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Brian Auger

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Brian Auger Straight Ahead (as Oblivion Express) album cover
3.33 | 27 ratings | 5 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Beginning Again (9:22)
2. Bumpin' On Sunset (10:51)
3. Straight Ahead (5:04)
4. Change (8:10)
5. You'll Stay In My Heart (3:44)
6. Straight Ahead - [CD Bonus Track/Live In Denver, Colorado 1975] (5:56)

Line-up / Musicians

- Brian Auger/ vocals, piano, electric piano, organ, Moog synthesizer
- Jack Mills / guitar
- Barry Dean / bass guitar
- Steve Ferrone / drums
- Lennox Laington / congas
- Mirza Al Sharif/ timbales, percussion

Releases information

LP RCA (1974)
CD Disconforme Disc 1014 (2000)

Thanks to alucard for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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BRIAN AUGER Straight Ahead (as Oblivion Express) ratings distribution

(27 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BRIAN AUGER Straight Ahead (as Oblivion Express) reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chicapah
3 stars As Brian Auger's Oblivion Express moved into the mid 70s they definitely mellowed from being the brave jazz rock/fusion explorers that had helped pioneer the heavier aspects of that genre and settled into a more serene alcove that emphasized a smoother, less challenging sound. With "Straight Ahead" they could now be called a "lite" contemporary jazz/rock ensemble. Gone were the exciting days when Brian would peel the paint off the walls with his screaming Hammond organ rides while his band would emphatically push the envelope of modern progressive music. But Auger and his cohorts weren't alone. The strange malaise that was taking over the popular airwaves in the sensitive seventies was infecting many of the world's bravest musicians and making them age prematurely, too. And this was even before the dreaded disco fever took over the planet like a plague of blisters.

The album starts with the same mysterious feel that "Closer to It!" from the year before had as conga man Lennox Laington and new drummer Steve Ferrone combine to create an up tempo Latin groove that's promising. But when the music for "Beginning Again" comes in and "Auge" starts singing the momentum retards considerably and never really gets revved back up. Displaying a trend that will personify the entire album, this song quickly turns into nothing more than a long, controlled jam where Auger shows off his acknowledged mastery of the electric piano, interrupted briefly by Jack Mills' lame guitar lead. I'm not saying it's boring exactly (soothing might be a better adjective), but the percussion break at the end is the most interesting segment by far.

Back in 1968 Brian Auger & the Trinity had covered Wes Montgomery's excellent "Bumpin' on Sunset" on their otherwise archaic "Definitely What!" LP and, while it was the best cut on the album by far, it still left a lot to be desired. This 11-minute rendition of that classic instrumental is a vast improvement and the best reason to own this recording. The group gives it a slow, sensual groove to travel in and Brian's unhurried, slinky organ solo is perfect for the fog-shrouded atmosphere they establish. Auger utilizes the Freeman string machine to give the track great depth and texture, as well. Following on its heels is a dated, Stax Records-styled funk ditty by bassist Barry Dean called "Straight Ahead." All I gotta say is that any tune featuring the line "It was a gas!" is doomed to disappoint in my book and this one does just that. Brian valiantly rescues the cut from itself with a passionate electric piano lead that does manage to add a dash of intensity to the proceedings.

Emulating Santana is usually a great compliment. But if that emulation falls into the category of that excellent band's post- "Caravanserai" era then it rings rather hollow and therein lies the problem with the next tune. Laington's "Change" just never takes the listener anywhere fun. Mills attempts to deliver a Carlos Santana-like solo but he lacks the fire to make it sizzle and even though it's nostalgic to hear Auger man the Hammond keyboard once again he never ignites the old flame he used to kindle so easily. The addition of Mirza Al Sharif on timbales is a plus but his contribution is too subtle to make much difference. Another sign that the group was graying is the inclusion of Dean's sappy ballad "You'll Stay in My Heart." Once upon a time it would've been heresy to find a slow number on an Oblivion Express album for good reason. They don't perform them very well at all and this proves it.

There's not much to delight the prog ear on this record. But, if you're looking for something to spin through the changer on a lazy Sunday morning while you peruse the paper and sip on a mug of delicious coffee that won't insult your intelligence, then this is the ticket. The engineering and arrangements are top notch and that's always a good thing, but be advised. There's also no surprises to ruffle your feathers or tickle your fancy and that's rarely a good thing in the jazz rock/fusion world. 2.8 stars.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Whatever took Brian to break up in MkI Express, he seemed content enough to keep the MkII line-up together for a while only making small arrangements such as Ferrone replacing McLean on the drum stool. To say that Brian was trying to emulate or duplicate the artistic success of Closer To It, would be a gross exaggeration. In spite of a thunderous train-tunnel artwork and its inaptly-titled Straight Ahead (whom would point to the same rapid 200 MPH cruising seed of his Oblivion Express train past), but here we're aboard a suburbs omnibus train, unable to pick up enough speed despite the few tracks along the way and the relative length between the stations.

Although hinting at Santana's realm, even the percussions don't have the right energy level and once Brian comes in on vocals, you just know that the following 9-mins will a rough time to stay awake. Don't get me wrong Brian's electric piano is fantastic, but the groove is a real bore and the group almost slips into lukewarm cool/fusion with a dreaded percussion/drum duet to nail the coffin shut. Much more interesting is the recycling of Bumpin' On Sunset (already done during the Trinity days, but here in a better version, even if it overstays a bit (11 minutes) its welcome by the time the needle rises from the wax slice. Indeed, the group find instantly its slow cool, neat groove and stay in it for the duration (just like they'd done with Total Eclipse on the debut Oblivion album), giving our favourite Ogre plenty of space to expand, yet not much happens, Brian's use of strings synth being no more convincing than his spell with the Mellotron on the previous album. Not a bad track per se, but lacking the energy for you avoiding the plunge into snoozeland.

While the flipside starts with a surge of energy with the funky title track and most likely the only one that would fit on the previous CTI album, it is a brilliant track with Mills maybe finding its best use. The 8-mins Change is again almost worthy of the CTI because of its energy level, but again the funk element is probably responsible of it and here the percussion break kicks ass, the whole thing being only vaguely similar to Santana, this time. While the flipside was out to repair much the damage done of the A-side, unfortunately the closing Dean-penned muddy ballad You'll Stay In My Heart crushes whatever hopes you had to have anther album close to four stars, instead sensibly lowering the rating to a definite non-essental level.

Soooooooooo, was Closer To It an accident, or did Brian ever consider doing an album sounding like the previous one? Can't blame the man for refusing to play it safe, but this implies taking risks and increasing the chances of hitting the bull's eye. Anf indeed, such was the case here.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Beautiful stream of music!

I was just aware that Brian Auger added to this site about a week ago and I think I do agree that his music should be featured here at this comprehensive site. The main reason is that the music of Brian Auger brings together the beauty of jazz music blended nicely with classic rock using unique keyboard work by the maestro. I knew the name of Brian Auger when I was childhood through a local music magazine AKTUIL which dominated music news in my country. But, I only read the news about him and no idea at all about the kind of music he played because there was no cassette available in my country on Brian Auger. So, I got nothing to buy. I only got a chance to hear the music of Brian Auger when local classic rock FM radio M97 (RIP) aired "Freedom Jazz Dance" sometime in 1999. I phoned the station and got the answer that it's Brian Auger music. "Yes!" I said to myself that finally I can get the music of Brian Auger for the first time my friend .. Pity me! That's the consequence of living my life in "rest of the world" country. But, never mind .. I still have classic rock spirit in my mind so I finally got the music of Brian Auger even though I knew the name when I was teenager. Since then, I kept purchasing the albums of Brain Auger in local CD stores.

"Straight Ahead" is a very good vintage album which I call it as simple as classic jazz rock music. Why? It's because the music is blend of classic rock and jazz. Try the opening track "Beginning Again" (9:22). You will find the nice flow of music with percussion giving textures in its rhythm section and the music flows beautifully in ambient mood backed with very nice keyboard work. The vocal quality is also nice. I really enjoy the part where the keyboard provides solo work - it's so nice. The next track "Bumpin' On Sunset" (10:51) is an instrumental and more on R&B in the beginning and it reminds me to the music of another vintage band EL CHICANO. Any of you know El Chicano? This track has a mellow style with unique keyboard solo which moves gradually into faster tempo and returns back into mellow style. The third track "Straight Ahead" (5:04) is a very nice song that has inspired new artists like Jamiroquai or The Leon Haines Band, I believe. The music is more on R&B style with jazzy keyboard solo by Mr. Auger - it's so stunning! The percussion still provides its textures in the rhythm section. "Change" (8:10) starts with guitar rhythm section followed by percussion and drum, continued nicely with guitar work that accompanies nice vocal line of Brian Auger. In a way it reminds me also to the music of Santana. "You'll Stay In My Heart" (3:44) starts with basslines followed with vocal harmonies. The music is typical with previous tracks.

I find full joy in playing the CD of this album by vintage musician because the music flows beautifully from opening track to end. I highly recommend to those of you who appreciate vintage sounds and this album by Brian Auger is one of them that I believe you will enjoy it very mush as I do. All tracks are good and entertaining. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Brian Auger Oblivion Express fifth album under this name named Straight ahes, is to many listners his last good album, after this one he will enter on another teritory living some mixed up reviews. To me this is a good album, maybe and for sure not so strong as the debute under this name Oblivion express, but the album delivers some quite fun and entertaing to listen. Brian Auger nick named "the godfather of acid jazz", did a good job some of his keyboard parts are truly great like on opening track Beginning Again or Bumpin' On Sunset , my fav track on this album with excellent guiatr and keybords arrangements. The music is jazzy upbeat combined with slower moments, never boring, maybe not some spectacular moments, but pleasent all the way. I also like a lot Brian Auger voice, fits very well in this context, warm voice and well sung. So, a full 4 stars, some parts are great, some are only good, in the end a pleasent album for sure, at least for me, his unique keybords arrangements make him a legend in this field for more than 40 years in this zone.
Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars Brian Auger is a name many may have heard about, especially when it comes to significant keyboardists of the 70's. I've only known of his psych hit with Julie Driscoll, 'This Wheel's on Fire' (with some tasteful Mellotron use). Having come across an LP of this 'Straight Ahead' release of his a while back, I was very impressed initially, and listening to it now, dozens of times later, still blown away. The recipe is fairly standard for the softer jazz-rock he composes (or chooses to cover) - drums and percussion/bass/keys/guitar and also vocals. This album is an absolute joy for me, each and every time I listen to it. The album features 2 cuts on side 1, and three on side 2. The first half is pure bliss. This is competent light fusion with impressive talent, though I noticed a 'fluff' in track 1, the 9 min+ 'Beginning Again', an Auger original which has a pleasant groove, lots of percussion and uplifting lyrics with a feel-good chord pattern. Auger's voice is quite polite without detracting from the music, nor offensive. The electric piano solo is excellent, but at one point, is a touch sloppy. Minor flaw aside, quite a memorable opening piece. Track 2 clocks in at almost 11 minutes, and is a phenomenally mellow groove called 'Bumpin' on Sunset', credited to a Montgomery (Wes maybe ??). This is where perfection lies - the Hammond organ playing is fantastic, the atmospheric guitaring, that laid-back rhythm, everything absolutely in the right place. We even get some Moog and String synths to symphonise the piece up to the next level. This is the sort of choice thing to listen to on a balmy, summer evening with no interuptions. Or anytime, really. The title song is quite funky, more tasteful e- piano and vocals, and did I say e-piano ?.... Reminds me of a jazzier ARGENT (circa 'Circus'). The over 8 min 'Change' is again percussion-heavy, groovy, funky and features some cool guitar solos, vocals and psych sounding Hammond soloing that's reminiscent of the late, great Vincent Crane (ATOMIC ROOSTER). The album closes with a ballad, 'You'll Stay In My Heart' - which is again mellow and jazzy with plenty of e-piano. This is 1974, and the closest thing to it maybe some of Santana's early 70's classics, minus the overtly Latin touches. 4 stars.

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