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George Duke - Save The Country CD (album) cover


George Duke

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars George Duke made quite a splash in the jazz world when his trio teamed up with Jean Luc Ponty for a series of incendiary concerts and recordings. Duke's playing on those dates was fierce and aggressive, and his virtuosity in the new jazz idiom; one that was straddling the old world of post-bop and the new world of jazz-rock, was surpassed only by Herbie Hancock. That's one of the reasons why this uneven recording, which followed his Ponty gigs, is a bit of a disappointment. This record isn't all bad, its just no match for his prior recordings when it comes to inventiveness and integrity.

Right before Duke recorded 'Save the Country' he had spent a few months with Don Ellis' progressive big band, and was heading toward similar work with Frank Zappa's somewhat similar ensemble. I guess that explains why this is the only George Duke album with a mini big band made up of alumni from Don Ellis and Zappa. Later a lot of these player would reassemble in some of Billy Cobham's touring bands.

Some of these songs are in the style of Duke's late 60s trio, energetic proto-fusion that was borrowing freely from post-bop, RnB and rock. Other songs show a strong influence from Don Ellis' big band, but George's orchestrations and arrangements for horns are no match for the innovations of Ellis. Unfortunately a lot of the ensemble work on here doesn't sound much different from a hack Vegas band.

The biggest problem with this album is the whole thing sounds rushed and careless. The mixes aren't very good, at times the playing is sloppy and the choice of a few popular cover tunes comes across as cheezy and insincere. Session guitarist Jay Graydon in particular seems to be having a bad day on some cuts, while sounding very much the wah-wah pedal wieding cheezemiester lounge lizard he really is on his good cuts. On side two 'Alcatrazz' escapes from the pop covers with some late 60s hard jazz rock from Duke's Fender Rhodes, until Graydon comes in sounding like that preacher who went to US high schools in the 70s and warned of the dangers of rock and then gave kids a live demonstration of what acid rock guitar 'really sounded like' (I suppose to prepare us for the worse).

George Duke fans might find a couple cuts on here that show him at his best, also if you enjoy obscure lounge shark grooves, the RnB/jazz cover of The Beatle's 'Come Together' would be a good find for any acid jazz DJ. If your pleasures are more perverse, Jay Graydon's attempts at psychedelic rock guitar approach the 'so bad its good' level of greatness. Its not that he is a bad guitarist, he's just out of his element trying to get the 'now sound' of 60s hippie San Francisco.

Report this review (#296928)
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars First George Duke's solo recording for American Record Company. Guitarist Jay Graydon worked with George Duke in The Don Ellis Big Band. The horn section consisted of Ernie Watts sax & flute, Jay Daversa and Charles Findley trumpets, Ernie Tack and Glenn Ferris trombone (also worked with Don Ellis). The album is an eclectic mix of Jazz Funk using pop material, with some straight ahead tunes thrown in. The LP was recorded during the Spring of 1970 while Duke was touring with Frank Zappa.

In fact, this album contains big amount of pop-rock materials, but with jazzy arrangements, and some brass section (or big-band feeling). There are covers of Laura Nyro, Judy Collins, and The Beatles songs included. Really quite eclectic mix, album's music is more attractive for fans of r'n'b or early pop-rock songs in brassy arrangements, or even pop post-bop tunes, than fusion ones. Hardly progressive, this music still has its moments. But mostly release for George Duke hot fans, or lovers of such kind of (non-progressive) pop-funk-jazz-rock.

Report this review (#299383)
Posted Thursday, September 16, 2010 | Review Permalink

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