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Stanley Clarke - Modern Man CD (album) cover


Stanley Clarke

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars If the School Days album was still a good album that could indeed find space on the JR/F or JF/F shelf, Modern Man is the last that could fit in that "progressive fold"; the guest being the now-usual suspects: the Steely Dan crowd, the big Jeff, Dee Dee and the LA-studio gang (Porcaro & co), and the album is torn between NY (the Hendrix studios) and LA, with the latter winning. Ken Scott is not producing anymore, that part being handled by Stan The Man. Despite the rather un-compromising photo artwork, there are 12 tracks, clocking all under 5-mins but some as little as 20-seconds intros, filled with complex arrangements (Stan was classically trained), but lacking the balls to go completely conceptual or bombastic

Opening on the charming fairly-proggy but very cheesy Opening (those spoken vocals are hilariously embarrassing) filled with ambitious orchestrations, the album soon gives way to the atrocious MOR/soul He Lives On (with that "warrior" subtitle) that doesn't fit the music at all, even if again the arrangements are rather ambitious. Actually from an arrangement, orchestration and instrumentation, most if not all of the album is quite impressive in terms virtuosity, including a solid brass section that could be out of an Earth Wind & Fire album.

Indeed the book-ended title track by two short interludes shows that Clarke had strong ambitions, but didn't realize that the music he was writing and producing would be so tacky, cheesy, soapy, soppy and even bring disbelieving smirks at this grandiloquent, pompous and rather bombastic muzak. However, More Hot Fun and Slow Dance are particularly groovy ultra-funk pieces, but also close to disco beats, and both don't really fit with the more ambitious songwriting on the album.

In some ways, some of the most ambitious tracks of Modern Man are slightly reminiscent of Rick Wakeman's solo albums between Journey and 1984, and not faring much better in terms of ridicule. I may appear to be tough on The Bass-Slapping King with this particular review and School Days' (both being equal in terms of proggyness), but I can't call this ambitious soulish-MOR mixed with high-technique funk anything close to "prog". It might be worth letting an ear on it to sample, but approach cautiously: in the end it'll be your call. Don't say I didn't warn you, though.

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Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink

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