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Bozzio Levin Stevens - Black Light Syndrome CD (album) cover


Bozzio Levin Stevens

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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5 stars Whats that?? 3 Gentlemen supreme.....oh yes...indeed.....Terry Bozzio,Steve Stevens & Tony Levin musicians extraordinaire gathered here on the same recording??! OH YES !!! And what a record it is!! The brilliance ofSteve Stevens (yes i know..he´s been inMichael jackson/Billy Idol band)but listen to his absolutely fantastic acoustic guitars on "Duende" and his otherwise fabulous electric guitarsoloing. TonyLevin on bass...well it speaks for itself.....Terry Bozzio...drums/percussion....this is an absolute fantastic record for every fan of fusion / prog / intelligent music......all the seven tracks included here (not one clocking in under 7 minutes)are fabulous...with everything any fan of Zappa/ King Crimson/ ....well name it....its here.......enjoy.......its a MASTERPIECE !!!
Report this review (#17646)
Posted Sunday, January 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars An outstanding studio album recorded in 4 days! if you want to know what freeform and improvisation means this is the record to hear it... nothing but excellent prog-rock mixed with world fusions, a must have!
Report this review (#17647)
Posted Saturday, January 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album features a rather unusual combination of musicians: Tony LEVIN (KING CRIMSON) on bass, Terry BOZZIO (FRANK ZAPPA, Jeff BECK) on drums, and Steve STEVENS (BILLY IDOL, Michael JACKSON) handling the instrument of rock --- all guitars. Really went into this one not having a pre-set expectation and have been pleasantly surprised my friends. While I would easily acknowledge that LEVIN and BOZZIO are virtuoso musicians, it's a lot harder for me to see STEVENS in their avant-garde company. But without a question this guy has been a well preserved secret to the music world... His guitar performances really do stand out on this album as he has adapted a completely different sound... and a natural sounding one. The music on this release could be best classified as progressive avant-garde rock. According to the liner notes this album was recorded in four days in what sounds like was an intense studio session. What did emerge is a thoughful album full of wonderful instrumentation and excellent song workmanship. LEVIN's performance is nothing below his standard with a nice mix of bass and stick fretting. BOZZIO's percussive strokes are masterful and offer a nice range of moods, while STEVENS guitars are allowed to cover lots of ground. The chemistry between these musicians is clearly apparent. All songs are instrumentals and there is not a single song that's less than seven minutes long. This is a must-get for any progressive or rock music fan.
Report this review (#17649)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Improv deluxe... Terry Bozzio is a musical heavyweight: Zappa, UK, Missing Persons, plus countless solo releases, sideman sessions and clinics. One of the best players at his position. Tony Levin, Bass/Stick man extraordinaire, his list of sessions is nearly a long as the number of bands in this archive. He's played with the prog hard hitters; King Crimson, Pink Floyd, ABWH, Peter Gabriel,California Guitar Trio and the list goes on. He's supported the bottom for artists from Sarah McLaughlin to Alice Cooper.

The surprise for me when I bought this 6 years ago, was Steve Stevens. He of Billy Idol fame... Ultra-teased hair, leather pants, make-up and pointy guitars... ugh! I was blown away.... Shaking my head and taking a step back to re-evaluate this stadium rocker. I have to admit that I had some serious doubts about this album prior to putting it into the CD player. I expected simple riffs, three chord rock and roll licks and more squeals/squonks/tweedly weedly leads than any one man could stomache. What I found was a very talented and eclectic guitarist. Duende still ranks in my top twenty all-time instrumental list.

These musicians layed down an incredibly satisfying 7 tunes, over an hours worth of melodies and skillful improvisations in only 4 DAYS. Most bands take that long just decided which tune to record first. Each piece has an ebb and flow, not a solid wall of sound throughout the entire disc. There is plenty of space for each musician to stretch and take his share of the limelight and they seem to flex and weave together without squeezing anyone out of the sonic picture.

There are ideas aplenty throughout, intricate grooves and stunning solos. Take a dive, come up smiling.

Report this review (#17650)
Posted Friday, July 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens joined forces and forged one of the most amazing jazz power trios of the late 90s: their two albums are still remembered dearly and regarded highly by a large amount of prog fans. The combo's energy and inventiveness were solidly reflected in the explosive repertoire they managed to create during their brief active time. Their debut album is jam-oriented, since it was conceived and recorded in a few days: even Levin's busy calendar didn't allow him to spend time with his momentary band mates during the pre- and post-production stages of the recording process. Now, when I purchased my copy of "Black Light Syndrome", I had the same state of mind that probably every one had at the time: Levin and Bozzio were already well-reputed musicians who had much experience in the most demanding contexts of experimental rock and jazz fusion. but what about this session man Stevens, whose CV was basically focused on arena rock and top-selling pop? Well, his wicked, fiery electric guitar playing and his genuine sensibility on acoustic guitar taught a lesson to all of us who had been bearing some kind of preconception regarding Steve. His stunning deliveries (which comprise influences by Fripp, Holdsworth and Page) work effectively as a crucial point of reference for his partner's intense rhythm anchor. When it came down to elaborating the repertoire, the trio's strategy was - except for a couple of cases - to spend time interacting through exhaustive jammings, and then let some main theme emerge and turn it into the focus around which they would perpetrate the construction of a proper track. Most of the material is built on not too frantic tempos: the moments of maximum energy usually come around as a result of the evolving moods of a main motif and/or an expansion on some particular chord change. The opening 14 ½-minute track 'The Sun Road' is a clear showcase for both the writing process and the solidness of the three musicians' constant interplaying. Languid psychedelia, hard rock and Flamenco-tinged fusion are linked fluidly in a cohesive succession, leaving room for each individual's freedom. 'Dark Corners' is the most Crimsonian number in the album, and definitely, one of the most accomplished ones: there is some somber nuance among the exciting hard rocking mood that is spread all throughout the track. Each maestro delivers a unique genius while cleverly keeping the track's overall integrity. The title track and 'Falling in Circles' are a bit less oppressive, although there is always some room for occasional fiery interludes: the latter is more uplifting than the former, due to the funky-based textures of its rhythmic structure. 'Duende' and 'Book of Hours' are the only composed elements brought to the studio rehearsal sessions. They show Stevens' interest in Flamenco fusion: even though he doesn't equal the mastery of Paco de Lucía or Al di Meola, his guitar parts are captivatingly beautiful, displaying a pleasant air of relaxing introspectiveness. A special mention goes to the Mexican-tinged ambience in the climatic closure for 'Duende'. Finally, the closure 'Chaos/Control' sends shivers up and down the listener's spice with its bombastic explosion of colours: although it's not as up-tempo as 'Falling in Circles' or the speediest passages of 'Black Light Syndrome', it certainly comprises the larger dose of sonic lunacy of the album. An incendiary closure for an extremely excellent album. 4 1/2 stars!
Report this review (#17654)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is what rock fans love. Three great musicians, jamming out, and making some great music. That is what you have here, IMO, but it is not simple rock. In fact Progressive is the only way to label this.

When I first purchased this CD, blindly purchased going only on the names of Levin and Bozzio, I had no idea who this Steve Stevens was. A friend told me later on that he was the guitarist for Billy Idol. WHAT!?!?! Billy Idol?!? Well, let me tell you something. This Steve Stevens guy is definitely not good. He is amazing! Talk about some creative playing and guitar chops that rival the guitarists out there, this guy belongs in the realm of guitar heroes. So as it turns out, Stevens meshing with the other two Prog giants results in one excellent set of instrumental material.

I mentioned jamming before, because that is the feeling I get throughout. And its like these guys can read each other perfectly. If you are a musician, this is a great place to find ideas as many different techniques can be heard throughout. The feel of the album is upbeat and exploratory not mention melodic. It has a jazz, latin, rock, fusion vibe going on.

I highly recommend this album for the music connoisseur.

Report this review (#125060)
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There's no doubting the pedigree of the three players involved here but what was perhaps a little surprising at the time was the inclusion of Billy Idol guitarist, Steve Stevens. He proves to be a worthy collaborator for Bozzio and Levin though, proving he's capable of far more than the Pop Metal of his previous employer.

Basically what we get here is a series of instrumental Jams in the Jazz Rock/ Fusion vein with a bit of acoustic Flamenco guitar playing thrown in for good measure. Although the jams were based on a few initial ideas, they were fleshed out in the studio on the spot over a four day period with further guitar overdubs added by Stevens at a later date. Naturally from musicians of such calibre the playing is superb and full marks to them for making the material sound like it had been worked on over a longer period of time.

Report this review (#148152)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog Team
2 stars Jamming syndrome?

The 'disease' that usually strikes highly skilled musicians when forming a project, seems to have affected the trio in their first effort. Black Light Syndrome consists of 7 lengthy (the shortest being almost 8 min.!) experimental tracks with no particular strict structure, showing a 'spontaneous' approach taken by the artists. This sounds more like a 'live' recording, while it is obvious that the three virtuosos are enjoying themselves throughout the album. Their fusion/rock output is built within a relatively 'dull' moody atmosphere and is dominated by a constant medium speed tempo.

Guitars are playing the major part in this effort, while Bozzio and Levin keep the steady rhythm section for Stevens to improvise. The pretty 'numb' start of the album never really evolves to more interesting ideas, while in the rest of the record, there are no signs of 'resurrection'. The first flamenco touches are given by Stevens in Duende, but the track ranges in slow, indifferent vibes, thus, the beauty of the guitar arrangements never show up. After the title track, which continues on the same tempo, Falling in Circles is the first impressive stop point. A dark feeling is communicated through this track, with samples adding to the atmosphere, while the guitar work is very diverse, ranging from hard rock tunes to a la King Crimson passages. Book of Honours is the second classic-guitar-based track, but as its predecessor, has nothing new to add, flowing indifferently. giving its place to heavier and jazzier tunes in the ending track, which indeed has some interesting experimental moments.

There are a few good ideas in this album, however, I have the feeling that they are 'loose' and never made into 'proper' pieces of music. Fans of experimental, instrumental fusion albums will probably like this one, as it consists of high-level musicianship and improvisation. I would not recommend this to the rest, as, apart from 'Falling in Circles' I struggled to find something that will really excite me. Situation Dangerous, the project's second effort, shows all these elements that are missing from here.

Report this review (#155810)
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Very interesting album by these less or more well known prog artists who united their forces in order to create a piece of inspired music...The progression of this album relies mainly on two factors: Firstly it's the different styles of music that we meet during the listening of the disc,beginning from prog rock,going to jazz/fusion with hints of LTE,PLANET X etc. and other DREAM THEATER related projects here and there and finishing with ethnic influences like the spanish guitar and the flamenco oriented ''Duende'' track...Secondly it's the obvious jazz/dark/almost RIO influences coming out of KING CRIMSON's music which dominate almost the whole album...that is of course imposible to avoid since Tony Levin was a member of the band...And it is useless to report that the three musicians did an excellent job with their instruments...A very good album,hardly boring,very adventurous and recommended for fans of prog rock instrumental journeys!3.5 stars...
Report this review (#178546)
Posted Thursday, July 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Black Light Syndrome is the debut album from all star band Bozzio Levin Stevens. As the name suggests the band consist of Terry Bozzio ( Frank Zappa, UK, Missing Persons, Steve Vai) on drums, Tony Levin ( King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Liquid Tension Experiment) on bass and Steve Stevens ( Billy Idol, Vince Neil, Derek Sherinian, Steve Lukather, Joni Mitchell, Peter Criss, Michael Jackson and others. Steve also performed the Top Gun Anthem featured in the film Top Gun) on guitar. Prog heads will recognize both Terry Bozzio and Tony Levin while Steve Stevens at this time wasn´t someone you associated with progressive rock. That would change with this album though.

The music is obviously created while jamming in the studio but unlike other jam session albums this one really seems to work for me. The album is fully instrumental. Both Tony Levin and Terry Bozzio create some great rythms and Levin provides the powerful and colourful notes for Steve Stevens to play over. Even though both Tony Levin and Terry Bozzio delivers some great interplay it´s Steve Stevens that is the biggest attraction here for me. I would never have thought that someone like him could play so many challenging and beautiful notes.

The music is very influenced by King Crimson Red period and instrumental prog jazz/rock. Actually there´s little jazz in the music but I guess it´s the best way to describe the music for a lack of better words. The songs that remind me most of King Crimson are Dark Corners and Falling In Circles while the latin and mostly acoustic Duende is a nice melodic break. The opener The Sun Road is a great 14:37 minute long jam with lots of great sections. The most jazzy track here is the title track which has a jazzy beginning and a beautiful and fast played guitar climax. Excellent.

The musicianship is excellent and if these songs are invented while in the studio they are pretty impressive. There are many great sections here and even though it´s obvious that the songs are created while jamming they are generally very cohesive and structured.

The production is powerful and really gives us the oppertunity to experience a power trio on the loose.

I´ve had this album for quite a while and never really got into it before now. It´s hard for me to listen to this kind of music and normally I wouldn´t be too thrilled with the style but it seems that there are exceptions from the rule. This album is way above average and fully deserves 4 stars. Cold and sharp when it needs to be and beautiful, emotional and melodic when that is required.

Report this review (#183306)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Back when BillY Idol was at his peak in the eighties, word was out that Steve Stevens was a phenominal guitarist. I never got that at the time, pigeonholing him as "the guitarist with the poser". Here, I began to understand what the buzz was about. Terry Bozzio and Tony Levin had a long track record of playing fantastic music, but Stevens' virtuosity in many styles was a revelation.

The disk begins with "The Sun Road", a song who's mood seems a bit reminiscent of post-Waters Pink Floyd, and ends up sounding something like the coda of King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues In Aspic IV". Following that is "Dark Corners", a sond that could have been on Crimson's "Red". Stevens shines on acoustic guitar on the Spanish-flavored "Duende".

Although the music is mostly improvised, there are quite a few twists and turns, mostly done flawlessly.

I highly recommend this to any hard rock fusion fan.

Report this review (#216494)
Posted Monday, May 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Terry Bozzio relates in the liner notes how this band was created. I'll pass it along in my words and also in Terry's own words. Terry typically ran out of funds by late winter because his drum clinics ran Spring and Fall. So his manager came up with the idea of making an album with some well known musicians to make some extra cash.Terry's wife suggested Steven Stevens (Billy Idol, THE ATOMIC PLAYBOYS etc.) and he certainly fit the bill for being well known but Terry knew nothing about him personally. Steve met up with Terry at one of his drum clinics and soon found out he loved the way Terry played including his compositions. The next day they went to Steve's house and Steve showed him his stuff. Terry says "I was impressed, overjoyed and excited...he demonstrated a profound sense of melody, harmony, virtuoso technique, stylistic sensibility and philosophical tendencies which immediately revealed to me that this was going to be much more than a commercially- driven "studio project"." They needed a bass player though not only with the "name" but also with "the same creative, individualistic, expression to the project Steve and I could bring". In making sort of a dream list Tony Levin was put at the top only half-heartily because they never thought he would be interested or have the time. Well he was interested in playing with these two guys and he had 4 days he could squeeze in January 26-30 to do the record. The ground rules were to have "unconditional acceptance of each others ideas- to spontaneously compose in an improvisational manner and use editing or overdubbing to flesh out basic tracks". Only four days though !? Well all I can do is tip my hat to this talented trio. Man this is so good. I like it even better than their follow-up where they had much more time to make that record. Magic was in the air when these three guys got together to record this album.

I'll give a brief blurb on each track. "The Sun Road" is one of those tracks that I love driving to. It's so enjoyable and laid back. Stevens comes to life 2 1/2 minutes in. Nice bass / percussion section 5 minutes in and I like the drumming 10 minutes in. Flamenco guitar too. "Dark Corners" has a cool sounding guitar intro. Some huge bass 2 1/2 minutes in. It turns experimental then kicks back in at 6 1/2 minutes. "Duende" opens with Flamenco guitar as intricate drums follow then it's Levin's turn.

"Black Light Syndrome" turns powerful after 2 minutes. Bass and drums only before 3 minutes. It's building before 5 1/2 minutes then the guitar solos a minute later. "Falling In Circles" has this great heavy sound as the guitar plays over top. Some voice samples as it changes. It's heavy again after 4 minutes.The tempo picks up before 6 minutes as they let it rip. "Book Of Hours" opens with Flamenco guitar as bass and drums support. It's reserved but powerful. Just a pleasure to listen to this. "Chaos / Control" has this wild guitar intro and random drum patterns. It settles with chunky bass. More killer guitar later.

Easily 4 stars for this instrumental album.

Report this review (#294202)
Posted Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Think in Tony Levin and immediately it comes to your mind a complete background of bands including King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon, David Bowie, Liquid Tension Experiment, and many many more. Think in Terry Bozzio, and it comes to your mind Frank Zappa, UK in the progressive vein, and many other bands in the rock scene. They got together to record an album, but they needed a guitar player someone who could fit their expectations and the experimental orientation they were looking for. Steve Stevens is remembered more for being the guitar player of Billy Idol all his career, and helping some other artists such as Michael Jackson. How could a man with no progressive orientation could fit in a band looking for that? Thank god they knew him very well, and knew Steve wouldn't fail. Black Syndrome is an excellent album full of different nuances that shape up an album full of contrasts, heavy riffs by Stevens, amazing drumming by Bozzio, wonderful bass lines by Levin. It contains a lot of elements, and some personal influences are perceived around. For example, Dark Corners, resembles much to King Crimson's Red. The Spanish guitar Stevens plays in a couple of songs fits perfectly with the more dramatic changes within the same songs. A very good album indeed!
Report this review (#1014333)
Posted Thursday, August 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yes, yes, yes!! Sweet! This CD grows on ya fast. I have listened to this CD over and over and over and hear new treasures! This is the cool stuff that instrumental rock is meant for, no filler, no flash, just free-form, inspired majesty. This power trio has famous roots and they've brought it all together masterfully. First cut, "The Sun Road" starts off like a tune off of David Gilmour's first solo album and then vanishes into a driving power chorded, surge of soulful rock. Remember those tunes where the vocalist shut up and then the band started a finale jam that the lame DJ would fadeout just as you were getting into it? This cut picks up and takes off where the great jams quit too soon. Next "Dark Corners" is a heavy, PHAT, rocker that pulls you under its powerful whirlpool of guitar, bass, drummed frenzy. MAN!! Turn it up!! Stevens tortures the guitar into absolute submission without ANY predictable riffs. What soul, what fire, what honest rock! Levin looms everywhere and Bozzio flows in a polyrhythmic jungle. Fine interactive tension and execution everywhere. This stuff goes way beyond King Crimson's "Red" days and what a ride.

"Duende" opens with flamenco guitar firebursts, and slowly builds into a decent Spanish flavored piece. Not my favorite but well done. Next is the title cut, "Black Light Syndrome", which is obviously a play on "Bozzio Levin Stevens". It is a slower paced dirge but BIG, WIDE, and filled to the brim with a variety of well executed riffs, bass lines, and drum tech. This tune took me right back to the heyday of instrumental rock and filled me with sweet nostalgia.

"Falling in Circles" is an early Floydscape dotted with Ronnie Montrose leads, a ballad of driving determination and resolve. Floods of Satriani, Wishbone Ash, Alvin Lee, Fripp, Buck Dharma, and more are ALL there and even that Duane Allman tone. "Where does Stevens pull this up from?" Fascinating!!!

"Book Of Hours" took me right back to Wheels of Fire's "Pressed Rat and Warthog", rainy-day dreamy afternoons with a fresh pot of designer coffee. Pure relaxation and finesse. Levin, Bozzio, and Stevens play off of one another precisely as one mind. It stretches nicely into an up beat jam of hot acoustic guitar work that finally sails away.

Last cut, "Chaos/Control" kicks some serious hindparts!! I find my headbanging ways slippin' up on me from behind. I heard that "E7 breakdown" from Hendrix's "Midnight" on War Heroes and then a very jazzy boogie in classic Frank Marino style is laid down. Stevens is a guitarist with a wide range of dynamics and "feels" in one song but he always brings you solidly back home to that original foundational rock.

I can't say I've ever come across an album like this with such diversity and it clearly "nails it" for me. I have to confess I am one nit-picky reviewer yet I hope to hear more from this power trio. I'm glad to have "discovered" Steve Stevens. Bozzio and Levin have been well recognized and praised for years. This collaboration was excellent!! Great job guys.

Report this review (#2582369)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2021 | Review Permalink

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