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George Duke - The Aura Will Prevail CD (album) cover

THE AURA WILL PREVAIL

George Duke

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars George Duke's followup to the fantastic "I Love The Blues - She Heard My Cry" is good, but something of a letdown after such a great album. There is mostly good, but not great seventies fusion an the album. And two Frank Zappa songs, Echidna's Arf (in my opinion, one of Zappa's greatest compositions), and Uncle Remus, the latter co-written by Duke with Zappa - we will discuss these later.

The best track here is Floop De Loop, the only original song on the album with a lot of energy. The rest of the songs, while nice, are venturing toward what fusion had become by the eighties, radio friendly easy listening. That trend is mostly apparent in the vocal songs, where Duke croons his bland love lyrics in his cheesy falsetto.

Echidna's Arf starts out amazingly, played faster than I've ever heard it (even by Dweezil's band). It sounds like it's going to be amazing. But then, after the opening section, Duke veers it into a pastiche of spacy synthesizer noises, and never comes back to finish the song. What gives?

His version of Uncle Remus is slower than the "Apostrophe'" recording, and much smoother. While is lacks Zappa's crisp arrangement, I like this version.

So there is enough good music to make this a three star album, It has too many flaw to rate it any higher.

Report this review (#307678)
Posted Sunday, October 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars By the middle of the decade, George Duke was churning out albums at a frenetic pace, this one recorded in early 75 and released a few months after the preceding I Love the Blues album. The least we can say is that this album's artwork and title inspire more confidence in the musical content inside, even if the album is not intrinsically superior in quality than its predecessor. From that Remaining Aura, Duke chose to retain much less personnel for this album's sessions, relying on the now-faithful Chancler, the returning Moreira (two tracks) and having Alphonso Johnson (ex-Weather report) on bass.

After a "normal" jr/f opening Dawn track, follows an atrociously-sung and strange For Love track, not totally devoid of interest, but the slow-fusion Foosh lacks fire and if Floop De Loop (George, who was your dealer at the time??) returns to the Beck/Hammer-sounding (but guitar-less) realm, this is starting to sound like just another Duke fusion album, with its already heard composition a flogged-to-death formula, but it ends up being one of my faves of the present album.

On the flipside, Malibu is not exactly successful Latino-fusion track with its cheesy vocals and no-less kitschy synth sounds (by this time, Duke had bought a Moog, but was obviously still a rookie with it), and Fools is an atrocious love ballad that could've fit on a Barry White album. The short spacey Echidna's Arf makes a calm intro to the sickeningly over-sweetish cover of Zappa's Uncle Remus, which again breaks the album's continuity. The closing outro of The Aura again returns to the usual funky fusion of his.

Aura is to be approached with caution, because there are a few objectionable tunes that breaks the album's overall fusion cohesiveness, but then again these tracks are numerous enough to start questioning if this album "fusion" label is the correct one. I wonder if George would gathered the JR/F tracks on one side and glued the other weirdies together on the flipside might not have been wiser choice, than this strange mix and un-match mess.

Report this review (#402109)
Posted Thursday, February 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars REVIEW #2 - "The Aura Will Prevail" by George Duke (1975). 5/6/2018

Coming off my first review of Zappa's 1974 "Apostrophe" album, I was particularly struck by the song "Uncle Remus" from that album. The song was written by both Zappa and pianist George Duke, who was born just thirty miles south of where I live in San Rafael, California. Given how Eurocentric the progressive rock genre is as a whole, I found it exciting to be able to review a local artist. Duke's solo work lives entirely in the realm of jazz fusion, in the vein of Jean-Luc Ponty or Weather Report. My first exposure to fusion was when I began collecting LPs in the winter of 2014. I used to comb all of the local thrift shops in my hometown of Petaluma, searching for listenable records to test out on my cheap $60 console turntable that I bought at Target. One store in particular in the heart of the city was partly run by a man who sold his own records and would give me weekly recommendations as to what I should listen to.

It was thanks to this man that I was introduced to King Crimson as a 15-year old kid, as well as other pioneering prog rock bands such as Yes, Genesis, and even Van der Graaf Generation. Better yet, he recommended a lot of jazz fusion albums to me which I promptly put into my collection, even though they never got as much airtime as "Close to the Edge" or "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway". I was introduced to Ponty, Weather Report, Return to Forever and many more - so jazz fusion does hold a place in my heart. George Duke was a prolific songwriter, releasing numerous albums over his musical career in addition to working with guys like Zappa. I chose his 1975 album "The Aura Will Prevail" since it contains his own cover of the aforementioned Zappa work "Uncle Remus."

The album opens up with the instrumental fusion staple "Dawn". Apart from being a mellow and open tune, it is a rather generic example of what fusion brings to the table. It has a solid main theme, and makes use of the synthesizer quite heavily - something which is gonna be a recurrent theme on this album. We move away from the traditional realm of fusion and into the more commercially friendly and lyrical "For Love (I Come Your Friend)" which is just too sugary for my tastes, although I do admit I woke up this morning with the chorus in my head, so I suppose the song does a great job in that regard. It is a fast-paced poppy love tune featuring Duke on lead vocals - it is by no means progressive in any way. Another reviewer on this site noted how the music on this album is bordering on "easy-listening" status, which I wholeheartedly come to agree with as we inch closer and closer to the end of mainstream prog. Here in Sonoma, we would hear this type of music on the soft jazz 93.7FM rather than the classic rock/occasional prog 97.7FM which I indulge in.

"Foosh" doesn't do any better to break the monotony with its mellow and somewhat mischievous tempo. Following "For Love" dead in the middle of the first side, it seems like it was intended to serve as a prelude to the longer and more prominent "Floop De Loop" which is by far the most musically challenging piece of the album. Coming in at 6:43, Duke and his band make better use of their musical talents to appease the more radical prog listener. However, the entire piece just does not resonate with me, meaning it is all too forgettable for my tastes, despite it being what I would consider a decent instrumental showcase. I tried to recall the musical motifs after listening to the entire album numerous times, but I could not come away with anything more than the group playing a long instrumental that was a bit more complex than the rest of the album. At this point, it seems like this album would only be fit for a completionist, but fortunately we still have not come across the "Uncle Remus" cover which I thought might be able to salvage the album.

Opening up the second side of "The Aura Will Prevail" is "Malibu", which features a bit more of a Latin influence, with some exotic percussion and wordless vocals supported by a rather nice-sounding bassline. For some reason this style reminded me a little bit of one of the songs that came off of Camel's debut album, even though I attributed that connection to being a total fluke. As for the song in its entirety, it is another pretty generic fusion staple similar to the album's opener, and while it is not bad per se, it is altogether forgettable just like the rest of the album. "Fools" is another poppy vocal piece which turned me away right after I got into the groove of the album's Latin fusion style. Another reviewer proclaimed that this song was better off found on a Barry White album, which gave me a good laugh - however, I kind of agree with him, as this song veers off the track of prog with "For Love". I'm not saying that his song is awful - both the pop offerings are catchy in their own right, but given I am looking for musically challenging material on a fusion album, I feel almost cheated as Duke moves off into the mainstream midway through the decade. I could see my grandfather, who is a devout listener of R&B and soul having grown up in San Francisco and Oakland in the 1950s through 1970s, listening to this music more than I, and he absolutely detests rock and roll.

The next two songs on the album are pretty intriguing; they are both covers of Frank Zappa songs. Of course, "Uncle Remus" is the latter, but Duke puts the instrumental "Echidna's Arf" on this album, which was a bit surprising. I was actually rather excited to see what Duke would do on this piece given it is a rather fast-paced composition that Zappa played with the Mothers of Invention. On this album, it starts off at a breakneck pace but to my horror, it devolves into a space-rock tier synthesizer showcase which hardly continues on the themes of the piece when played in Zappa's band. In fact, it actually disappointed me that Duke took this route with the song, given that there was an opportunity to go in many positive directions with the piece. Fortunately "Echidna's Arf" isn't a long song being only 3:35, and it feels like Duke is trying to make this one another prelude into "Uncle Remus", which totally feels wrong. First of all, Duke's rendition of "Remus" is much softer and balladic than Zappa's 1974 version, and the spacey introduction does not segue well into it at all. That being said, the cover which I had so long awaited turns out to be the distinct highlight of the album, with Duke not going overboard on the pitch of his vocals; keeping it brisk and cool, which works much better. I feel that if the entire album followed this theme, it would have warranted a better reception. However, I still prefer the original's fast pace, backing vocals, and brutal guitar solo coda. This version is better listened to in a melancholy atmosphere, while you can rock out to Zappa's version.

There is a small closing piece titled "The Aura" but it is moreover a continuation of the fusion themes seen on "Dawn" and "Malibu". Otherwise, that is really it from this album, which I can sum up as mediocre. The only real saving grace for this album from being a one-star is the "Remus" cover which is memorable and listenable. George Duke was a very talented pianist and had a great role in Zappa's band, as well as a prolific solo career, but his 1975 offering just comes off as a generic and forgettable fusion record. I could justify devout fans of the fusion genre being somewhat interested in the rest of the contents on this LP, but overall I think that we all come to this record to listen to Duke's rendition of two Zappa works - it gets a 2-star (63% D-) from me, one song away from being a wash. Only listen for "Uncle Remus", and that's if you're a fan of more mellow music.

Report this review (#1920037)
Posted Sunday, May 6, 2018 | Review Permalink

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