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Nucleus Ian Carr with Nucleus: Solar Plexus album cover
3.88 | 90 ratings | 9 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Elements I & II (2:12)
2. Changing Times (4:44)
3. Bedrock Deadlock (6:52)
4. Spirit Level (9:20)
5. Torso (6:12)
6. Snakehips Dream (15:16)

Total Time: 44:36

Line-up / Musicians

- Ian Carr / trumpet, flugelhorn (solo 6)
- Karl Jenkins / oboe (solo 3), baritone sax, electric piano
- Brian Smith / tenor (solo 6) & soprano (solo 5) saxophones, flute
- Chris Spedding / guitar
- Jeff Clyne / bass, double bass (solo 3)
- John Marshall / drums (solo 5), percussion

- Keith Winter / VCS3 synthesizer
- Kenny Wheeler / trumpet & flugelhorn (1,2 solo,5,6)
- Harry Beckett / trumpet & flugelhorn (solo 3,4)
- Tony Roberts / tenor saxophone (solo 2), bass clarinet (solo 4)
- Ron Matthewson / bass (solo 4)
- Chris Karan / percussion

Releases information

Artwork: B. E. Ltd

LP Vertigo ‎- 6360 039 (1971, UK)

CD Linam Records ‎- LMCD 9.00743 O (1990, Germany)
2xCD BGO Records - BGOCD566 (2002, UK) Bundled edition with "Belladonna" album

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy NUCLEUS Ian Carr with Nucleus: Solar Plexus Music

NUCLEUS Ian Carr with Nucleus: Solar Plexus ratings distribution

(90 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

NUCLEUS Ian Carr with Nucleus: Solar Plexus reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Ian Carr was working on this project even before the birth of Nucleus, as this was some kind of musical grant from England's Art council and under the patronage of Keith Winter (who incidentally will toy away with a VCS3 on these recordings). But as Carr was composing on a piano, it became clear to him that only Nucleus musicians could play what he was writing. If Ian Carr had only written 5 of 18 tracks over the two first Nucleus albums, he writes all of the material here

The project was to have two totally different themes, toy/expand them and then fused them altogether in the final track. However ambitious this was (especially for the times), this is only partially successful (IMHO) but also produces some great moments. The two themes are presented in the first tracks as Elements I & II, than the first one becomes very funky jazz rock in the second track and in the fifth track and the other element is developed in track 3 (with a great bowed double bass to start of and very subtle eastern music influences to follow) and 4 (Spirit Level is close to Free Jazz but fear not, nothing as Harsh as in KC's Moonchild or Providence, as it stays relatively wise).

But both elements are to be fused into Snakehips' Dream to last for the 15 min+ with an eerie ending on the afore-mentioned VCS3. There are some lengths in the developments and some repetitions, but overall this is yet another great Nucleus recording.

Review by Philo
4 stars Is there anything more annoying than cheesy dated seventies sound effects starting off an album? Probably, but luckily enough Nucleus' third album has some good pieces of music that will allow us to forgive Carr, or whoever's idea it was was, to add such nonsense at the start. "Elements 1 & 2" are nothing but time wastage. For this album, Nucleus rely less on Karl Jenkins compositions as Carr himself takes the bull by the horns and more or less has complete control of the writing of the music, and once it kicks in it feels very different than the previous two albums. There is a more swinging feel of jazz to the music, a big solid grove is bleeding all over "Changing Times" with a cool funky rhythm stepping into the tune. "Bedrock Deadlock" contains some melancholic air from Jenkins oboe which is augmented with Jeff Clyne's deep cello sound (there is an instrument credited as a contra bass?) before taking the shape of a simple two part riff which gives the musicians room to solo at will to build and flow. More than anything, there is a very complete feeling with Solar Plexus. All the parts come together in a very tidy fashion, especially when compared with either Elastic Rock or We'll Talk About It Later, and since Carr was responsible for writing all the material here it would look as if he had a tight concept to work from, which is unusual since this album came a mere three or four months after We'll Talk About It Later, though for the initial pair of albums Carr was only credited with five tunes. Carr must have been working on the structure for this work quietly (apparently the music was composed on a piano), and while he looked to taking charge of Nucleus the band band were about to fragment. Jenkins would be the first to leave, and would join Soft Machine, but a few more would follow by the time Nucleus would get another album out, coincidently it appeared as Belladonnna and credited to just Ian Carr, though it has all the hallmarks of Nucleus albeit with a new line up. Of the original line up Solar Plexus is about the most successful and satisfying Nucleus album. The album is more akin to a jazz album loosely based on a rock foundation rather than jazz fusion jamming. A quick listen to "Spirit Level" and the lengthy "Snakeships Dream" will leave the listener in no doubt that the band were onto something cool, but due to the financial constraints and the lack of any commercial success the original Nucleus band were destined to break.
Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is definitely a highlight in the Nucleus discography, and the first one where Ian Carr has complete control over the compositions. As Hugues already stated, this album was written under an arts council grant and according to Carr himself, is based on two themes stated at the beginning of the album. Marshall, Clynne, Spedding, and Jenkins still have a prominent role throughout the album.

As stated before, the first track on side one, introduces two themes that would reoccur later on the album. Keith Winter makes an apparence on the VCS3 synth. "Changing Times" is perhaps my favorite piece on the album; it's very funky, upbeat, and catchy. "Bedrock Deadlock" features the great Jenkins on oboe (I have a soft spot for his oboe playing) and Clynne on the double bass. "Spirit Level," which includes an interesting bass clarinet solo, closes out the first side.

Side two starts with a very upbeat, somewhat Latin sounding piece, probably due to Marshall's and Karan's percussion (by the way, that reccuring Marshall drum solo appears on this track). "Snaekhip's Dream," the final track, is named afert a particular dancer who Ian Carr is apparently fascinated with, seeing as he titled a later album after the same dancer. This final piece attempts to combine the two themes stated at the beginning of the album, and is for the most part successful. It even ends with Mr. Winter back on the VCS3 synth.

This album is an obvious must-have for every Nucleus fan, as all the early efforts are. This is of interest to any British jazz-rock/fusion fan or really any one interested in getting into Nucleus, although I advise the first album is the best place to start. 4 stars, excellent early Nucleus effort, but still not quite as good as the first two albums.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. Karl Jenkins was the main composer on NUCLEUS' first two albums, but "Solar Plexus" is 100% Ian Carr. I'll let Ian describe this album for you."I wrote "Solar Plexus" last year with the help of an "Arts Council" grant. It is based on two short themes which are stated at the beginning ("Elements I & II"). The first theme is angular and has a slow crab-like movement : the second theme is direct, simple and diatonic "Changing Times" and "Spirit Level" explore the first theme, and "Bedrock Deadlock" and "Torso" explore the second one. "Snakeships' Dream" tries to fuse both themes".

The big difference for me on this one compared to their first two albums is the bigger horn section. It's the same lineup here but there are 6 guests, 3 of which play brass.

"Elements I & II" is the just over 2 minute opening track. I'm thinking UNIVERS ZERO the first time I heard this dark and haunting soundscape. Synths and bowed bass help in that department. "Changing Times" opens like the sun bursting out from behind the dark clouds. Lots of horns in this very enjoyable track. This is simply a "feel good" song for me. Guitar with bass takes over late to finish the song. "Bedrock Deadlock" is very solemn with aboe and double bass for the first 2 minutes. Guitar, drums and percussion then take over. Sax after 3 1/2 minutes followed by trumpet. So much going on here. This is great ! "Spirit Level" sounds so amazing to start with those dark angular sounds. It then kicks in with bass, horns etc. The flugelhorn throughout is fantastic. Marshall really shines here as well. Ian had this to say about John's drumming."It's like an essay on how to play drums for this kind of music. He's got incredible strength, he's very powerful, yet he has equally incredible sensitivity". Some excellent sax in this song as well.

"Torso" is uptempo with guitar, horns, drums and bass. An outstanding sounding track. Sax solo before 2 minutes. A collage of sounds 4 1/2 minutes in then Marshall starts to solo. "Snakehips' Dream" is the over 15 minute closer. I like this one a lot. It's relaxing with electric piano and other sounds that come and go tastefully. Guitar comes in. I could listen to this all day long. Sax after 4 1/2 minutes. This song has the same main melody throughout.

I like this better than their debut but "We'll Talk About It Later" remains my favourite probably because it sounds a lot like Miles Davis at times. Interesting though that the first three albums really are quite different from one another. I'd like to dedicate this to the memory of Ian Carr who recently passed away. A great loss. I mentioned somewhere else about being surprised to see Ian had guested on one of the NO-MAN albums a few years ago, and at the time I thought "How did they manage to get Ian Carr to play on here". A true legend.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Solar Plexus is Nucleus' third album and while it has the same line-up as the first two, it feels much less like a band effort. Ian Carr has taken full control over the songwriting and while he did this most convincingly, I do miss the musical interplay and creative fire that was so stunning on the first two albums.

There's more jazz and less rock on this album. This is not only apparent in the jazzier nature of melodies and composition but also in the arrangements. There's less space for Spedding's guitars and Marshall's drums are buried a bit deeper in the sound. His playing is also remarkably more subdued and jazzier then on the previous albums. Instead, a legion of guest appears to complement the already 3-man counting brass section.

Now it's exactly the guitars and the drums that made all the difference for me and that made Nucleus' first two albums into such stunning jazz-rock experiences for me. Solar Plexus starts excellently enough with Changing Times and Bedrock Deadlock, but the album loses steam after those and the longer compositions, Snakehips Dream especially, are a bit too repetitious and tame for me.

Obviously, the above is a matter of taste. After all I'm a rock-boy with a less developed taste in more regular forms of jazz. I acknowledge the quality of the songwriting but I simply lack a bit of danger and adventure in this album. I guess this is one of those albums that I would appreciate more in a live performance.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Solar Plexus is the third Nucleus album (now titled Ian Carr with Nucleus) and it is clear that a shift has occurred with Carr taking over songwriting duties from Karl Jenkins. The sound therefore is quite different, heavier predisposition to the brassier elements of jazz as well as a hint of experimental tones as the synth heavy "Elements I and II" display and reprised through the course of this recording.

This shift is proven guilty by reason of insanity on a title like "Changing Times" where things get oblique, funky and jazzy with a lesser dependence on Chris Spedding's guitar work and more on a trumpet/sax onslaught, bringing in mercenary brass cavalry courtesy of Kenny Wheeler and Harry Beckett to help out on Ian's blowing interventions. Huffy Puffy!

On the sensational "Bedrock Deadlock" the brooding majesty of Jenkins' oboe and Clyne's mournful contrabass (would that be the French term for an upright acoustic bass?) merge as a unified lament that affords a sensible podium for the soloists to explode into a vortex of exalted playing, another example of what makes Nucleus so timeless. I would dearly love to hear music like this in a jazz-club in 2012, wow what a mind blast that would be! ("You see darling? That's a wah-wah pedal, Yes, it's crazy, iznit! ).

Things get expertly mental on the free spirited "Spirit Level", very wayward jazz with no apparent structure or melodic spine, a theme that would define certain aspects of the nascent British Jazz-rock scene. Everyone gets to show their chops, a roving spotlight that shines a smoky hue on each performer, Marshall in particular contenting to percuss instead of drum, presenting a sensitive side to his otherwise muscular playing (I saw him live, one word = nasty!). The rock is jazzy sand on this tune, so be prepared for the dissonant and the angular! "Torso" is back to the upbeat, propulsive Nucleus attitude that made the first 2 albums outright classics, good and fast playing by all, some camouflaged bass groans from Clyne that snipe from below the drum underbrush, this is scintillating stuff that deserves a rewiring of one's jaw! All of this is fortified by a polyrhythmic drum solo that will once again confirm Marshall's undisputable talent.

The disc boldly closes with an epic 15 minute barrage of cool," Snakehips Dream" , a sexy musical broad with slithering thighs that seduces the listener into this suave groove that seems timeless like only good lovin' can be. I guess with all the horny horns blazing, this music may be conducive to some form of aural lust. This is ultimately the essence of Nucleus' hold on the prog world, being crafty physical brain music, with freedom and structure, emotion and brawn with a hint of audacious sensuality. Simply fantastic, once again but not as vital as the first 2 Nucleus jewels, mainly because Spedding is awfully quiet here.

4.5 ribbed cages

Review by friso
3 stars With 'Elastic Rock' (1970) and 'We'll Talk About It Later' (1971) the jazz-rock / fusion group Nucleus set the highest standard for seventies instrumental jazz rock. This outfit led by Ian Carr was heavily influenced by Miles Davis' transition from bebop to fusion as pioneered on the album 'In a Silent Way'. The band has some funk and rock influences as well. 'Solar Plexus' was also released in 1971, but it wasn't initially planned to be a Nucleus record - all tracks are written by Carr here. The production sound is still quite good, but don't expect that glorious sound of the before mentioned albums. The compositions are less melodic and usually flow around a rather simple chord pattern. The musicianship is of the highest order with beautiful Fender Rhodes sounds, clean stratocaster guitar, tight funky jazz drums, thumping bass and a great assortment of wind-instruments. On side one 'Bedrock Deadlock' shows Ian Carr experimenting with avant-garde to little success in my humble opinion. Side two is perhaps a more pleasant listen with groovy jazz-rock that makes up for great sophisticated background music. Compared to the other records of this band in this era 'Solar Plexus' is less interesting for the progressive rock crowd and therefor I can only give it three stars. Do check out the other records by this band though!

Latest members reviews

4 stars Nucleus (here led by Ian Carr as he was the main composer) was one of the major players in the jazz-rock-fussion premier league. Their third release Solar Plexus is another proof to that, as it easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the genre (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Soft Machine, We ... (read more)

Report this review (#2532569) | Posted by Artik | Wednesday, April 7, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The third work of NUCLEUS announced in 1971 "Solar Plexus". Work that support of wind instrument is obtained and ensemble and solo have been enhanced. The content is a more groovy sound. It is a Big band jazz-rock only in Britain.I think that it is personally a masterpiece that listens easily. ... (read more)

Report this review (#52374) | Posted by braindamage | Thursday, October 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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