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Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States

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Friends picture
Friends biography
One-off reunion in New York, USA in 1972

FRIENDS were a jazz rock group formed by John ABERCROMBIE, Clint HOUSTON, Marc COPLAND (also known as Marc COHEN) and Jeff WILLIAMS. The musicians not known for their fusion work but mostly for their softer ECM and other styles of jazz (especially later ABERCROMBIE's career, HOUSTON's work for the likes of Stan GETZ and Roy AYERS or COHEN's later pianist career for example) have gathered for a one-off album in 1972 which can be compared to music like MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and was released on the obscure Oblivion Records label a year later.

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FRIENDS discography

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4.83 | 5 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Friends by FRIENDS album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.83 | 5 ratings

Friends Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic

5 stars In the annals of history just desserts are more often than not ponied up to the cream of the crop but also is the case, some ridiculously talented artists end up in the obscurity bins rather than on the cover of Rolling Stone. The early 70s was a fertile period of creative music oozing out of every corner of the world so it comes as no surprise that many outstanding musical morsels got buried and woefully forgotten. When Frank Zappa and Miles Davis gave the green light for the fertile cross-pollinating possibilities of jazz and rock, the floodgates opened with impunity which led to a multitude of artists taking their best stab at the most artful blend of the two disparate genres. It wouldn't take long at all for John McLaughlin with his Mahauvishnu Orchestra to raise the bar ridiculously high and dazzled the world with an instrumental ensemble that could deliver the technical jazz workouts with a rock sensibility thus creating some of the most eclectic and demanding jazz fusion ever recorded.

Following in the footsteps of the Mahavishnu's magnus opus debut "The Inner Mounting Flame," came another American band (New York based) with the more humble name FRIENDS who recorded their one and only eponymously titled album in December 1972 and was released in the following spring of 1973. The band was a launching pad for the careers of the four members involved. John Abercrombie, more renowned for his ECM style fusion eccentricities as well as a prolific output had played in another jazz-rock band Dreams before joining ranks with saxophone extraordinaire Marc Cohen, bassist Clint Houston and percussionist Jeff Williams to deliver a wild romp through some of the most satisfying jazz-rock eccentricities of the entire 70s. Despite the four members having worked with some of the industries greats, it wasn't until FRIENDS where they really had the chance to let loose and dish out an album of scorching hot chops that entered the arena of the big boys club initiated by McLaughlin and company.

Upon first listen, FRIENDS does indeed sound a bit like the Mahavishnu Orchestra with an off-the-charts rhythm section, sizzling bop bass lines and unhinged guitar hooks that match McLaughlin's virtuosic prowess. Likewise the percussive drive certainly contains the vitality of a seasoned drummer and it all makes sense once one learns that Abercrombie played with Billy Cobham in his previous band Dreams. So it seems that FRIENDS and the Mahavishnus were in a friendly competition with the latter gaining resounding success and the former falling into the crevices as mere footnotes of history. This has been quite unfortunate because FRIENDS is no mere clone band but a dynamic display of some of the most satisfying jazz-rock that the era had to offer. Right from the getgo, the fiery "5/8 Tune" blasts onto the scene with a relentless time signature rich drive, brash bop bass line, sizzling guitar fury and percussive overdrive.

While similar to the Mahavishnus in their freneticism, FRIENDS lacked keyboards and violin. The emphasis is shared equally as each musician has equal virtuosic domain as the bass and guitar whizz up and down the fretboard alongside the jazzified drumming outburst and total saxophone anarchy that utilized echo effects to add a psychedelic dimension to the technical workouts. The album contains only four lengthy tracks with each delivering its own personality. Only the feisty opener "5/8 Tune" clocks in at under ten minutes at a mere 9:24 running time. "Black Vibrations" attempts to calm things down a bit with a less frenetic pace but perhaps even more complex in its relentless time signature changes. This one reminds the most of the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra sound with only the sax replacing Jerry Goodman's violin runs. The track deftly mixes an atmospheric dynamic around the explosive guitar runs on steroids.

"Nursery Rhyme" opts for a more spacey vibe with the echoey saxophones plodding over the ostinato bass grooves and although mellower in overall feel in relation to the previous tracks, this one still manages to unleash a relentless technical assault with more extraordinary guitar antics, pummeling percussive drive and time signatures run amok. "Loose Tune" closes the album as the longest track clocking in over thirteen minutes and continues the now established instrumental fusionist paradise constructed by four outstanding musicians tightly honing their chops as if they were psychically tuned into one another. So obscure is this one that it was only released twice on vinyl LP in its early years. Initially on the short-lived Oblivion Records and two years later in 1975 on the equally obscure Caroline Records.

Needless to say, THIS ONE NEEDS TO BE RE-ISSUED! There are even bonus tracks from the sessions that are begging to be included! They can be found on the Oblivion Records website and are titled: "Suite One," "Three Step Dance," "Medley: 5/8 Tune & 7/4 Tune," "Tern" and "Blues Jam." I know the term "lost classic" gets thrown around a bit loosely but in the case of the one and only album by FRIENDS, no other term applies! This IS a lost classic if there ever was one. This is one of my absolute favorite obscurities and for anyone who love their jazz-fusion complex and feisty as hell, this is one NOT to be missed. This was one of the most pleasant surprises that i happened upon by chance on a YouTube binge listening session. It just popped up and has since become one of my most treasured finds. For me, this is the perfect album.

Thanks to historian9 for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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