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4 stars NIACIN features John Novello on Hammond B3 organ & keyboards, Billy Sheehan on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums. All are seriously accomplished musicians and play everything from rock, funk, jazz, fusion, progressive and beyond. They are an instrumental group, so the focus is obviously on interesting composition and inspired improvisation. And they do get into some pretty unbelievable improvisations throughout... without a question their playing will surely blow your mind. John Novello plays a mean B-3 organ a la Keith EMERSON, etc. while Dennis Chambers provides a steady groove on the drums. Add bassist virtuoso Billy Sheehan (ex Mr BIG) and you have the band NIACIN. CD also includes a few guest appearances (Chick Corea, Pat Torpey, Kenwood Dennard, Alex Acuna). This CD will take you through a variety of adventurous mood, tempo and style shifts. No real time on the album for deep relaxation as this album continuously moves throughout. Highly recommended album...!
Report this review (#17683)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars This early album by the celebrated Fusion trio leans more to the jazzier side of the Jazz-Rock spectrum, and suffers a little for it. Later recordings would foreground the heavier elements of the band's distinctive instrumental attack, but here they clearly pulled too many of their punches.

A conservative production certainly doesn't help. The grindhouse grunge of John Novello's Hammond organ, normally the heart and soul of the Niacin sound, is diluted into a flavorless stew of generic digital synth textures, and the usually dynamic rhythm section is undermined by bass guitar virtuoso Billy Sheehan's uncharacteristically reserved performance: at no point on the entire album does he rip into one of the trademark pyrotechnic solos that would spark other Niacin efforts.

But let's be fair: the material here doesn't really demand any fireworks. Remember this is a band that likes to supplement their original music with an eclectic mix of occasional covers, but look at the selection this time around: instead of the heavy metal art rock of KING CRIMSON's "Red" (a highlight of their 2004 "Time Crunch" album), there's a tasteful but unexciting version of the old Joe Zawinul/WEATHER REPORT standard "Birdland", not exactly an ideal vehicle for the sort of powerhouse interpretation these guys are capable of.

A silver lining can be found in the able support offered by several guest musicians, including three additional drummers substituting (why?) for band regular Dennis Chambers, plus percussionist Alex Acuńa on the nervous Latino-tinged rhythms of "Montuno", one of the album's standout tracks (in part because of Novello's more aggressive touch on the acoustic piano). And the rich icing on an otherwise flavorless cake is an appearance by RETURN TO FOREVER legend Chick Corea, adding some graceful Fender Rhodes filigrees to his own original composition, the 11+ minute "Hang Me Upside Down".

Bottom line: it may not be the band's strongest effort, but on the other hand the album showcases a more relaxed side of a power trio typically known more for their muscle.

Report this review (#140948)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a great album. In the earing of this album, beyond the capabilities of the players and theirs virtuosisms not in dicussion with these guys, you may ask yourself what kind of music is. This question looks to be useless, and maybe at the end it is, but is what we usually do trying to classify music: the answer slips away like sand through the fingers. That's why Niacin show us a mix of differents genres keeping the best from each one, achieving the goal to be always new track after track. Is that really important? Exploring the branches of differents genres, melting and rebulding them in a new flavour, means to dare himselves to give us a such terrific sound. I think that the real class for Niacin is "progressive fusion", one of the best results on this hard path ever heard, never boring: a real joy for ears. . For me deserves 4+
Report this review (#848530)
Posted Thursday, November 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 1997 and the rising wave of Niacin shows a tremendous energy on the first live album of the trio ''Live!-Blood, Sweat & Beers'', released on Videoarts.The following year Sheehan, Novello and Chambers released the second studio album of the group, both on Videoarts and Chick Corea's Stretch label, entitled ''High bias''.

The album is moving again into organ-based Fusion realms, but surprisingly the trio shows again a huge amount of energy and passion, delivered in numerous compositions with strong nostalgic vibes, scanning the delicate, jazzier stuff of GREENSLADE and ending up in furious, jazzy interplays along the lines of WEATHER REPORT.And speaking of WEATHER REPORT, the second piece ''Birdland'' is actually a great cover on the Jazz/Fusion veterans' eponymous track from ''Heavy weather''.The music is again very technical with extreme care on the deep bass work of Sheehan and the drums of Chambers, producing pounding and dynamic grooves for Novello to unfold its undenied talent.From fast paces to more doomy passages, the man always fills the sound with amazing solos and lovely piano lines, scanning the territories from US Fusion to Latin Jazz.Really good stuff with very tight playing and some more ethereal parts added for good measure.The last track ''Hang me upside down'' was composed by CHICK COREA, who also performs on electric piano.This piece has very strong nods from the 70's-era of RETURN TO FOREVER and the combination with Novello's virtuosic organ washes is simply great.

One of the best Fusion bands of the recent age.A couple of keyboards and a accomplished rhythm section manage to unleash an album full of pleasant, delightful and very energetic instrumental music.Strongly recommended.

Report this review (#997475)
Posted Saturday, July 13, 2013 | Review Permalink

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