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NUCLEUS

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Nucleus picture
Nucleus biography
Founded in London, England in 1969 - Disbanded in 1989 - One-off shows in 2005, 2007 & 2009

If SOFT MACHINE was a rock group that veered towards jazz rock, NUCLEUS can be seen as a jazz group that veered towards jazz rock, as most musicians were clearly jazz musicians with the notable exception of Chris Spedding (yes, Mr. motocycle-punk/Chameleon-man of rock). If a comparison of those two groups can be made, it is also obvious that NUCLEUS became a nursing ground for those musicians before joining SOFT MACHINE (around ten musicians did the transfer). They were signed on the famous progressive Vertigo label and the first two superb artwork album sleeves were designed by Roger Dean.

NUCLEUS was trumpet player (and confirmed jazzmen and biographist) Ian Carr's project and the its discography is rather confusing with the different designations as some were called "Ian Carr's Nucleus", "Nucleus With Ian Carr" or simply "Ian Carr" (but with all NUCLEUS members playing). This is hardly meaning that he was the main writer, main influence or main soloist. Many outstanding musicians contributed loads of material among which Karl Jenkins, Jeff Clyne, Chris Spedding, Alan Holdsworth, Brian Smith & Dave MacRae. Their music was of a frantic instrumental jazz-rock much alike some Miles Davis jazz-rock of the same era. Loads of wind instruments, but KB and a wide place for the guitarist (Spedding's guitar is superb and grandiose while self-restrained). Clearly the groundbreaking essence of NUCLEUS is best heard on the early albums as the later albums only managed to repeat the formula but not evolving much. Nucleus lasted as a touring unit until the early 80's and then reformed on the odd occasion since. Alas, early 2009, Ian Carr left us for proggier pastures, leaving behind an important aural and written oeuvre.

Not only is NUCLEUS warmly recommended to later SOFT MACHINE, but to all jazzrock/fusion fans and also Canterbury prog buffs.

:::: Bio written by Hugues Chantraine, Belgium ::::

Discography:

ALBUMS:
1970 Elastic Rock
1971 Solar Plexus
1971 We'll Talk About It Later
1971/2003 Live In Bremen
1972 Belladonna
1973 Labyrinth
1973 Roots
1974 Under The Sun
1975 Alleycat
1975 The Snakehips Etcetera
1977 In Flagrante Delicto
1979 Out of the Long Dark
1980 Awakening
1985 Live at the Theaterhaus
1988 Old Heartland
2003 The Pretty Re...
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Three of a KindThree of a Kind
United States Dist 2015
$82.54
Elastic Rock / We'll Talk About It LaterElastic Rock / We'll Talk About It Later
Remastered
BGO Records 2015
$13.70
$12.50 (used)
Bracknell SunshineBracknell Sunshine
Gonzo 2016
$12.42
$15.35 (used)
UK Tour 76UK Tour 76
Mlp 2006
$14.23
$18.23 (used)
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NUCLEUS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

NUCLEUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.97 | 124 ratings
Elastic Rock
1970
3.95 | 20 ratings
Chris Spedding: Songs Without Words
1970
4.28 | 262 ratings
We'll Talk About It Later
1971
3.97 | 67 ratings
Ian Carr with Nucleus: Solar Plexus
1971
3.83 | 49 ratings
Ian Carr: Belladonna
1972
3.61 | 50 ratings
Ian Carr with Nucleus: Labyrinth
1973
3.46 | 34 ratings
Ian Carr's Nucleus: Roots
1973
3.85 | 30 ratings
Under The Sun
1974
3.20 | 32 ratings
Snakehips Etcetera
1975
3.27 | 23 ratings
Alleycat
1975
3.12 | 11 ratings
Ian Carr's Nucleus: In Flagrante Delicto
1977
3.12 | 25 ratings
Ian Carr's Nucleus: Out Of The Long Dark
1979
3.22 | 13 ratings
Ian Carr's Nucleus: Awakening
1980
3.23 | 16 ratings
Ian Carr: Old Heartland
1988

NUCLEUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.17 | 5 ratings
Live At The Theaterhaus
1985
4.45 | 17 ratings
Live In Bremen, 1972
2003
3.13 | 8 ratings
The Pretty Redhead: Live At The BBC 1971 & 1982
2003
3.25 | 9 ratings
UK Tour '76
2006
4.00 | 11 ratings
Hemispheres
2006
4.50 | 2 ratings
Three of a Kind
2015

NUCLEUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

NUCLEUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.08 | 6 ratings
Direct Hits
1976
4.22 | 13 ratings
Elastic Rock/ We'll Talk About It Later
1995
4.00 | 2 ratings
Torrid Zone - The Vertigo Recordings 1970-1975
2019

NUCLEUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

NUCLEUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Torrid Zone - The Vertigo Recordings 1970-1975 by NUCLEUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2019
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Torrid Zone - The Vertigo Recordings 1970-1975
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars NUCLEUS and its frontman, trumpetist Ian Carr (the albums we are now dealing with have both the band name and Carr's name on top of them, in various combinations) were among the leading acts in the British jazz fusion scene in the early seventies. Those listeners that are into the [post-Third] jazz era of SOFT MACHINE, are most likely already familiar with Nucleus -- and if not, in Nucleus they will surely find another band to appreciate. In fact several musicians who had played in Nucleus joined Soft Machine: Karl Jenkins, Roy Babbington, Allan Holdsworth, John Marshall... This brand new Esoteric Recordings release Torrid Zone is a 6-disc (in total 6 h 20 min) box set containing nine Nucleus/Carr albums released by Vertigo in 1970-1975: Elastic Rock, We'll Talk About It Later, Solar Plexus, Belladonna, Labyrinth, Roots, Under the Sun, Snakehips Etcetera and Alleycat.

The 48-page booklet features the album informations and an essay written by rock journalist Sid Smith. Since the chronological continuum of the albums understandably divides many of them into two discs -- one disc having material from as many as three albums -- at least the booklet could have been slightly more systematically edited; for example the album covers are in many cases placed somewhere else, in the middle of the essay. Also I wish, as usual, that the track lengths were marked. Especially when they vary a lot, it would be good to know whether you're listening to a brief or a 15-minute piece.

In a nutshell, Nucleus played instrumental fusion/jazz-rock in which jazz is the dominant part of the equation. Trumpet, flugelhorn, saxes and flutes are central in the arrangements, but also guitar is often essential. Some of these albums are entirely composed by Ian Carr and some have many composers. Releasing nine albums in five years, what a work ethic Ian Carr had! No wonder that the line-up was under a constant change. The best known albums especially in prog circles are the first two that share the same line-up (e.g. guitarist Chris Spedding and reeds/keys player Karl Jenkins). Elastic Rock is seen as one of the most noteworthy fusion albums all time. Excuse me for not going into album-by-album analysis or into describing music in a more detailed fashion, I'll just pick up some interesting notions. Solar Plexus is, according to Carr's original liner notes, "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". There are two shorter pieces exploring both themes, while 'Snakehip's Dream' "tries to fuse both themes". That long piece which Carr had been developing for a whole year was a sort of a musical blueprint for future Nucleus releases.

The Ian Carr album Belladonna features a relatively compact small group of six musicians. For me one of the most interesting albums here is Belladonna's follower Labyrinth (1973), a more "widescreen" work which was inspired by the Greek myth of the the Minotaur. Vocalist Norma Winstone has quite a big role on a couple of tracks. This album also features another celebrated trumpetist, Kenny Wheeler. BTW, drummer Tony Levin is just a name-sake of the famous bassist. Roots (1973) uses the vocals of Joy Yates, to a lesser extent. For the next album Under the Sun (1974) the whole line-up around Carr was changed (e.g. reeds player Bob Bertles, keyboardist Gordon Beck and guitarists Jocelyn Pitchen and Ken Shaw). The two final Vertigo albums albums, Snakehips Etcetera and Alleycat (both 1975) are funkier in style.

Ian Carr's most productive years as a musician ended during the 80's for health reasons. Alzheimer's disease led to his death in 2009. Today he is a notable forefigure for the new British jazz generation. This package of nine albums is a great hommage to his timeless work.

 Elastic Rock by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.97 | 124 ratings

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Elastic Rock
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Nucleus ' Elastic Rock (1970)

I liked this record at first spin. Obviously you can hear influences from Miles Davis (In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew) and Soft Machine (that warm thick sound). The energy and vibe of the record reminds me a bit of early Colosseum at its jazziest. The rock influences are little, but enough to give the record that warm heavy psych sound. Nucleus has a nixe mixture of composition and improvised solo's of wind and electric guitar, without loosing their musical imagination and ability to offer the listener interesting atmospheres and harmonies. I think that's what makes the record attractive for listeners of progressive rock ' it's full of that adventurous spirit. Moreover, the drumming is exciting throughout. The album showers the listeners with great musical ideas, only to become slightly disjointed in the last three shorter tracks. Still a very consistent record. Artwork on the Akarma vinyl reprint is pure psychedelic bliss. Highly recommended for listeners of jazz-rock en eclectic prog.

 Under The Sun by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.85 | 30 ratings

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Under The Sun
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This 1974 release from Ian Carr and his collaborators proves that as far as Nucleus goes, there truly is nothing new under the sun. It's not that this is a bad album - on the contrary, it's a pretty decent jazz-rock workout. It's just that it isn't really doing anything we haven't already heard the group do with a bit more verve and passion on the group's earlier albums. Where a mere four to five years earlier Nucleus had been ahead of the curve when it comes to this sort of material, here they're sat solidly in the middle of the road, with the end result that you probably don't want to go out of your way to obtain this unless you really can't get enough of the band's sound.
 Ian Carr's Nucleus: Roots by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.46 | 34 ratings

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Ian Carr's Nucleus: Roots
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Finding enough superlatives to describe the music of Nucleus has become a real problem for this writer, and 'Roots', the groups fifth studio album, continues the trend. Issued on the Vertigo label during 1973, 'Roots' had some tough acts to live up to, namely Nucleus' ground-breaking debut 'Elastic Rock'(1970), the incendiary complexity of sophomore release 'We'll Talk About It Later'(1971) and the fiery fusion of the same year's 'Solar Plexus'. And this wasn't even the first Nucleus album of 1973, the group had already issued the funky 'Labyrinth' earlier in the year, yet it maintained the high standards set by the first three Nucleus albums and even helped the Ian Carr-led outfit develop their sound further, as they gradually headed into faster and more fluid areas of jazz-rock. Simply put then, 'Roots' really is a fine album. Those who have taken an interest in both Ian Carr and Nucleus will know that this was a group with a high membership turnover, and the revolving door policy partly explains the high quality of the music on offer. With so many great musicians playing alongside Carr over the years, its no surprise to find that each Nucleus album has it's own significant character, it's own quirks, styles and it's very own sound. For 'Roots', Carr was augmented by the likes of Brian Smith(sax, flute), Dave MacRae(piano), Roger Sutton(bass) and Clive Thacker(drums), none of whom featured on 'Elastic Rock', and with only Smith, MacRae and Thacker retained from previous release 'Labyrinth'. Vocalist Joy Yates, guitarist Jocelyn Pitchen and Brazillian percussionist Aureo Da Souza also feature, and the overall line-up lends 'Roots' a deep percussive groove which in turn provides the perfect foundation for the fiendishly complex rhythmic zig-zags cooked up by the ensemble players. This makes for a strangely hypnotic quality throughout, and the album's stand-out cuts, which includes the opening title-track and the excellent seven-minute 'Southern Roots & Celebration', rank alongside some of the finest Nucleus material of the decade. Of course, the key is Carr himself, a band-leader/trumpeter with exceptional organisational ability who seems blessed with an ability to get the best out of the musicians around him. An elegant and gutsy jazz-rock album, 'Roots' is yet another chapter in the exciting story of Nucleus and Ian Carr, and just like it's predecessors, comes highly recommended to all fusion freaks. Excellent. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013

 Snakehips Etcetera by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.20 | 32 ratings

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Snakehips Etcetera
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Key exponents of classy jazz-rock, Ian Carr's Nucleus burst onto the British rock scene sometime during 1970 with the release of their dazzling debut album 'Elastic Rock'. Featuring Carr on trumpet, guitarist Chris Spedding and future Soft Machine leader Karl Jenkins, the music of Nucleus was both versatile and exciting stuff, the group capable of playing the most fiendishly-difficult blend of genre's, both on record and in the live arena. Despite a series of line-up shifts, between 1970 and 1975 Nucleus issued a series of excellent studio albums, with 'Elastic Rock' followed by 'We'll Talk About It Later' and 1971's 'Solar Plexus'. Featuring a multi-faceted hybrid of fusion styles and psychedelic sounds and textures, yet always underpinned by a strong jazz core, these first three records represented Nucleus at their most progressive and experimental, before 1973's 'Labyrinth' saw the onset of a slicker and funkier style. After 'Solar Plexus', an album billed under the heading of Ian Carr & Nucleus, the original line-up of Carr, Spedding, Jenkins, saxophonist/flautist Brian Smith, bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer John Marshall began to fragment, Spedding going solo and Jenkins joinng up with Soft Machine. By now the de-facto leader, Ian Carr would issue the group's next album, 1972's 'Bella-Donna', under his own name, before switching to yet another moniker - Nucleus with Ian Carr - for the following year's 'Labyrinth'. The group's fifth album overall, 'Labyrinth' opened up a new chapter in the Nucleus story, as Carr and company started playing a brand of jazz-rock influenced less by rock and more by funk. 'Roots'(1973) and 'Under The Sun'(1974) would continue the formula, before 1975's 'Snakehips Etcetera' saw Carr as the only original member left, the trumpeter now augmented by keyboardist Geoff Castle, saxophonist Bob Bertles, bassist Roger Sutton, guitarist Ken Shaw and drummer Roger Sellers. Featuring some truly striking artwork, 'Snakehips Etcetera' remains arguably the strongest of Nucleus' jazz-funk albums, yet it would also be the last Nucleus album of note in an impressive five-year run of releases. Many musicians would play on these albums, yet at the very core of the group was Ian Carr, a trumpeter and arranger of real skill. 'Snakehips Etcetera' may not have been the greatest of Nucleus albums, yet it proved the final piece in Carr's wonderful sonic puzzle of expertly-crafted jazz- rock. Alongside Soft Machine and If, Nucleus represent the very apex of British jazz-rock. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013

 Elastic Rock by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.97 | 124 ratings

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Elastic Rock
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by VOTOMS

3 stars Nucleus was a Britain progressive jazz rock band. Released 1970 under Vertigo label, this is a smooth jazz/fusion.

After 1916, a short opening move with killing drums, comes the title-track, Elastic Rock, smooth and funny. The clean guitar and the calm mood is very relaxing and still interesting. Striation is very avant-garde (unfortunatelly short), obviously my favorite part. Taranaki start as another smooth jazz, moving slowly to Twister track, where the band goes more dynamic and active from the middle of the track. Crude Blues intro is very quiet, so the song begins, a jazzy jam with blues chords backgrounds, but not repetitive, very pleasent. The progression of the track follows til' the ending of the A side, 1916 (The Battle of Boogaloo), a song presenting repetitive guitar riff with an experimental wind instrument chorus, sometimes dissonant. The B side starts with Torrid Zone. I really like this track, the guitar chords, the smooth background, the sax and stuff playing weird, it's everything alright. The piano chords increases the deep feeling of the song. So we have Stonescape, a slow and short track, nothing special there. Earth Mother is cool, I like to hear the wind instruments screaming high notes. The guitar work at the second half of the track is very outstanding, and the end of the track follows to Speaking For Myself, Personally, In My Own Opinion, I Think... a drum solo, which one is slowly fade out. And the last track, Persephones Jive is the most active and happy track of the album, without lose the smooth feeling. Very good! Elastic Rock (debut) is not their masterpiece, but it's still very good!

 Ian Carr with Nucleus: Labyrinth by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.61 | 50 ratings

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Ian Carr with Nucleus: Labyrinth
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BORA

3 stars Temporarily lost in the Labyrinth.

NUCLEUS have been one of my fave bands for decades. Oddly, this album has escaped my attention for much of that time and I only managed to track it down in recent years. Perhaps there was a reason for that?

At this point, bandleader Ian Carr finds himself without a band as half of the previous members have defected to SOFT MACHINE. A leading British composer/musician. Carr had no problem with finding replacements. He is also very good at getting grants that help with getting over the odd glitch.

The release of this album was perhaps rushed as the end result appears to be somewhat underdeveloped. The musicianship is excellent - as always - but the compositions just don't stack up, lacking the collective input of a well established band.

It's more of a Carr solo project than NUCLEUS as we've known the band. The title "Labyrinth" is apt as the result appears to be directionless, A few steps this way, a few steps there, still searching for an exit.

Special mention is due to the featured singer, Norma Winstone, who has previously collaborated with Carr in 1969. Her beautiful and sensual voice is either overused here on a few tracks, or should have been a feature throughout the whole album.

Contrary to the talented musicians, this is the weakest album Carr has released. Thankfully, by the time he gets to the next work "Roots", we are back to more familiar territory that befits the band much more.

 We'll Talk About It Later by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.28 | 262 ratings

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We'll Talk About It Later
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Though I think the last two compositions on the album are rather spoiled by the inclusion of vocals, We'll Talk About It Later is still a very confident and capable follow-up to Elastic Rock, with Nucleus continuing to practice their own distinctive style of fusion. Debate over whether or not they had any influence in their early material from In a Silent Way or Bitch's Brew aside, by this point they're very much ploughing their own furrow, developing a style of jazz-rock which would end up having a glancing influence on late-phase Canterbury bands such as Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, National Health and, of course, the later Soft Machine albums.
 Elastic Rock by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.97 | 124 ratings

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Elastic Rock
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Before listening to Elastic Rock I confess I hadn't had any prior experience of Nucleus, and tended to think of them as "that band which most of the late-period Soft Machine lineup came from". I suspect that my distaste for the later Soft Machine albums ended up delaying me dabbling in the world of Nucleus, but Elastic Rock has forced me to think again. Ian Carr's trumpet is the secret ingredient which makes the whole experiment gel, but all the band members turn in good performances and offer an interesting Bitches Brew-influenced take on fusion which tends towards shorter, snappier tracks than most of the fusion crowd were working with at the time. Whilst I still think the amalgam of Soft Machine and Nucleus didn't quite work, I find the original Nucleus a much more tasty proposition.
 Ian Carr: Belladonna by NUCLEUS album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.83 | 49 ratings

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Ian Carr: Belladonna
Nucleus Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars "Belladonna" is the end product of the first upheaval in Nucleus' storied career, and as par for the course of cheeky British humor, the title refers to a deadly poison that can either kill or cure! The previous album Solar Plexus had already instituted some alternative directions, a jazzier approach with less rock and less Chris Spedding guitar with Ian Carr doing all the songwriting, leaving Karl Jenkins to play more and not write. Both these gents would leave, with Allan Holdsworth and Dave MacRae now joining the core. The rhythm section has been completely revamped as well, au revoir Messieurs Clyne and Marshall, welcome Roy Babbington and Clive Thacker. Add guest pianist Gordon Beck and percussionist Trevor Tomkins and boom, a new line-up! Wholesale changes can be a perilous move but the makeover succeeded in maintaining a certain fusion sound which was still in its infancy stages, searching for its own fold in the rock clouds. "Belladonna" is a new chapter in the Nucleus progression and one I simply find irresistible and like my co- conspirator mellotron storm, this is my fave after the eminence of "We'll Talk About it Later".

The title track lifts off from the ramp and ventures forward on a 13 minute plus excursion into the fusion laboratory, slithering Trevor Tomkins (of future Gilgamesh repute) percussives flirting with the mellifluous trumpet from Mr. Carr. If an example is needed to convey the importance of the bass guitar in a jazz-rock context, one of my all-time favorites Roy Babbington provides the rationale with a funky and incessant bass pattern that is inexorably affixed to the streaming beat, forcing the various other instruments to latch onto the groove and play to their hearts content. The windblown instruments gust ferociously while Holdsworth's fretboard scratches below the surface, lying in wait as his lunge will happen later, all the antagonists bulging into an organized form of cacophony that is just beguiling. When the sonic clouds part towards the end and give way to a gentle breeze that recalls the intro, there is a sense of lusty sensuality that parallels the music, oozing a certain afterglow that comes after good loving.

"Summer Rain" is another laid back piece where the sensational e-piano mirrors the sound of droplets hammering at the windows, roving bass and obedient drums carve out a cool rhythm that showcases Kiwi Dave MacRae's fabulous mastery of the evocative keyboard instrument. Inspiring to say the least, torturing a piano into believing it's a synth!

"Remadione" continues on the same brilliant principle, after a brief intro that has no forewarning of the upcoming deluge, the lads kick into a muscular attack, Babbington's rugged bass lighting up the stage for Holdsworth to finally show is considerable mettle, where speed and technique are welded together by emotion, proof of what a stellar guitarist he was and would continue to become.

"Mayday" has the urgency of a horny teenager, mindboggling guitar wristings that moisten the dissonant platform, Brian Smith's sax blaring like some allegedly unwilling partner but in fact, in heat from the start. This is real good music, kids!

Wondering why I salivate at the mere mention of Babbington? Well "Suspension" proves it without pomp or circumstance, as this one take masterpiece proves, the man just treats his discreet instrument like a leader, non content to merely follow like good lad. He sets the tone. When one has such a perfectly groomed highway to travel on, it comes to no surprise that Carr delivers his finest trumpet solo ever. Unreal impressions of utter glee.

To close off this complete masterpiece, "Hector's House" has by now the band gunning on all cylinders, a well-oiled Nucleus (pffff! That was easy) of dedicated performers, creating timeless music where the whole is just as good as the solo parts but when Holdsworth takes aim, his machine-gun playing is truly remarkable, a preface of things to come. Descriptive? Fast, heavy, metallic, fluid and just plain devastating.

There are rare times when giddy laughter takes over as I listen to some marvel and it's not derogatory at all. Au contraire, the panicky laugh is just a defense mechanism rooted in disbelief. Nucleus does that to me, in so many different ways and for so long now, reminding me that like Bach, Mozart, Bartok or Liszt, good music is a timeless reflection of one's innermost feelings and as such a welcome relief to our judgmental, cold and hypocritical daily routine.

5 undisputed pretty ladies

PS This one is for you John Davie!

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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