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Stanley Clarke - School Days CD (album) cover

SCHOOL DAYS

Stanley Clarke

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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5 stars School Days was not my first Stanley Clarke experience, but it did plenty to reinforce that this bassist from Return To Forever was one worth seeing in the spotlight. On School Days, Stanley Clarke's fourth solo album, he takes the spotlight and runs with it.

The strumming bass riff of the album's title track is a thing of beauty, and as a bass player myself, quite a fun song to play along with. No wonder Stanley plays "School Days" on virtually every gig!!

"Quiet Afternoon" brings the tempo of the album down a bit, with a name perfectly suited to the music. This is very relaxing song where the keys gets to shine.

"The Dancer" starts off with an amusing assortment of percussion (with some whistles thrown into the mix) and driven by a funky Clarke bassline. Some great lead guitar work by Ray Gomez plays as the track fades out.

"Desert Song" sees fusion favorite John McLaughlin on acoustic guitar with Clarke now behind the upright bass. Stanley switches between playing with a bow and plucking the strings, showcasing his versatility as a bassist. "Desert Song" is an entertaining duet (plus some percussion) between two legendary musicians.

The brief "Hot Fun" is the most rock n roll moment of the album in both length and simplicity. "Hot Fun" is what one might consider being filler, but it is good filler.

The album's finale, "Life Is Just A Game", has a strong melody (first heard on guitar at around the 1:00 mark and repeated often). This is most certainly the jazziest moment of the album, especially in the intro of the song. Stanley even does some brief vocal work that is surprisingly good. The transition to the rambunctious instrumental/solo section was smooth, as was the return to the main theme.

Each of the six tracks on School Days has a distinct identity, and the album is a great blend of jazz and rock. A 5-star essential of the fusion genre!!!

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Send comments to Stooge (BETA) | Report this review (#224885)
Posted Tuesday, July 07, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars This is a very good, but not quite great album from Stanley Clarke. While there are no bad songs on this disk, in my not so humble opinion, there are onlt two great songs, "Quiet Afternoon", and "Life Is Just A Game".

Now don't get me wrong, the title track, "School Days" is built upon a fantastic bass lick, and I love seeing it performed live, but as a song, it leaves much to be desired. The same goes for "The Dancer" and "Hot Sun". "Desert Song" features a wonderful duet between Stanley and John McLaughlin, but it's lightness does not compel me to listen to this track often.

"Quiet Afternoon" is probably the best jazz song Clarke has ever written. The fact that so many other artists have covered this song is a good indication of that. And this performance or the song is perfection.

"Life Is Just A Game" is the only prog fusion song on the album. The song mixes almost romantic vocals with big band horns and progressive fusion high speed acrobatics. It's one of the best songs on any of Stanley Clarke's solo albums.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#225725)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Kazuhiro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It had been proven to RTF that his activity with Return To Forever(RTF) was indispensable existence for RTF by his from time of foundation performance. The activity concerning his music in the 70's might establish RTF, the style be established by both of the Solo album, and the knowledge and the technology know in the world.

"Children Of Forever" that had been announced in 1973 was an album of the Jazz concept that finished in shape to draw the flow from RTF and to answer it. The directionality of the album at this time when it purely worked on the item of Jazz/Fusion was an album from which his expression was obediently sent to the world if it caught objectively in his work.

And, it was a work where his eagerness was felt as a challenge with new directionality of a few, rough Jazz Rock of album "Stanley Clarke" in 1974 following it. And, I think that "Journey To Love" that should be called one the top in the work at this time is a masterpiece where one answer and result of the directionality at which it aims in addition to the idea cultivated with his RTF appear. This one success example is established to some degree as the flow in the 70's. Various Jazz/Fusion had some world and the imagination.

There might be a lot of listeners of the perfection of "Journey To Love" on which it works with zeal without the space almost who say his masterpiece very high, too. And, it is guessed that it is this album to have expressed some room and development from the one shape concretely. The entire flow expresses the depth of wide and the idea further following the composition of the former work.

Because the balance of the entire composition is splendidly equipped if it is considered to transmit happiness that makes the tune of the feeling that listens easily with a little room from the music that he tried to express in the former work and music to the listener, the listener who enumerates this album in his representative's work is not few either.

As for his Bass, the way to choose the musician who catches the tune from various angles and is participating is also preeminent. The style of the album might be established as a gentle rhythm and David Sancious of Steve Gadd are appointed. Bass of Clarke shows very various expressions while taking an intense tune, a slow tune or the element of Latin. The former work and this work might be able to catch a glimpse of his essence enough if satisfied as the set.

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Send comments to Kazuhiro (BETA) | Report this review (#227187)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This just doesn't measure up to Stanley's self titled album in my opinion. It seems to be all over the place, maybe because he doesn't have a set lineup like on his self titled record, I don't know. On this one we get a different lineup for every track. 3 different guitarists, 3 different drummers, 2 different keyboardists. I think it boils down to the songs not being nearly as good for some reason, except for the last one.

"School Days" is a pretty good bass led track. Funky with prominant guitar from Raymond Gomez throughout. Gerry Brown does a good job on the drums, my favourite part of this song. "Quiet Afternoon" is light and easy as the song title suggests. Not a fan of this one. "The Dancer" has this "island" beat and flavour to it. It's party time ! A fun track with a catchy beat but it does little for me.

"Desert Song" has Stanley using a bow on his bass to sound like a mournful violin while John McLaughlin plays acoustic guitar. It's ok. "Hot Fun" is uptempo with a strings and brass section while Stanley growls on his bass. "Life Is Just A Game" would have fit well on his self titled album.The final and longest song on here,and my favourite by far. Billy Cobham impresses me to no end on this one while George Duke does a great job on keyboards. Icarus Johnson also offers up some killer guitar. Just an amazing tune.

So yeah a good album but not worth 4 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#230808)
Posted Monday, August 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
js (Easy Money)
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars School Days is the third and final album in Stanley Clarke's great trio of progressive rock influenced fusion albums (Stanley Clarke, Journey to Love, School Days) that he released in the mid-70s. Although maybe not always quite as ambitious as the first two albums, School Days is probably the most mature and developed, making it the best of the three. Curiously enough all three of these albums seem to follow a pattern: one lengthy orchestrated jazz fusion 'suite', a modal acoustic number featuring McLaughlin, Corea or both and a few high octane virtuoso rock/funk numbers with guitar shredding by Ray Gomez or Jeff Beck.

There's a difference with this third album, the melodies and songwriting are just better. The first two songs feature catchy tunes that tempt you to hum along, how many fusion records out there really have a melody that doesn't sound like someone taking random shots at a fretboard or keyboard. The third song, The Dancer, is about one of the finest I have ever heard. Stanley sets up this ultra-tasty groovelicious world beat/funk circular thump-pop pattern over which Ray Gomez and David Sancious harmonize a Zappaesque Lydian melody. Optimistic, bright and slightly Caribbean, I never get tired of hearing this one.

Desert Song opens side two with McLaughlin and Clarke playing rapid fire acoustic solos. Their skills are admirable, but that 70s style of overly flashy fretwork gets old to me. This song does have one section where it sounds like McLaughlin is channeling Pete Townsends chord work on Underture. Next up, Hot Fun gets things back on track with a catchy melodic funk bass line and great horn and string arrangements. Once again it's the superior melodies that make the difference.

The album closes with one of Stanley's big orchestrated jazz suites with a bit of his usual for that time shot at EW&F vocals. This is the only song on the album that features Billy Cobham and George Duke and they raise the already virtuoso playing on here by yet one more notch. Unfortunately Clarke will take a turn for the commercial after this album, his third final and best of his progressive rock/jazz fusion releases.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#231291)
Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars There has never been a time when music wasn't an essential part of my life. Not as a kid, not as an adult. By choice whether playing it, creating it or just listening to it as a soundtrack for my existence it's always been around. And the #1 reason for that is my undying love and respect for its incorruptibility. I can't honestly say that about anything else I've encountered in the material realm. While I will concede that lyrics can be dishonest, exploitative and adulterous, music is always pure and righteous no matter what form it takes. Music can be dissonant but never disgraceful. It can be strange but never perverted. It can also be uplifting without being shallow, manipulative or artificial and that's what I take away from Stanley Clarke's "School Days" with every spin. I can't say that about many albums but this one always elevates my mood no matter the frame of mind I might find my capricious psyche meandering in and out of and that rare characteristic alone makes it one of my all-time favorites. For therein lies the true magic of music. Its miraculous ability to transform me from the inside. To make me want to dance. To make me smile. To instill a sense of unmitigated joy. This recording does all that and pulls it off with class.

By 1976 Stanley Clarke had firmly established himself as a bonafide trendsetter in the hoity- toity world of progressive jazz rock/fusion. His jaw-dropping work with Chick Corea's revolutionary Return to Forever group had brought him to the attention of millions years earlier and the tasteful solo work he'd produced along the way had solidified his reputation as a far-more-than-competent composer/arranger. But with this particular effort he created a masterpiece that stands the test of time. It will be just as exciting to listen to a millennium from now as it is today. I rank it right up there with another of my cherished fusion LPs, Billy Cobham's "Spectrum," because in the case of each the artist cut cleanly through the pretension and arrogance that so often plagues the genre and elicited unabashed exhilaration and pleasure of performing from every musician involved by setting them free. In a word, they allowed it to be FUN.

"School Days" has a beginning that's as simple as a hopscotch layout but as infectious as the common cold. As Stanley and drummer Gerry Brown lay down a strong foundation guitarist Raymond Gomez barges in with a wild, ferocious attack that brings to mind the angry wailings of a trapped East Texas bobcat who shouldn't be trifled with. I'm not sure I've ever heard a guitar effect quite like it but it screams bloody murder (in a good way). Soon the song's central melody line appears and it fits the title perfectly in that it sounds like a children's refrain emanating from a playground. The breakdown section starts out as refreshing as a summer rain shower due to David Sancious' airy synthesizers as Clarke confidently steps up to the plate to knock out one of the best bass rides you'll ever hear. He patiently allows tension to build between him and the drums, culminating in his producing more pops than Orville Redenbacher as Stanley spanks his Alembic like it was a bratty two- year-old and then, at the very peak, summons a triumphant, feral howl from his instrument befitting that of the Hound of the Baskervilles gloating in the moonlight over his latest kill. (Playing air-bass during this sequence is not only acceptable but encouraged.) He then lets the adrenaline abate as he wisely lets you catch your breath before reprising the catchy melody and settling back to terra firma.

"Quiet Afternoon" is an aptly named slice of soulful serenity. Clarke unveils his specially- made piccolo bass and delivers a perky lead on it while Sancious slips in a flirtatious solo on his mini-moog. Drummer extraordinaire Steve Gadd is, well, Steve Gadd here as he demonstrates the exquisite technique that would make Steely Dan's tune "Aja" a landmark cut a few years later. "The Dancer" is next and its Brazilian street festival groove is irresistible. Don't mistake its uncomplicated, repeating pattern for being demeaning or patronizing, though. A tune can delight and intrigue at the same time and this one does just that. First there's Gomez' and Sancious' multi-tracked harmony guitar/synth theme that is arms-raised-in-the-air, fist-pumping triumphant as it brackets various stirring fills from the virtuosos on board. They all contribute to the cause with their best shot but the gleeful laugh David tickles out of his keyboard is a grin-inducing celebration of the good life. I never get tired of buying wholeheartedly into this song's wonderful, enriching aura.

"Desert Song" is a mesmerizing acoustic duet between giants that concentrates more on feeling than precision and the payoff is wholly gratifying. Spiritual inspiration invigorated many artists in that era and, while the fact that guitarist John McLaughlin was a devotee of Sri Chinmoy and Stanley had been curiously enraptured by L. Ron Hubbard would seem to make for odd bedfellows, the result is enlightening and emotional. Clarke flies over the strings with a speed that would cause a bumble bee to go cross-eyed and McLaughlin's fiery passion is palpable as he pulls and stretches his steel catguts to the breaking point. And, despite the sparseness of the instrumentation, these two masters achieve more in the way of dynamics than most fully-loaded bands. The short "Hot Fun" follows and it peels off from the starting line with more energy than NASCAR at Daytona and plops down more heavy funk on your plate than you can eat in one sitting. Here the sizeable string and brass sections brighten the landscape and the rhythm section of Stanley and Steve is tighter than Silas Marner's pockets during an economic recession. Nothing unbelievable happens but it's entertaining to watch it whiz by in a blur, nonetheless.

The nine-minute "Life Is Just a Game" is the closer and it's as thrilling and supercharged as the smell of napalm in the morning. After a cool keyboard intro and a jolt-you-out-of-your- reverie onset, Clarke & Co. present a brief contemporary vocal passage that doesn't last long enough to fret over, then drummer-of-the-gods Billy Cobham's roiling toms herald an abrupt quickening of the pace and your heart rate. Keyboard man George Duke's sprightly synth runs fit like a glove but don't kid yourself, this thing rocks (or, to brazenly steal a line from my distinguished Aussie friend, "It rawks!") with the best of them. Icarus Johnson's guitar lead is spicy/flashy in a Tommy Bolin kind of way, then Stanley and Billy get down to some serious, and I mean SERIOUS interplay so intense that it'll make your head swim like it's caught in a whirlpool. It's everything you'd expect from these titans and more. They don't leave anything on the field. The song has a great big, fat proggy finale that once again involves a huge, in-your-face orchestral score that delivers the necessary knock-out blow and the albums ends with you thirsting for more.

One of the drawbacks of a lot of jazz rock/fusion is that the majority of its art is more progressive jazz than a genuine melding of that movement with rock's raw sensibilities and attitude. Not so with this album, though. With this stellar recording Stanley Clarke successfully blended the felicity and raucousness of rock & roll with the high-brow integrity of modern electrified jazz and it satisfies on a multitude of levels. Its lack of mind-numbing complexity may not be everyone's cup of Earl Grey and I can savvy that and accept it with grace. But I love it when music moves me and I'm not ashamed to say that every one of the tracks on this album does that without fail and that's not only a precious commodity but a treasure hard to find in this crazy world. Five sparkling, happy stars for this bad boy.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#239945)
Posted Friday, September 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Everybody knows who this gentleman is, so I will skip the introduction, and concentrate about the album only. To me School days from 1976, the forth album from his solo career was a little diseppointing in comparation with what he does with RTF. There is more fusion, more elaborated arrangements, on solo, to me is less enjoyble. Sometimes I have the feeling I'm listning to Dixie Dregs, I mean the opening track School Days is absolute a Dixie Dregs clone, same arrangements same country jazzy moments, the guitar sound is one on one with the Morse's tone. Maybe the album is not so solid, like for example thier second and third album, because on every piece he has a diffrent line up. OK the musicians are all top notch, each one with realy solid back ground in this field, but the whole sound is not very exciting. John McLaughlin - David Sancious - George Duke - Billy Cobham - among many others featuring here are very well known musicians, and as individuals each one are masters at the instruments they play, but here together with the excellent bassist Stanly Clarke doesn't made a solid unit, each one play in his language and the result is a good album but nothing over the top, realy. 3 stars desearve this album for sure, but I know many more who has more exciting momets then this . I prefer him in RTF over here, or on the second and third album. Not a bad album , but without sustance. Anyway , I like the cover art, as title suggest the school moments are always a pleasure to remember.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#268698)
Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars If you like extended bass solos--for minutes on end--then this is an album for you. I'm not one of those people. There's a continuum of bass usage, from barely audible and/or just playing quarter notes to fast and complex soloing. I suppose my preference is somewhere in the middle, with complex and melodious bass that complements the song itself and what the other players are doing. Despite the who's who of guest musicians, it's clear that Stan's the man on this one, for better or worse.

For example, the opening and title track, School Days, starts off building on a nice bass groove, with some nice guitar work and percussion, and then for the next four minutes it's the Clarke solo show. This is a common theme, although Cobham and Brown on percussion typically manage to make meaningful contributions in that department even during solo time. This same general pattern repeats itself--although with certainly more planning, musical content and arrangement--on the finale, Life is Just a Game. This song just feels very disjointed, with a fairly generic main theme, some pretty good jamming, some forgettable singing and humming from Clarke, and the fusion standard fast unison staccato playing (I've always wondered why so many fusion albums contain these segments...they really don't do much for me).

If you can't get enough fusion, or if you really like bass solos, or if you just want to hear the range of notable guest musicians, then this may be a good album to pick up. Other than that, there are numerous fusions albums to track down before School Days would pop up on your radar.

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#285566)
Posted Tuesday, June 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Bass players will marvel over this. Stanley Clarke is one of the most skilled masters of the instrument, and on his fourth solo album he lets his hideously tremendous skills run rampant throughout the album. You will hear a few passages where Stanley seems to play complex figures at Mach 2; of all the bassist I've heard so far, only Jaco and Myung seem to be rivals in that regard.

It can get in the way of a good composition, and that's why the title track isn't so hot. While the bass chords at the beginning are astounding, ''School Days'' becomes nothing more than a solo excursion for three minutes too long. However, the follow-up ''Quiet Afternoon'' is so cliche on a fusion album as it is a softer, smoother song coming after a rockier one. It worked on the debut Mahavishnu Orchestra album, but here, it sounds stale.

''The Dancer'' and ''Hot Fun'' keep everything in check with the funk undertones and the relatively reserved playing. ''Desert Song'' is the track to watch out for; predominantly acoustic, this track showcases Clarke's versatility across the bass guitar spectrum with Clarke using a bow in one instance. ''Life Is Just a Game'' might be a prog highlight, but the lightweight Earth, Wind and Fire vocal lines, unison runs and overkill length get tiring.

A must-have for bass freaks, but it lacks an overall uniqueness to be a serious acquisition for a prog collection. SCHOOL DAYS is nice for a fusion collection, but ultimately not essential.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#302886)
Posted Friday, October 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Fourth and best-known album from the now-star bass king with his slapping techniques, although he modestly claims that he only popularized and adapted Family Stone's Larry Graham's inventive playing on the instrument. In either case, it is this album that most people remember, but this proghead prefers the more ambitious previous solo endeavours he made. Just like in his s/t album, Stanley includes a full string section and an extensive horn section as well, but both are (thankfully) used sparingly. Since you don't change a winning formula, this album was again recorded in Hendrix' Electric Ladyland studios and was produced by Ken Scott (Supertramp & Bowie), but this time, for this baby, the stellar cast of guests includes David Sancious (then in E Street Band), McLaughlin, George Duke, Billy Cobham, etc? And it's really too much, because the cohesiveness (shared drum stool between Gadd and Cobham or shared keyboard bench between Sancious and Duke) and the warmth of the album are ruined, breaking the Duke-Gadd pair of the JTL album.

Opening on the extraverted title-track, you're directly taken by the "let's get straight to business" feel and a "get to the point" attitude, doubled by ultra-professional showmanship and awesome mastery of the respective instruments. But what's lacking here is the warmth that one finds in RTF or Mahavishnu. With this track, we're just left with the cold hard facts and technicalities. It doesn't help that the Quiet Afternoon is a little too subdued and "professional", and lets the listener slip into a nap. Later on, The Dancer will pull you from your slumber and draw you into the infernal but repetitive Latino beats with average symphonic synth layers and even-less carelessly-chosen synth cursors twiddlings, the whole thing sounding like a jam. Yes, you're now awake, but nearing boredom, no matter how prestigious the participants are.

The flipside is rather more interesting, opening on the Desert-filled bowed-contrabass, which leads into soft McL guitar arpeggios, but the piece whiffs these sectarian or mystical beliefs constructed by gurus (Clarke's Hubbard included) polluting the musician's minds during those years, but fortunately it doesn't hinder the music. The short string & horns- laden Hot Fun is throwing the album in wild funk territory, which is not exactly intelligent tracks sequencing, since it is sandwiched between two cerebral tunes, the latter being the ambitious 9-mins Life Is Just A Game, the pendant of these suites and lengthy tracks that graced so nicely previous albums of his. Starting almost symphonically, this track reeks the utter-virtuosity of its participants, but here somehow these usually clashing elements click rather well together, including Clarke's brief vocal passage that would not be out of place on Carlos' Borboletta album. It's clearly the album's highlight and features a fairly different Duke-Cobham line-up than the rest of the album (the track was recorded in Los Angeles), and is definitely the more interesting for progheads.

The average JR/F fan might be a tad miffed at my review, because I take a swipe at what many consider an icon, but if you're willing to consider the album from a strictly business and music industry, it'll appear that the strings used to set the canvas are not sowing thread, but more like 50-tons crane lifting cables, and the album loses whatever charms some have chosen to fall under. Don't get me wrong, this is an awesome album in terms of virtuosity and in a way is picture-perfect (well way too much so) but it's also ice-cold, compared with the previously slightly-flawed and exuberant works bearing the SC registered trademark. Prefer his first three albums (including the COF on Polydor) to this overly abundant mass of talent over-shadowing each other. Aside from the final track, School Days is definitely more a Jazz-Funk album than a proggy Jazz-Rock album and augurs Stanley's future musical directions. While I may appear rather tough on this one, I'm still giving the fourth star treatment

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#312923)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Stellar personnel in an above the average album

I'm not much of a solo album man. Artists usually make their solo albums with b-sides, songs that were not good enough to fit in the albums of their main projects, etc, and the very few solo albums that I own prove that, but Stanley Clarke's School Days is surely an exception to that.

Released in the same year as the masterful Romantic Warrior, Clarke's fourth solo album School Days shows a a side of this fantastic bassis that we cannot see in Return To Forever: instead of the elaborate, multilayered and colorful music we got used to listen him play, School Days has a more plain and straightforward perspective, stripped from what some may call as excessive demostration of musicianship. Don't let the wide array of jazz stars deceive into thinking otherwise, this is very different from his other works.

If you keep that in mind, there are not may downsides to point out here. Yes, the music is simpler, there are some more popular musical outfits in many parts, specially in the closing piece Life is Just a Game and just some (and really dated) bad musical choices, also in the closing piece, but that is it. No major flaws, no big issues beyond that.

One thing that I don't really consider a flaw, but could surely be a matter of improvement, is increasing the participation of the guest musicians. There are so many talented and capable people playing here that could get so much more room or that get outshined by the bass, such as Billy Cobham's drums, believe it not, because they are only there to play the parts they are supposed to. You can only but wonder what could have happened if they were given more space.

The albums as a whole is very fun to listen to. There are, as you can obviously imagine, huge bass parts and the bass plays a proeminent role in all of the album, after all it is a solo album by a jazz bassist. The best songs, however, are those that have some more space for the other people to shine, such as the title track, School Days, the second song, Quiet Afternoon, and the fourth song, Desert Song.

Grade and Final Thoughts

Clarke's more straightforward and simpler music in his fourth solo album has hooked me for good, despite some possible improvements that i believe were possible concerning all the musicians that played here. If you like his work at Return to Forever and wish to taste a different side of his music, this would be a good place to start.

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Send comments to CCVP (BETA) | Report this review (#334392)
Posted Thursday, November 25, 2010 | Review Permalink

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