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Lenny White

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Lenny White Venusian Summer album cover
4.10 | 42 ratings | 8 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Chicken-Fried Steak (4:33)
2. Away Go Troubles (Down The Drain) (3:21)
3. The Venusian Summer Suite:
Part 1. Sirenes (4:28)
Part 2. Venusian Summer (6:38)
4. Prelude To Rainbow Delta (1:10)
5. Mating Drive (7:40)
6. Prince Of The Sea (11:37)

Line-up / Musicians

Bass - Doug Rauch
Electric Piano, Clavinet - Onaje Allan Gumbs (tracks: A2, A4, B2, B3)
Engineer - Dennis MacKay
Guitar - Al Di Meola (tracks: B3) , Doug Rodrigues (tracks: A1, A2, B2) , Larry Coryell (tracks: B3) , Raymond Gomez (tracks: A1, B2)
Keyboards, Synthesizer - David Sancious (tracks: A2, A4)
Organ - Jimmy Smith (tracks: A1) , Larry Young (tracks: B2) , Weldon Irvine (tracks: A2)
Producer, Drums - Lenny White
Synthesizer - Patrick Gleeson (tracks: A3, A4, B1) , Peter Robinson (tracks: A3, A4)
Synthesizer, Flugelhorn - Tom Harrell (tracks: A3, B3)

Releases information

LP : Nemperor Records NE 435 (US),ST-NE-753 475, ATL 50213 Atlantic (Germany), Atlantic K 50213 (UK), Atlantic 50.213 (France)

Re-released on CD by Wounded Bird Records WOU 435 (US)

Recorded June and August 1975, Electric Lady Studios, New York.
Orchestra sequences recorded at Different Fur, San Francisco

Thanks to snobb for the addition
and to snobb for the last updates
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LENNY WHITE Venusian Summer ratings distribution

(42 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

LENNY WHITE Venusian Summer reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Logan
4 stars Men are from Mars, sexy women are from Venus ... it being summer, they can forego clothes... I've always been interested in astronomy and have often trained my telescope on Venus, beats looking at Uranus, so I do know what I'm talking about, butt I digress.

Speaking of Venusians, what a beautiful album cover. It's the kind of imagery that I would like to paint on the side of my van cum love-mobile. It has wall-to-wall carpeting by the way -- I better stop this train of thought now before this review, I use the term loosely, gets completely off the wall and I get put up against the wall.

Lenny White is the drummer who played on the seminal album by Miles Davis, "Bitches Brew", and also played on the most excellent, musically better than "Bitches Brew" in my opinion, "Red Clay" by Freddie Hubbard. He also performed on Eddie Henderson's masterpiece, and I believe one of the greatest albums in JRF, "Realization" (which is what initially drew me to explore Lenny White albums). In fact, Lenny White has played with a great many of the jazz, and jazz fusion greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Benny Maupin, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, various Return to Forever guys obviously, but we forgive him ;), and Larry Coryell. This album and "Adventures of Astral Pirates" are my favourites under his name.

What particularly makes this album special is the "Venusian Summer Suite", and how sweet it is! It ranks amongst my favourite pieces of music in the jazz-rock universe, and this is the heart of the album. It starts off in an electronic, cosmic, and beautiful manner that is reminiscent of western art music composers such as Holst and Debussy (in fact, I thought I recognised the specific theme -- maybe not that original but still so wonderful). It is very much a Dr. Patrick Gleeson slice and it is his contribution that makes the opening so superb. It transitions fantastically into stirring, exciting, exhilarating (now I'm being really exasperating) jazz-funk. What a great track; one of the best in jazz-rock/electronic, and it should appeal to those who love music such as Herbie Hancock's "Sextant" and "Crossings" as well as Bennie Maupin albums -- adding this suite to a cosmic funk session (playlist) with tracks such as Bennie Maupin's 'Quasar' (the version from "Slow Traffic to the Right"), Eddie Henderson's 'Galaxy' off "Sunburst", 'Languidity' from Sun-Ra, and similar funky cosmic excursions is an epic thing to do.

If the whole album was up to the standards of the "Venusian Summer Suite" this album would get a five from me. It's not, but there is more to get pretty excited about.

"Chicken Fried Steak" and "Away Goes Trouble Down the Train" is good, fun and enjoyable, but nothing terribly remarkable. Pretty standard bluesy jazz-rock and rather boring for me. If you like electric guitar-oriented music and pretty bog-standard blues and rock-and-roll, this might hold considerable appeal. I still find it fun, but while these these pieces have their moments, I have tended to skip them. Still, it presents another side to the music and gives contrast, so as part of the album package, it makes the album better. Erm, sort of. Still, not the greatest start for an album for me. Of course things soon improve with the 'suite' that follows.

"Prelude to a Rainbow Delta", another very Gleesonish work (I'm pretty sure Gleeson composed it as well as performed), is a wonderful and short ambient electronic piece. It's reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and ilk (also hear such forays with Art Zoyd and Patricia Dallio's electronic work).

"Mating Drive" is terrific, driving JRF which starts off in the electronic world like "Venusian Summer Suite" then picks up steam -- strong technical drumming by White if not terribly imaginative (his drumming, though good technically does generally fail to particularly appeal as I don't find him to be a very creative drummer). Still, a damned fine "rockin" piece with enough jazz-funk to satisfy.

The final track, "Prince of the Sea" is also very good and rockin' jazz-rock (maybe a little too rockin'/ electric guitar oriented for me). Hardly a favourite track in jazz-rock fusion, but well-done. I wish it had more of an experimental edge, but very good never-the-less for what it is. I do wish it had more subtlety; however, it is still an excellent piece of jazz-rock and definitely enjoyable for me. I expect this would be the highlight of the album for quite a few. If you love Al Di Meola's electric guitar style, and like shredding or whatever you'd call this guitar-style. then you'll love this. This is the track I'd recommend to those into power metal and guitar hero music since the guitar style is reminiscent of shredding and hints of Eddie van Halen et cetera. I love the way it ends with a gong and seagulls -- pretty Zen (and maybe a touch cliché)

I'm giving this album a four because I do think it's very well-executed and it has some great music on it. Just for the "Venusian Summer Suite" alone I think this is pretty essential. Lowlights for me include guitar-work which is just not altogether my style (Coryell does good work on this, but I feel like Al Di Meola is not that 'elegant' here). The highlights include the electronics, great jazz-funk, and fine keyboard work.

On the whole I prefer "Astral Pirates," but this has such great music included that this is the most essential work I've heard from Lenny White's self-named albums. However, it has too many "mainstream" moments for me to consider this whole work amazing and, as if with a lot of jazz-rock, the compositions can suffer from overdone instrumental showmanship.

One I'd definitely recommend to many, but not so much, considering the bulk of the album, to those who prefer their jazz more experimental (as I often do). If you're more mainstream-oriented, then this could appeal hugely and open up new musical passions, but there's music for most everyone to really enjoy.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Lenny White recorded his solo debut still being a RTF drummer. But the music there isn't too much connected with RTF works. Yes, it is jazz fusion, but more similar to Herbie Hancock albums from early 70-s.

Lenny White is not a second Billy Cobham, but he is very competent and has great funk feeling. So, the album opener is funky fusion composition. But even if some funk is presented in more places there on the album, very important are both keyboards and guitars ( on few compositions). Spacey synthesizers (not in a manner of many electronic space bands, but very dreamy, atmospheric, heavily influenced by Hancock Mwandishi trilogy sound) build bigger part of album's music. Only final composition is filled with Al Di Meola - Larry Coryell guitars duet (beside keyboards).

Possibly not so deep experimental as Hancock's Trilogy, album sound is more accessible melting light funky rhythms with very innovative (for jazz fusion of mid 70-s) synth's airy constructions."Venusian Summer Suite" and "Prince Of The Sea" are both excellent examples of funky synth fusion from that time.

One of greatest Lenny's recordings, and really one of valuable fusion works from 70-s. Recommended to all jazz fusion fans. Lenny White's solo works has limited popularity, but this album could be a good entrance into his discography.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I cannot fathom how anyone hearing this album could not be blown away by the musicianship here. Doug Rauch on bass, Lenny White on drums, along with a veritable who's who of jazz fusion all-stars guesting throughout, all playing as if their life depended on it. The song "Mating Drive" alone has got to be one of the greatest achievements in music performance with Lenny, Doug, David Sancious, organist extraordinaire Larry Young, and the most under-recognized super guitarist of all-time, Ray Gomez, shredding the vinyl grooves with nothing but fire and brimstone! This album has it all: cinematic themes, four-keyboard electronica, funky fun, frenetic screams, players taxing their fingers and brains at break-neck speeds (check out Larry Coryell trying to keep up with Al Di Meola on "Prince of the Sea"). Another of my "closet favorites" from the 70s, this one has stood the test of time and remains one of my go-to albums for joy and exuberance. If you've never heard it, don't miss out! Venusian Summer has got some of the most amazing moments of virtuosity, passion, and beauty ever put to vinyl!

As a post script I have to add, again, for the sake of attracting attention, the number of INCREDIBLE individual performances here are so high caliber, so stunning, that this alone should make this a must listen--an album for study. As I said in my opening statement, I cannot fathom how anyone hearing this album--really listening with their fully-present self--could not be blown away by the musicianship here. There are very few albums that I've heard in my lifetime that achieve this level and number of "WOW! What the f¥¢∑ did I just hear?" responses. Plus, this may be the recorded peak of supernova bass player Doug Rauch's career! That alone, makes this a "can't be missed" listen.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Lenny White's debut solo album injects hot, sleazy funk into a sizzling jazz fusion context. It's not quite as polished, cutting-edge, or packed with surprises as, say, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi albums - or even Hancock's more commercial Head Hunters offerings - but it's a solid listen which vividly evokes its era. You'd never mistake this for music from even a few years earlier or later; it reeks of the mid-1970s so distinctively that if you play it for too long you end up with Gerald Ford in the White House and gas shortages at the pumps. Play when you want accessible jazz fusion which could serve as a porn soundtrack and don't mind if it's a little dated.
Review by Progfan97402
5 stars This album really left me totally blown away. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! It's easy to be skeptical about solo albums from drummers. Sure Phil Collins, Don Henley, and even Ringo Starr had their share of successful solo albums, they did record songs geared for pop hit radio, and they all could sing. Usually, I imagine the reason for a drummer's solo album is to stroke their ego. That's how I felt about Carl Palmer's part of ELP's Works Vol. 1, none of the music left an impression on me, and the remake of "Tank" was a bit unnecessary. But there are people like Billy Cobham, Bill Bruford, and Lenny White who realize the rest of the music mattered as much as their drumming, and Lenny's Venusian Summer only proves that! This was released at the time where Return to Forever was still going on, here he has a list of musicians, varies depending on cut. He had included the likes of Larry Coryell, his RTF bandmate Al DiMeola, Ray Gomez, Peter Robinson (Quatermass, Sun Treader, Brand X), Dr. Patrick Gleeson (Herbie Hancock), and others. The first two songs, "Chicken Fried Steak" and "Away Go Troubles Down the Drain" (obvious Roto-Rooter reference) are firmly in the funk fusion vein, and the funkiness totally rivals anything I heard from Herbie Hancock's funk phase. Then a huge surprise comes next with "The Venusian Suite", a rather trippy, spacy ambient synthesizer park, which then goes into fusion territory. There is a bit of a spacy approach to the second half, and also includes some nice flute playing, with funky overtones. "Prelude to the Rainbow Delta" is another one of those calm spacy ambient numbers, which them goes into the unbelievable overdrive of "Mating Drive". This totally sounds like Mahavishnu Orchestra on steroids (which is saying a lot, given those guys weren't exactly slouches either). Spanish guitarist Ray Gomez must have worshipped at the altar of John McLaughlin, he even gives him a run for his money. It's only appropriate the last song, "Prince of the Sea" should be a bit more calm, not electronic, but still fusion, with guitar from both Larry Coryell and Al DiMeola. I really like the diverse ground he and participating musicians cover, some fusion albums can get a bit monotonous because they tread on safe water. Not what Lenny White does here, he's not afraid to go funk, go into Mahavishnu Orchestra territory, or into spacy ambient territory. As years pass, I have learned not to throw five stars at everything, but with an album like this packed full on nothing but amazing stuff, this album really deserves it. This album is truly a must have for all fusion fans!
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another long forgotten jazz-rock gem from the heady Golden Years of rock music, Lenny White needs no introduction, having made his name with the still resounding and active Return to Forever. This his first solo album from 1975 has a lot going for it which is why it remains so highly rated , though not an easy or obvious find. The artwork is certainly typical of the era in question, an evocative horned nubile woman spread out on a Venusian landscape. As befits the jazz fusion genre, the guest list is quite impressive with such luminaries as guitarists Al DiMeola, Ray Gomez and Larry Coryell, keyboardists Dave Sancious, Jimmy Smith, Larry Young and Peter Robinson, former Santana bassist Doug Rauch and flugelhorn player Tom Harrell.

There is a strong American urban feel throughout the tracks, I daresay hyper funky in many ways, with loads of electric piano courtesy of Onaje Allan Gumbs. There are also blended into the mix a few ambient synthesizer interludes, as this was Patrick Gleeson's claim to fame both with Herbie Hancock (the "Sextant" album in particular) which contributes to the proggy feel. The first 2 tracks serve as warm up and do not really reflect the remaining 4 brilliant tracks, as both the oily "Chicken Fried Steak" and the rather flippant "Away Go Troubles (Down the Drain)" are nothing more than competent and amusing appetizers.

The glorious and epic title track is a fine case in point, served with a long spectral synth envelope to cast one out into deep space, voyaging into the cosmos with conviction and the will to discover ("Sirenes"). As soon as the initial electronic boosters are finally jettisoned, the icy cool jazz-funk groove kicks in with Lenny leading the rhythmic charge, flugelhorn in tow, blooming into a convoy of synthesized vehemence, in fact a devilish duel between Gleeson and Robinson that is jaw-dropping in intensity. The mood is catchy, eventful and bright, truly sophisticated music.

The hyper-active tornado is apparent on the dizzying "Mating Drive" , a super-funky and ambitious that has a sensational Ray Gomez extended guitar solo that is lightning precise and deadly , a furious Larry Young organ flurry, bubbly turbo-charged bass from Mr. Rauch and Lenny bashing away unmolested. Smoking chewy cigars, it's a boy!

Always saving the longest and the best for last, the tectonic "Prince of the Sea" starts off smoothly enough, a horizon of sweet synthesized fluffs, twinkling e-piano and languorous flugelhorn to set the stage for 2 of the greatest electric guitarists anywhere, as both DiMeola and Coryell trade licks as only they can, with convincing desperation and exalted confidence. Flicks of many wrists are on display, from all contributors, but electric guitar fans are in for quite a lesson in wizardry, emotion, speed and delivery.

Don't let the 2 intro pieces fool one into denying this recording's place in one's collection, as the three longest tracks here are world class compositions that will please many if not all progressive music fans. I am glad it still sits well in my collection.

4 July lovers

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. The only thing keeping me from hitting the 5 star button is that funk fuelled opening track, the second is funky too but a much better tune. The rest is incredible to my ears so yes this is a top 15 album for me for 1975 right now. Lenny White is such a talented man and during a break from RETURN TO FOREVER he brought in some amazing musicians to record this his first solo album. I love that Patrick Gleeson from those "Mwandishi" albums is here along with many known names like Larry Young, Al DiMeola, Larry Coryell, David Sacious and more. That album cover would be perfect if the girl with the horns wasn't there. The title implies a Venus-like Summer I believe.

"Chicken-Fried Steak" is indeed funky with White adding clavinet to his drum duties. Some expressive guitar here as well. Catchy stuff and check out the organ from Jimmy Smith around 3 1/2 minutes. "Away Go Troubles Down The Drain" is also funky but the attraction for me here is the abundance of intricate sounds. Just a pleasure to really listen to this one even if I feel the remainder of this album is better. Sancious adds organ and synths to this one and we also get some guitar after a minute.

"The Venusian Summer" is a top three tune for me. The first of two sections that make up this track are filled with synths as four guys all play them and we also get sequencers and then piano late from Lenny. It's surprisingly spacey and dark. The latter is surprising given the title of the song. The second part of the song sounds completely different as we get this great sounding atmosphere as intricate sounds come and go. So good! Piano after 6 minutes followed by flute.

"Prelude To Rainbow Delta" is a short intro track to the next song. This has spacey synths and some percussion as it builds to a powerful sound full of atmosphere. It blends into "Mating Drive" a top three tune for me. It's sparse and atmospheric at first, spacey and dark. Soon it kicks in to an uptempo groove just before a minute. The lead guitar from Raymond Gomez shines here, Larry Young adds organ. Gomez is on fire before 3 minutes as he lights it up, nice bass as well. Organ to the fore after 4 minutes then it's the guitar's turn 5 1/2 minutes in. Check out the drumming to end this smoldering song. Nice.

"Prince Of The Sea" is my favourite song on here and a perfect closer. I love the guitar and here Al DiMeola and Larry Coryell put on quite the show, like a duel of sorts trading solos. Atmosphere and the sound of sea gulls to start. Soon synths I believe, then some piano and flugelhorn are added as it stays relaxed and mellow. A beat kicks in before 3 1/2 minutes along with guitar. It takes a minute but soon the guitars start to dominate. They are trading solos before 9 1/2 minutes. Oh my! It becomes a shred-fest. Nice. Sea gulls are back before 11 1/2 minutes to end it.

An incredible album that doesn't start off that well but just seems to get better as it plays out. Highly recommended to fans of Jazz/ Fusion out there. One of the classics.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Enough talent to sink a battleship here on this exquisite 1976 debut from drummer Lenny White who was at the time fresh out of the recently disbanded Return To Forever. Al DiMeola and Larry Coryell duel it out on the closing track and it is probably the only time that they recorded together in th ... (read more)

Report this review (#421677) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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