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TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Tony Williams Lifetime biography
Tony Williams was born on December 12, 1945 in Chicago. He acheived great acclaim as a jazz drummer working with Miles Davis in mid 60's. He joined Davis in 1962 and before he left in 1969 to form Lifetime he left an indeliable mark on jazz drumming. He was said to be a household name in jazz circles. Williams recorded a solo album, titled Lifetime which was more free jazz than any other type of jazz. Williams was known to be a fan of rock music as well so in 1969 he set out on his own and formed Lifetime, with then little known guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. They recorded the seminal album Emergency. Author Howard Mandel's claims in his book Future Jazz that Emgency and Lifetime were a huge influence on Davis and and his coming project.. Bitch's Brew. As important as that might be in realms of prog and the burgeoning Jazz-Rock fusion movement... there was the not so umimportant matter of Emergency exposing one of the premier forces in music during the 70's. John McLaughlin. Soon he would be a household name.

Other albums would follow with a bend more towards rock with their 2nd album, Turn It Over which brought bassist GOD Jack Bruce on board. McLaughlin left after Turn It Over and was replaced by Ted Dunbar and they released Ego which continuing moving rock into the realms of jazz. He took a couple of years off after commercial success began to slip he formed after a new line up and a new album which didn't reach the heights previously reached. During that time he was an in-demand session player appearing on with such artists as: Stanley Clarke and Jonas Hellborg.

In 1975 Tony Williams formed a new version of Lifetime The result of this was a never released album that Wiliams recorded with another as yet unknown English guitarist Alan Holdsworth. The album, Wildlife, was never legitimately realeased. Soon after the group, now called The New Tony Williams Lifetime did record and release a new album, Believe It, which became another classic Jazz-Rock recording. The new group included keyboardist Alan Pasqua, and bassist Tony Newton. Holdsworth, like McLaughlin before him, shown like a bright star and his name was made with the musical public. Unfortunately poor business management doomed Lifetime and Williams joined VSOP. Lifetime though had left a powerful mark on the world of Jazz and Rock.

After Lifetime dissolved, Williams continued to record fusion and straight jazz albums. Some further suggestions incl...
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The Old Bum's RushThe Old Bum's Rush
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TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME discography


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TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 17 ratings
Emergency
1969
3.69 | 11 ratings
Turn It Over
1970
3.92 | 5 ratings
Ego
1970
3.00 | 3 ratings
The Old Bum's Rush
1972
4.22 | 41 ratings
Believe It
1975
3.04 | 8 ratings
Million Dollar Legs
1976

TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Lifetime Featuring Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, Larry Young
1972
4.25 | 4 ratings
The Collection
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Spectrum: The Anthology
1997

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

TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Emergency by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.66 | 17 ratings

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Emergency
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars After Tony Williams met with John McLaughnin during the recording of Miles Davis' In A Silent Way, they teamed-up with Larry Young to record this ground-breaking jazz album. It's one of the first albums by jazz musicians where the aggression and psychedelic influences from contemporary rock were incorporated so extensively. At least much more so then Davis did on his 1969-1970 albums. John McLaughnin's style is instantly recognizable here and much more prominent and frantic then on his Davis contributions.

Previous reviewers have pointed to the muddy recording quality of this album, but this harsh and trebly "in your face sound" fits the music rather well. It doesn't sound all that different from Jimi Hendrix' recordings or an early Can album like Monster Movie and it's not difficult to see that it must have served as a huge inspiration for Germany's kraut rock movement of the early 70s.

The music is loose and improvised, sometimes revealing post-bop and free jazz roots, sometimes spacey, sometimes aggressive and chaotic, sometimes riff-based and jammy, sometimes doped and over-indulgent. It won't please you if you look for structure, composition and melody, but it is sure enjoyable for its uncompromising energy and unaffected directness. Some of the tracks have vocals that are very hazy and psychedelic, not unlike the early Soft Machine actually. I'd guess that some hallucinatory aids won't harm to enjoy it.

Emergency is a remarkable album that you should sure pick up if it crosses your path in a library, but it lacks the improvisational mastership and the emotional impact of Davis' contemporary recordings. It also can't offer the compositional quality of MO's later albums, and I believe the kraut rock movement and bands like Soft Machine have more engaging executions of this type of loose, psych-rock experimentation. In short, a ground-breaking album that got surpassed in execution by the bands that took inspiration from it. 3.5 stars.

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 Believe It by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.22 | 41 ratings

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Believe It
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Never one to give a musician credit just because he "played with Miles", I have to admit, however, that it's clear from this album that Tony Williams has got some chops. Most of these are great songs to either nod your head to absent-mindedly or listen intensely to what Williams, and sometimes Holdsworth, are doing.

This feels very minimalist to me, as it is clearly the Tony Williams show, featuring Holdsworth on cue for solos and rhythm, with the keys and bass often relegated to simple chugging along, if even playing at all. Fortunately, that's OK, because it helps Believe It to stand somewhat uniquely among the riff-assaults of much fusion at the time. It's tough to do minimalism while still rocking and keeping things interesting (thus ruling out punk, if that's what you were thinking!)

My favorites are Snake Oil, Fred and Mr. Spock, although the whole album fits the chill-yet-with-a-bite classification. Snake Oil is a great strutter, with a simple yet catchy bass intro, and toe-tapping melody (though it certainly gets repetitive after a while). Mr. Spock is probably my favorite, as it really pushes the tempo and has a great attitude to it--not to mention the highlight toward the end where Williams takes the solo with Holdsworth on rhythm. Great stuff!

I'm not as high on this as some due to the lack of virtuosic playing (sans Williams) and absence of creative songwriting in most places. Nothing about this album screams fantastic, but it's quite good, and a bonus is that not just proggers will likely dig it. Just a solid lineup of fusion rock songs, played very well, with a few truly memorable tunes thrown in there.

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 Turn It Over by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.69 | 11 ratings

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Turn It Over
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars After great Tony Williams solo double debut, this album continues his progressive dark and heavy attack. Just look on the line -up, and you will agree - this is all-stars band with McLaughlin on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, Larry Young on keys, besides of Williams himself.

From very first sound you will hear (and will feel) heaviness of Hammond passages and ecstatic drumming - first two compositions are Corea's, but sound much heavier than originals. Third song is psychedelic ballade with unusual vocals and heavy bass line.

At their best moments albums represents excellent energetic and heavy guitar/keyboards driven psychedelic progressive fusion. However vocals and some unfocused pieces are album's weak points.

I own 10-songs LP version, and sound quality is below average (never listened to CD version, possibly this problem was solved there). In whole - great album with some not so good moments. But if you like early Hammond/guitar led progressive fusion, dark and heavy, with doze of psychedelic, you need to listen this album for sure.

My rating - 3,5, rounded to 4.

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 The Old Bum's Rush by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.00 | 3 ratings

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The Old Bum's Rush
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars After three great albums, Tony Williams released this one - not bad, but really strange one! First of all - he employed female vocalist there, with strong soul-jazzy voice. Album's mix is made with vocals in front of all the sound, so what you are listening is mostly vocal jazz-soul fusion there.

Singer's voice is no bad, but far from Julie Driscoll, who this album possibly targeted. But even bigger problem is stylistically her singing is hardly connected with music played by Tony' s team. I can't say the result is bad, but it's kind of too strange (or too experimental, depends on your taste).

If you will remove vocals, there are more interesting things - great drumming, unusual, but often interesting keyboards and very energetic and in fact brave electric experimental jazz-rock with strong r'n'b influences. Possibly, all album was strongly influenced by Brian Auger recent works.

Separate musical pieces are excellent, but in whole all the music with vocals over the top sounds weird. I still really can enjoy it, but this album is possibly Tony Williams weakest point. Not strange, the band was disbanded after release of this release, and Tony returned after some time with great New Lifetime.

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 Believe It by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.22 | 41 ratings

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Believe It
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Tony Williams is one of most respectable jazz fusion drummers, still from time when he played with Miles Davis. It's a bit pity, that besides other Miles jazz fusion cohort, as Chick Corea or John McLaughlin, Tony's later solo works stayed a bit in the shadow side.

This album ( and I think it is his best ever release) is great evidence, that Tony's solo works are of the same highest standard ( or sometimes even higher!).

Musicians team ( New Lifetime) is all great - Allan Holdsworth is showing his best guitar techniques, Alan Pasqua if not too much original plays funky and very competent. Tony Newton is mostly known as Motown session bassist, so rhythm section gave strong funky-jazz feeling to all music. But whenever Allan's guitar is so energetic and fills all space with great electric rock jams, all musical mix sounds as hot jazz-funk-rock fusion.

Looking from now, all this album sounds as excellent vintage fusion recordings of highest standard. Possibly, I would like to hear some more experimental moments there, but we're speaking about year 1975, so I believe this music was quite innovative at that time.

Must have album for any jazz fusion collection.Strong 4,5.

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 Believe It by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.22 | 41 ratings

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Believe It
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by karneviljay

5 stars This was truly the first time I had ever heard Tony Williams and in fact the first time I had really heard fusion that didn't bore me to death. I had been introduced to Allan Holdsoworth as a pretty young kid from my way older brother who had been studying music in college at the time. The first impression I got of this album was funky hard rockin jazz, but like any true fusion album there's more hidden treasures in the music the more you listen to it.

Though Believe It may not be in the realm of fusion/prog, anyone who enjoys good music and understands the idea of the importance fusion had on progressive rock ie., John Mclaughlin's heavy influence on Robert Fripp, will enjoy and respect the true musical value of this music. Track #1 starts of with Tony Newton's heavy envelope filtered bass in "Snake Oil" leading to the funky rocking of Alan Pasqua's clavinet and Mr. Holdsworth's highly compressed guitar leads.

"Fred" starts of the second track of this album with a few splashes of Tony William's cymbals starting of the atmospheric serenity of the melody, followed by a nice solo by Mr. Pasqua, then erupting into an monster legato fury by Holdsworth.

"Proto Cosmos" is pure fusion here. Genius fluid guitar playing by Holdsworth, and accompanied by Tony Williams polyrhythmic drumming. Mr Williams really shines here.

"Red Alert" has been stated over the years by other musicians that it was one of the most influential songs they had ever heard. This number is rhythymicaly hard and heavy, the whole band kicks butt. Check out you tube online and you can check out these guys jamming in 9/22/76 in Village Gate,NYC.

"Wildlife" starts off as a relaxing beautiful tune, and then the guitar comes in enhance the mood, halfway into the things kick up a bit with a electric piano solo and some nice bass work by Tony Newton.

And last but not least we have "Mr. Spock". The more I listen to this one, the better it gets. Everyone in the band has a chance to shine on this one. It's very unperdictable. Most importantly this album introduced me into the genius guitar playing of Allan Holdsworth. I became one of his number one fans because of this music. IMO it's not only some of his best playing but the tone he had back in the seventies with Lifetime, Bruford, Soft Machine just seemed to be quite edgier. A Masterpiece

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 Emergency by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.66 | 17 ratings

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Emergency
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars There's no denying how innovative and groundbreaking this album was. I can just imagine the disdain shown by Jazz traditionalists back then. And as if to make an exclamation point Tony made it a double album. What a trio though with Williams on drums, McLaughlin on guitar and Young on organ. The sound quality is brutal though. This is more like bootleg quality sound, very muddy. So much so that it reflects in my rating because I can't really enjoy it at all. Even Tony's follow up "Turn It Over" sounds bad. Check out "Believe It" with Holdsworth on guitar if you want great sound quality and amazing playing. Gnosis even rates it higher than the first two.

"Emergency" opens with drums and organ before McLaughlin comes in lighting it up. It turns jazzy then settles before 5 minutes. It's intense again late. "Beyond Games" has these silly spoken lyrics. Not a fan of this one although the guitar is great at times. "Where" has no real melody at first and Tony again half sings the lyrics. It kicks in before 2 minutes and the tempo picks up 3 1/2 minutes in. An impressive instrumental display here. A calm follows with more spoken words.Themes are repeated.

"Vashkar" rocks out pretty good with the guitar and drums showing off early before the organ takes a turn. "Via The Spectrum Road" almost sounds like Wyatt singing (haha). No it's not that good. It picks up before 1 1/2 minutes. Contrasts continue. "Spectrum" is uptempo with the guitar leading the way. Young's turn after 3 minutes and the guitar returns later. "Sangria For Three" is kind of funky at first then it changes a minute in.The guitar and drums are great as the tempo picks up.The tempo continues to shift. "Something Special" has some excellent drum work on it.

Probably 4.5 stars if it sounded good, but sadly I can't even enjoy it.

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 Ego by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.92 | 5 ratings

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Ego
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars As Tony's first Lifetime passed away, it got resurrected or reincarnated as half of itself, as only Larry Young remain (if you'll except Bruce's singing one track) , but Williams called on Ron Carter on bass and Ted Dunbar on guitar. The ugly artwork and apt title shows that indeed Williams was probably very full of himself, but nevertheless this album manages to be as interesting as the previous two he'd done under the Lifetime banner. Ego is a very percussive affair as he's also hired another drummer and a percussionist to enhance the rhythm section. The album retains the psychedelic feel present on the previous two albums hat is so unusual to jazz-rock.

Both sides of the vinyl start with short percussive tracks that flow at neck-breaking pace, only to segue in very interesting tracks. On the A-side, There Comes A Time is a red-hot descending riff, where Dunbar has it easy to solo, especially that Young's organ is content in playing layers. Early Santana is not far away, here and Williams almost sings in here. Another percussive track is Piskow's Filigree and lasting some four minutes, it evokes (to me anyways) tropical nature at dawn. Circle 45 is a contrabass-driven almost-standard tune, except that the incessant electronic twiddles are reminding you of fusion. Two Worlds is n impressive meddling of the two types of tracks, the percussive ones with the more constructed or standard ones, but Jack Bruce's vocals are fairly well imbedded in the track. Probably the best track of the album, despite not being easy to get into.

On the flipside, past the percussive intro, the 7-mins+ Lonesome Wells returns a bit on Santana meets Colosseum territory where Williams might be overdoing it in terms of vocals. Mum And Dad is a gentle organ-driven track. Marimbas are unfortunately cheapening the closing Urchins, but the percussion instruments in general dominate the track ad absurdum.

A very unusual album in the Lifetime, (it can't be linked to the first two albums or the Holdsworth era, nor has it anything to do with Bum's Rush), Ego is nevertheless an excellent album that is to be appreciated on the same level as Emergency or Turn It Over, even if Williams' collabs are not as famous on this one.

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 Emergency by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.66 | 17 ratings

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Emergency
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Certainly one of the most groundbreaking albums in the PA database, along with The Nice's debut and a few others, many people signal this album as the birth of jazz-rock, although some will point out that if it was released before Bitches Brew, it was released after In A Slilent Way, where Tony Williams and McL met. And to be truthful, I'm not sure we can actually call this album jazz-rock, but more something like psych-jazz. It also has the reputation of being one of the worst & amateurly recorded albums ever, and even a semi- recent remastering job can't help that much has to erase some almost unforgivable errors as buzzing amps and other noises, but it's also part of the legendary rawness of this project that was about breaking new grounds and uncharted musical continents. So there is plenty of risk-taking and this inevitably leads to some lesser moments or even flawed ventures. So if we have here one of the most adventurous album around that time, and despite it's historical importance, we must be indulgent on its negative sides, which can be hard to ignore at times.

Although IASW was not Williams' last album with Miles (he would appear on one track in BB), Tony felt it was time to fly on his own and he took with him still unknown (despite also playing on IASW) McL and organist Larry Young to found the raw trio of Lifetime. In take it that the bass is played on pedals or Young's organ. As awfully recorded Emergency was, the album was critically acclaimed by the press, despite the horrible sound, and while the latest Cd reissue is an improvement over the vinyl and the first Cd issue, but there is plenty that simply couldn't be dealt with, especially Young's malfunctioning organ (actually the studio's organ).

If the title track starts out the album jazz enough it digresses often into weird psych phrases, without referring to rock, while the following Beyond Games (sung "iffily" by Tony) does have a rockier background, mostly due to McL's electric guitar, but overall the dominant aspect interfering with the jazz is the psychedelic spirit, more than rock or psych rock. . There are some real lengths and indulgences on this album (much more than in the next two) that are making you wonder if they shouldn't have tried for a single crammed to the brim disc.. I am aiming here at the 12-mins Where and Sangria For Three. Don't get me wrong, there are some real tracks, as in songs, on the album: the Carla Bley's Vashkar immediately preceding the impressive Spectrum Road track, but they never seem in a hurry to close, always looking for an occasion to improvise or jam.

Certainly a groundbreaking album, but when listened to in the wrong context, it can also be couple-breaking if you insist playing it during mating sessions or lunch-heaving if you did your mayonnaise during the spinning of Emergency!! It had been roughly 15 years since I'd heard Emergency prior to writing this review and after these three listen, let's bet it'll be another 15 years before I go back and spin it. This first "dirty" album is a bit the anti-thesis of what is usually thought as a very slick and clean jazz-rock of what was to come in Weather report, RTF or even with McL's next project, MO.

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 Turn It Over by WILLIAMS LIFETIME, TONY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.69 | 11 ratings

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Turn It Over
Tony Williams Lifetime Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Turn It Over ? Play It Loud is the full name of this album I believe, and this is an obvious reference to the arrival of Jack Bruce into an otherwise unchanged Lifetime. A very black cover (almost more so than VU's White Light album of the previous year), and the album has a definitely angry, psyched-out snarls at the establishment. The linernotes mention Williams wanting to do is MC5, but I'm much more partial to Vanilla Fudge being his prime in fluence for this album. Despite being known as Cream singer and one of the bazssist that rewrote the rock bass playing book, Bruce is originally a jazz musician as his formation in Graham bond Organization, but jack will not sing on this album, but rather McLaughlin (if you can believe THAT) and Tony Williams himself.

Starting on the double Corea's two-part To Whom it May Concern, TWL is definitely attacking from the starting gun, and you know right away that their first album was no fluke with their incendiary hard-psyched jazz Indeed the track is slowed down, much like Vanilla Fudge did, to allow plenty of dramatic effects and McL's twisted (by effects) voice. Larry Young does not much different than Emerson did with his Hammond in The Nice, whipping it back, tearing its guts out, something that VF's Stein did quite well too. McL's guitar is as fiery as you've ever heard it before, like on the future Devotion or Tribute to JJ. If Trane's Big Nick sort of sticks out from the album's general psychedelic folly. But just after that, the short Right proves to be the most VF-esque number and the low organ groans spill-over Once I Loved (sung by Williams, this time), sprawling itself over five minutes. Not for every ears, I'll say.

The 5-mins Vuelta Abajo sounds like a very early heavy metal track, and it puts to shame Blue Cheer. With a heavy repetitive riff and searing guitar The funeral (graveyard background voice) Famous Blues is more an organ-lead track, despite being McL-penned, while the closing Allah Be Praised is very much predating Mahavishnu Orchestra. The superb bonus track One Word is showing how much greater this album would've been if Jack had taken over the vocals, as he does one of his most spectacular and dramatic showcase. Musically, the track is completely in the album's spectrum, too.

More than a jazz-rock album, TIV-PIL is a full psych-prog album that some jazz roots , one that some 40 years later can still shock and surprise. Ifnot a must have, thisis at leasta must-hear, even if some forewarned progheads might still wonder on which album they've fallen upon.

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