo efforts are maybe not something really outstanding, but are good as you can get from him. 3.5 rounded to 4.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#201431)
Posted Monday, February 02, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Cozy Powell appears courtesy of Swindon Town Football Club (sleeve note)

In any list of top rock drummers, the name of the late Cozy Powell is guaranteed to appear. He may not have been the most subtle or the most technically gifted, but he could provide a powerhouse to drive even the most demanding of bands. Such was the journeyman nature of the way Powell preferred to operate that he made many friends along the way. For his first solo album, released in 1979, he called upon a select few of these to make up a band for the purposes of recording. With names such as guitarist Gary Moore, the legendary Jack Bruce on bass, and Don Airey on keyboards, it quickly becomes clear that this is not to simply be a self indulgent drumfest. Not only does Powell exploit the musicianship of these greats, he also persuades them to donate their songwriting skills too.

"Over the top" is undoubtedly the most progressive of Powell's solo releases, recorded when his career with Rainbow was all but at an end (he left them in 1980 bring him to the attention of Emerson and Lake of ELP who later enticed him to join them in Emerson Lake and Powell).

Inevitably we kick off with some thumping drums introducing George Martin's "Theme one", an instrumental covered rather successfully by Van Der Graaf Generator. This version of the irresistibly catchy melody is entirely faithful while emphasising the strong rhythm of the piece. The track sets the tone for the album, which is one of power and melody, devoid of subtlety. "Killer", written by Don Airey and Gary Moore, is the first time we get to understand Powell's true vision for the album, the 7 minute piece being a jazz rock number with the accent still very much on the rock. The track was recorded live in the studio, the feel being one of controlled improvisation featuring the lead guitar of Gary Moore.

The brief "Heidi goes to town" features the synth of Don Airey in a light repetitive theme not unlike "Theme one". Side one of the album closes with "El cid", a hard rocking piece which contains the screaming guitars Bernie Marsden, who is credited with writing the song.

The second side of the album has just three tracks, two of which run to over 8 minutes. "Sweet poison" is primarily a vehicle for guitarist Dave (Clem) Clempson to display his skills alongside those of Max Middleton on Fender Rhodes and piano. "The loner" will be recognisable to anyone who is familiar with the work of Gary Moore, as he has made this Max Middleton compostion his own as a solo artist. Here, it is Clemson who plays lead guitar, the 5 minute piece being dedicated to Jeff Beck.

The album closes with a piece of pure inspiration. Powell adapts the latter part of Tchaikovsky's "1812 overture" in a magnificent orgy of "Over the top" rock indulgence. The original overture is one of the most famous pieces of classic music, but here Powell and his posse transform it into a stunning rock suite. The first part of the track gives little indication what to expect although there is a greater tightness to the bombastic melody. Only as Powell takes control do the familiar tones of the 1812, complete with canon fire, take over. The piece is ideal for Powell, allowing him to hit everything in site as we reach the triumphal conclusion.

While the album is credited to Cozy Powell, this is very much a band album. Powell resists any temptation to make the drums the focus of the set, preferring to use his skills to drive along the rhythm behind the musicians. It is to his great credit that we are not subjected to endless percussion solos, but instead are treated to the combined talents of an enviable collection of great players. While probably rightly classified overall as a jazz rock album, it is the rock aspect which is by far the more dominant here.

The word subtlety should not be used anywhere in connection with this album. This is Powell at his "Over the top" best. Turn everything up to 11, and simply enjoy it.

Incidentally, another the sleeve note says "Lyrics enclosed"; but don't go looking for them, nobody sings!!

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#202856)
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars More of that Jazz

Cozy Powell is possibly my favourite drummer of all time and he has worked with many of my favourite musical artists like Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in ELP, Black Sabbath and Brian May among many others. Here we have him together with Gary Moore and Don Airey who just came from their stint with Colosseum II.

I'm sure that Cozy and his friends had a tremendous time putting this album together, and Over The Top is indeed a fun album to listen to in parts. We find here some great drumming, guitar and keyboard work. It is mostly an enjoyable listen clearly belonging to the Jazz-Rock category with some Blues influences (not surprisingly with Gary Moore on board). However, the whole album sounds basically the same with little variation in mood or tempo. The whole album is instrumental and hearing the whole album in one go can be slightly tedious. I do not find this music particularly progressive (if not Jazz-Rock is Prog by definition).

It's very hard to know who I should recommend this album to. Fans of Rainbow and Black Sabbath is bound to find this music too cheerful and lightweight; fans of ELP will probably find this too jazzy and not symphonic or progressive enough; serious Jazz-Rock/Fusion fans will likely find this music too simple and not complex enough. Hence, only serious followers of Cozy's drumming and hard core fans of Gary Moore are likely to find this album of genuine interest.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#229369)
Posted Saturday, August 01, 2009 | Review Permalink

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