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Bela Fleck and The Flecktones

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Bela Fleck and The Flecktones Greatest Hits of the 20th Century album cover
4.00 | 4 ratings | 3 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1999

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Sinister Minister (4:37)
2. Stomping Grounds (5:26)
3. Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (4:28)
4. Shocktime (4:25)
5. Sex in a Pan (3:34)
6. The Yee-Haw Factor (6:58)
7. Road House Blues (3:19)
8. Vix 9 (4:29)
9. Communication (4:16)
10. Big Country (5:33)
11. Sunset Road (5:01)

Total Time 52:06

Line-up / Musicians

- Béla Fleck / banjo
- Roy Future Man Wooten / Synth-Axe drumitar
- Howard Levy / synthesizer, piano, harmonica
- Victor Lemonte Wooten / bass
- Jeff Coffin / saxophone

Releases information

Warner Bros. Records, Inc.

Thanks to Krazy19Karl for the addition
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BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES Greatest Hits of the 20th Century ratings distribution

(4 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(100%)
Good, but non-essential (0%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES Greatest Hits of the 20th Century reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Epignosis
4 stars For anyone interested in becoming acquainted with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, this is a fantastic place to get to know them. "The Sinister Minister" kicks off the compilation as no other track could- here is the whole package right away: Béla Fleck's skillful banjo playing, Victor Wooten's funky slap bass (with his stunning solo), Future Man's contrived drums (from his invention, the drumitar), and the soulful whine of Howard Levy's harmonica. "Stomping Grounds," a piece worked out during a sound check in Europe, is simply one of my favorite instrumentals ever. Such stellar playing should not go unnoticed, and my goodness, how the crowd stays pumped! The version here is from Live Art. "The Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" is the title track off the second album. It was originally called "The Flight of the Codeine Hippo," which was certainly a fitting title given the subdued nature of the music. Named for a North Carolinian dessert, "Sex in a Pan" started out as a solo piece Victor Wooten would play during sound checks, and is a smooth, soulful piece. "The Yee-Haw Factor" is the band in overdrive, from the initial huffing of the harmonica, to the machine-gun fretwork of bass guru Wooten, this is another favorite of mine. There are other tracks on this compilation worth checking out, but I wanted to mention the highlights. For someone new to the steady fusion of bluegrass and funk from this two-decade-old act, here is a swell starting place.
Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Communication is the only way!

A nice surprise to see the Flecktones on this site, and what a quiet addition, i didn't know about it and i am sure a lot of you will be surprised with it.

I discovered the band more or less 5 years ago and was impressed since the very first moment, i had never heard something like this before. 5 years ago i bought my first bass and i clearly remember that i wanted to be a Wooten someday (it will never happen, of course) but besides being captivated by the bass player's style, i also was amazed with all the members and the music itself, as i said some words earlier, i had never heard something like this before.

I won't discuss about the band's arguments to determine if they belong to the prog rock realm or not, i particularly never talked about them as a band of this realm, i will not do it probably, but what i will say is that their place under jazz fusion will give you a hint of what their music is about.

A very original and unique musical style will be heard with this band, which is composed by 4 members with the leadership of Bela Fleck, who plays banjo (banjo, a not typical instrument), Victor Wooten with his amazing bass playing, Future Man with the calles synth-axe and Jeff Coffin with saxophone, what a weird combination to create weird jazz music, they might have their own musical genre.

This is an excellent compilation album (honestly, the first Bela Fleck album i ever heard) because it features not only their most popular, but some of their best songs ever, so this is an excellent choice if you want to get into the band's music, and if you already know the band, then you will also love this compillation album you can play it over and over and never be tired of it. This album features 11 songs and 50 minutes of awesome music.

The opening track The Sinister Minister whichstarts with Wooten's bass notes will make you feel deeply interested in the music, and you will hear their best in the second song and my favourite Stomping Grounds where their excellent musicianship is noticed since the very first minute, an aswesome song actually.

Other of my favourite songs are Sex in a Pan, Vix 9, Communication (with lyrics) and Flight of the Cosmic Hippo, but all the songs are worth listening.

A huge recommendation for those who want to know the band. 4 stars Enjoy it!

Review by Chicapah
4 stars I'm not a fan of "Best of" collections (and I dare say that few proggers are) but, in the case of these free and eclectic-minded bohemian fellows, it's money well-spent, indeed. In fact, instead of being called "Greatest Hits of the 20th Century" it should be called something along the lines of "A small sample of what you've been missing if you haven't checked out Bela Fleck and the Flecktones yet." That includes yours truly, in case you're wondering, because I'd never heard a single cut from their albums in the 90s before I gave this one a spin in the changer. Evidently this group amassed a decent catalogue of unique music in that decade before they jumped from Warner Bros. to Columbia in 2000 (debuting on that label with their excellent "Outbound" CD) and this low-cost medley of tracks is a fine way to catch up in a hurry. I think you'll like what you hear, especially if you are of the jazz rock/fusion or prog folk persuasion. Since I can't pigeon-hole them into any kind of identifiable and, therefore, restrictive category I'll just call what they do "Prograss" and leave it at that.

"The Sinister Minister" is a perfect example of their unconventional attitude because the mixture of musical influences involved is downright staggering. I guess I'd say it's a parcel of Latin-tinged funk combined with bluesy harmonica and bluegrass banjo but that really doesn't describe it fully and that's why they're on this website. They are of a different breed altogether. Bassman extraordinaire Victor Lemonte Wooten's solo impresses mightily as he points the song in a new direction at one point, backed by Howard Levy's soothing synthesized velvet curtain that surrounds him. "Stomping Grounds" is next and it's as entertaining as skipping flat rocks across a still pond. Recorded live, it's a fascinating goulash of instruments with Bela on banjo, Future Man (Victor's brudder Roy) on SynthAxe Drumitar, Sam Bush on mandolin, Paul McCandless on soprano sax and Wooten on bass that displays an uncanny level of virtuosity on the part of the individual musicians as well as how tightly they cooperate as an ensemble. When they go "'round the horn" midway through their unbridled joy bursts outward and the audience is swept up in their enthusiasm. Fun stuff. They must be a hoot in concert.

"Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" features a slow, loping, fat, deep (and I mean DEEP) bass line very appropriate for the tune's title. Levy's piano provides a cool, jazzy flavor and his interesting synth work makes parts of this number truly "cosmic." Future Man's one-of-a- kind electronic drums are so tasteful that they're easily overlooked but try not to. He's an artist in the truest sense of the concept and a big part of what makes the band so eccentric. "Shocktime" is a rather frantic, Indian-influenced piece that brings to mind what guitarist John McLaughlin did with Shakti. Victor's bass playing is dazzling and so fast at times that it sounds like he's being assisted on the fretboard by a dozen hyperactive Keebler elves hopped up on speed. In other words, Stanley Clarke's got nothin' on this dude. I'm serious as an aneurism. Bela also gets to shred on his banjo a bit although I'll admit that "shred" and "banjo" don't usually belong in the same sentence. Yet that's what he does.

Wooten's "Sex in a Pan" has a soulful, funk-infested groove as southern as biscuits & skillet gravy that owes a sizeable debt to the specter of James Brown. No one stands out in particular; they just let the infectious melody and the song's natural drive carry the load. "The Yee-Haw Factor" is seven minutes of pleasure. Howard sets up an accordion- like rhythm with his blowing in and out on the diatonic harmonica but don't be misled. There's no backwoods, hillbilly "Deliverance" foolin' around going on here. It's all on the up and up. The tune's tricky tempo and time signature changes come often and without warning, creating a very adventurous journey that's anything but predictable. They even venture briefly into a crazy Brazilian motif before Levy leads you out with a blistering harp ride. These boys are game for anything so they throw in slide banjo (Slide banjo? As they say in hockey, "What the puck?") on "Road House Blues" and it fits as if it's always been there, runs the county and owns most of the land. It's another odd amalgamation of instruments as Bush returns with his mandolin and throws a fiddle into the mix while future Flecktone Jeff Coffin performs more than capably on alto sax. At first glance it appears to be a slice of pure Americana but if you pay attention to the song's imaginative chord progression it becomes apparent that it's not exactly Stephen Foster.

"Vix 9" is amazing. It's a fast-paced jazz composition played in front of a rich, dense synth backdrop and on this cut it's just the basic trio. They're so tuned-in to each other that you'd think they're joined at the hip. Fleck's electric banjo don't sound like no banjo I ever heard, that's for sure, and Future Man's percussion settings are dern near indescribable. "Communication" isn't bad but it does mark the nadir of the proceedings and it's due to the inclusion of some indistinct vocals (Future Man and guest Dave Matthews in a duet). They detract from Coffin's soprano sax that otherwise adds a whole new color to the sound texture of the group. It's pretty obvious why they brought him into the fold as a permanent member down the line.

The last two tracks make for superb listening. "Big Country" is like an aural hike through the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Beautiful and invigorating. The song's memorable melody and the fancy interplay between Jeff's saxes and Victor's silky bass lines is uplifting. Once again the encompassing wall of synthesizers provides a dreamy depth. They close with the relaxing "Sunset Road," a moody stroll down memory lane that shows off Bela's deft technique on the banjo and the band's overall progressive tendency to embellish even the simplest of ideas. Howard's sly piano ride towards the end is scrumptious and not what you expect to hear.

While I realize that Bela Fleck and the Flecktones may not be everyone's cup o' mud necessarily, they certainly deserve to be considered by the discerning progster and this satisfying conglomeration of tunes is a great way to get to know them. An old ad slogan used to say, "a gift for the man who has everything." Well, this album is custom-made for the prog enthusiast who thinks he's "heard it all." Give it a whirl.

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