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Last Exit


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5 stars How can I possibly be the first person to review this altogether amazing album that should appeal to **SO MANY** on this site?!?!

You thought CARAVANSERAI was brilliant? (Of course, Side 1 is!) You thought Ponty and DiMeola's most fusion albums are must-listens? (A bit over-rated for me, although there are great moments here and there.) You thought that the best it could ever get was Mahavishnu Orchestra's first two great albums? Did you ever wonder what would happen if you mixed up genres like heavy metal, free jazz and jazz fusion?

Listen, the word is: Jazz and fusion (and especially) free jazz aficionados will go on about guitarist Sonny Sharrock's two masterpieces, GUITAR and ASK THE AGES. GUITAR is a great solo album (meaning, guitar only), with plenty of distortion and feedback while retaining beautiful melodies. And ASK THE AGES, Sharrock's other masterpiece, while sound pretty radical at first due to his overdrive, is in truth an amazing albeit "traditional" jazz album. Others will go on about saxman Peter Brotzmann's amazing early free jazz albums, and Ronald Shannon Jackson's amazing drumming with Ornette Coleman. They do among their best work on this album.

When Last Exit is discussed, what are raved about are the live albums (which comprise the entirety of the band's catalogue, with the exception of this album, IRON PATH). Conventional wisdom said that the studio album IRON PATH doesn't live up to the fire of the live albums. (The live albums are SO DIFFERENT that I only recommend them to those who want to explore this band's output further. To most of us here, the live albums will all sound the same, and the music jams with such intensity that one track blurs into another, with little to distinguish them.) Critics complained that IRON PATH was too quiet, too "composed," too restrained to be a pure free jazz free-for-all in the vein of MACHINE GUN and Last Exit's live albums. Track 2, the tile track, sounds more like Brian Eno than NIPPLES! Critically dismissed out of hand, very few it seems have actually heard IRON PATH. In fact, it's those quiet lulls and creepy tensions that make the album such a pleasure to listen to. And for those of us who can't get enough of Sonic Youth's best work, My Bloody Valentine's LOVELESS or Husker Du's ZEN ARCADE, we know that there can be an awesome beauty in noise.

IRON PATH is absolutely due to be critically re-appraised. It's simply one of the very absolute greatest free jazz electric fusion albums ever made, one of the great long-neglected rock albums of the 1980s, it hasn't dated at all (unlike so much from that period), and deserves to go to the very top of the list (of course, behind Miles' genre-busting fusion masterpieces). I can't remember how or why, but I bought this album when it first came out, and I've never been without a copy since!

Every song is memorable, and yet every song seems to lead into the next one. It really is one long and brilliant song. I don't want to give the impression that it's all about Sharrock. It's not. In fact, it's Brotzmann who impresses most upon first listen, as well as Shannon's relentlessly shuffling, arhythmic work (recorded to great effect here), and Laswell's distinctive and hard-hitting bass beats (long under-appreciated)... You often have to listen closely to find Sharrock. It's not an album or a band about solos, but about interplay, tension and bursts of noise and energy.

PLEASE, will some of the editors of this site seek out this album and review it? Progsters NEED to discover this masterpiece. In truth, I'm very excited to contribute what I am sure is a long-neglected and lost masterpiece which others will discover and appreciate. Don't expect it to sound like DiMeola or McLaughlin or Ponty or Hancock or Coryell. Expect something original. Get rid of any preconceived notions of what fusion should be, and listen with fresh ears to this masterpiece. A note about the production: While clean for the late 1980s, this CD (currently out of print, I believe. How can that be? This is SONNY SHARROCK recording his last great album!) would benefit from being remastered. I look forward to that day.

Report this review (#307977)
Posted Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I guess you could file this under "just not my thing" I suppose. According to the bio these four guys are Free Jazz musicians who all had ties to NYC's 1980's Punk Jazz scene. This is supposed to be the tamest of all their albums as they can be very loud and noisy, especially their live releases. I have to say that Free jazz is one of my least favourite sub-genres but I thought I'd give this a shot. It's filed under Free Jazz and Experimental Jazz by many and I like it being under Avant here at PA. A four piece with some insane sax provided by German Peter Brotzmann plus we get bassist Bill Laswell, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and guitarist Sonny Sharrock.

"Prayer" opens with atmosphere that builds as different sounds come and go and it's quite haunting. It kicks in at a minute with aggressive drumming with guitar over top. Soon it's drums only then the sax jumps in around 2 minutes. The guitar is back along with some vocal expressions. The drums are relentless. Nice bass after 3 minutes as dissonant sax joins in. The guitar is back late in this intense opener. "Iron Path" has picked guitar and percussion to start, no real melody along with atmosphere. That changes before 3 minutes with pulsating sounds, picked guitar and more. Not big on this one.

"The Black Bat(For Aki Ikuta)" has a steady beat as the guitar eventually joins in. Sax to the fore around 3 minutes and it will get dissonant. "Marked For Death" is tamer with drums being the focus along with atmosphere. That changes when the sax arrives after a minute(haha). "The Fire Drum" is my favourite. Rumbling drums and clashing cymbals to start and I really like this when that beat arrives after a minute as the bass and guitar join in. The guitar will come and go then sax arrives after 2 1/2 minutes then more guitar. Sax is back before 3 1/2 minutes.

"Detonator" has a somewhat heavy sound to it. It turns experimental quickly though with drums and more. Some wild sax after a minute and it will come and go. "Sad Dancer" is melodic and short at under 2 minutes. Bass and guitar lead the way, not bad at all. "Cut And Run" has rumbling drums with guitar over top then the sax replaces the guitar as they trade off. I like this one.

"Eye For An Eye" opens with feedback that pulses kind of like "This Is Now" before the sax drones. Back to the pulses as contrasts continue until sax only lets it rip in a disconcerting manner then back to the contrasts. "Devil's Rain" ends it and I'd rate this as my second favourite. A fairly melodic drum driven start with dissonant sax coming and going. The sax gets pretty crazy late.

In my world a 3 star album but many seem to love it so you be the judge.

Report this review (#1948262)
Posted Saturday, July 14, 2018 | Review Permalink

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