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BOB DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Bob Downes' Open Music biography
Bob Downes was a well-known "studio rat" or a "session man" that played on many 60's records, from MANFRED MANN to ANDWELLA'S DREAM (and later on EGG); and his fantastic flute was second to JETHRO TULL's Ian Anderson only. By the turn of the decade, he had decided to try his own luck and 1970 was a particularly fruitful year for him: 2 full solo album and one collaboration. Released on the legendary Vertigo swirl label, Electric City was a strange album between avant-garde jazz and hard rock. The album failed to sell and by the time Bob Downes was ready to record his second album, Phillips had demoted him to their "normal" label (only GRACIOUS suffered the same treatment). Actually "Open Music" came out as his more successful release and has been a collector item for years, now.

The same year, Bob Downes also released a wild album called "Deep Down Heavy" (and its spectacular artwork) with poet Robert Cockburn reading out his text, making another unusual record.

None of the three albums sold enough for Downes to keep trying out his solo stint. Comes then a gap where I guess he returned to studio sessions for the next couple of years, most likely appearing on avant-garde jazz albums. This in turn led him to be noticed by some Modern Artistic Dance companies and in 72, he was commissioned for two "dance" project. Forming his own trio OPEN MUSIC, named after his more successful album, "Diversion" proved an interesting release where jazz-rock alternated with free form music, while the catastrophic "Episodes At 4AM" (74), which was a Welsh project, filled with obtuse free-form music. The following year saw Downes release "Hell's Angels", then later "Dawn Dreams", "South American Journey" and "Inside Stonehenge", before taking a long break.

Bob Downes moved to the continent in the late 80's and is now currently based in Germany, and continues to perform as a solo artiste, playing during the execution of paintings and art exhibitions running flute workshops and releasing the odd album now and then, such as 93's "Dreams of Nature" .


:::: Bio written by Hugues Chantraine, Begium :::: /

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BOB DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.15 | 7 ratings
Electric city
1970
2.48 | 5 ratings
Deep Down Heavy
1970
3.00 | 1 ratings
Open Music
1970
3.00 | 2 ratings
Diversions
1974
1.00 | 1 ratings
Episodes At 4 AM
1974

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BOB DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Deep Down Heavy by DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC, BOB album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.48 | 5 ratings

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Deep Down Heavy
Bob Downes' Open Music Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A rough 'n' ready excursion into the murkier realms of British psychedelia, this underrated little gem seems to get a rough deal these days, mainly thanks to it's rushed, low-budget production and the gritty, almost Altman-esq sound quality(just check out the reviews on this very site!). Issued in 1970 on the EMI-backed Music For Pleasure imprint, 'Deep Down Heavy' was one of three albums issued during 1970 by jazz-flautist Bob Downes, the others being 'Open Music' and the high-brow sounding 'Bob Downes New Sounds For Flute, Percussion & Synthesizers'. Of the three, this curious psych-jazz relic is perhaps the strongest, with Downes showing off his impressive flute and saxophone skills over a series of deeply-psychedelic, blues-tinged jams. Also involved is poet buddy Robert Cockburn, who adds some very gritty vocals, and rising young guitarist Chris Spedding, who seemed to be everywhere during this time, fresh from stints with both Nucleus and Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments to name but a couple. To put it bluntly, 'Deep Down Heavy' is a product of it's time, very much a lost relic from a bygone age. But that's exactly what makes it so fascinating. From the rough opening blasts of the hard-rockin' 'Too Late', to the hazy bad-trip psychedelia of the hypnotic closer 'Circus Rising', this is an album that cooks with a raw, fuzzy, late night power perfectly summed up by the album's title. It's an ambience that is maintained throughout, with surreal background noises and strange instrumental interludes adding to the already highly mystical feel, but this is very much Downes baby and it is he who dominates, pulling off some scintiallating solo's on both flute and saxophone. The mixture of deeply-trippy cosmic jamming, edgy blues riffs and druggy jazz breaks exists to serve his improvised displays, and to a lesser extent vice-versa, the lo-fi sound quality only heightening the whole late-sixties vibe. This is certainly for those with a penchant for obscure psych relics, and this writer is confident that if you take a chance on 'Deep Down Heavy' you won't be disappointed. A real curio from the heart of the sixties, it doesn't really get any more underground than this. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2014

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 Deep Down Heavy by DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC, BOB album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.48 | 5 ratings

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Deep Down Heavy
Bob Downes' Open Music Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

1 stars Happy New Year, folks! I have a bunch of artists to listen to and write about, but first I just recycle this one that originally appeared in the Finnish Colossus #45 magazine as a part of my article on recent Esoteric Recordings' releases. It's not often that I can sincerely rate an album with one star only!

This album is such a strange case, but hardly that kind of experimental work which anyone would think to be a mind-blowing listening experience. Flutist-saxophonist Bob Downes was in the sixties a free-minded musician jumping over any musical fences, wandering amidst jazz, avant-garde and pop. In the year 1970 he released THREE albums - and each on a different label. Deep Down Heavy was made quite spontaneously in a short time, and it sure sounds like it. The main elements are bamboo flute, traffic noises and a gritty blues-rock backing, plus awfully bad singing with lyrics by the poet-collabotaror Robert Cockburn.

No, this is not a unique, "challenging" work of art demanding the listener's patience to reveal its genius. It is, quite simply, an artistically poor thing done in a careless manner, and not any amount of brave personality can hide that fact. On the opposite, this album is after all so sincere, literally "on the street level", that it doesn't even attempt to impress as emperor's new clothes (except for the interesting, psychedelic cover art perhaps - which frankly gives very false expectations). One sympathy point deserved.

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 Deep Down Heavy by DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC, BOB album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.48 | 5 ratings

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Deep Down Heavy
Bob Downes' Open Music Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by KABSA

2 stars released 1970 on the super-cheap label MFP but sounds like an earlier recording to me., and probably so because the recording quality is mediocre about 7-8 out of 10. i guess the intent was to have this as a proper release as the recording on a number of tracks uses environmental sounds [london transport] and the band includes such luminaries as : chris spedding / ray russell / harry millar / laurie allan / alan rushton plus a few others. the best tracks are : side one trk`s 1 & 2 & 3 two 1 & 3 & 5 & 7 nb., trk b6 is a poetry recital by `robert cockburn` and is very good trk`s a1 / b7 sound like `if` trk a3 is more `mayall` styled trk a2 is instrumental , and sounds reminiscent of french band `ame son` trk b1 is a jazz rock with `funk` rhythm trk b3 is a `psyche` styled blues rock trk b5 is instrumental `sax` led jazz rock [med tempo]

let down trk`s being : a4 [environmental sounds with flute meandering] : a5 [middle of the road blues rock] : b4 [a bit `long john baldry` cabaret styled] if the quality of recording was `proffessional` the better trk`s would become very solid indeed.

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 Episodes At 4 AM by DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC, BOB album cover Studio Album, 1974
1.00 | 1 ratings

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Episodes At 4 AM
Bob Downes' Open Music Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

— First review of this album —
1 stars From what I gather, this album was a commission by some Welsh dance project (although not mentioned the Rambert name is possible) from public funds and there was a modern dance choreography drawn from it. Apparently both the music and dance were inspired from an Italian sculpture. As you might guess the album contains some modern music that nears free form music, "musique concrete" and other forms of avant-garde arts. The instruments on this album are handled by Downes (wind instruments, percussion and shall we say.. devices???), while collab Wendy Benka handles more and weirder percussions.

Actually the titles of the tracks pretty well describe the music in them, and you won't find much else than in the title. Don't look for real rhythm or melodies or even songs (there are a few words here and there). Somehow, you're looking at one of the more difficult album of any artiste here, and in some case, this might be positive, but not here. But if you thought Diversion was a difficult album to get into, wait 'til you get an earful of this "mother".

A bunch of bonus tracks are added to the original album, and the least we can say is that they're just as weird so they don't deface the album they're from. Half of them come from the period between his two active era (that means from 72 to 74), the others dating throughout the rest of the years (78, 87 and 05)

Exactly why this album was re-issued on Cd format eludes me, but it's certainly not by popular demand: I can't imagine someone knowing what this album's about and willingly requesting a reissue. It must be a Welsh joke of some kind. And should you buy this album, you'd be the butt of it. Stay awayayayay from this one.

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 Diversions by DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC, BOB album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Diversions
Bob Downes' Open Music Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars The first of Downes' second batch of releases, Diversion is drawn from a collab with LCDT (a dance company), but by this time Bob had his own group called Open Music Trio, which was more of a jazz formation rather than a rock group

Although the music is played from the trio base, knowing two musicians are a drummer (Denis Smith) and a bassist (Barry guy in most cases), this leaves most of the show to Bob Downes and his flutes and somehow it works fine enough to make this type of album more than interesting. I say this because these commissioned albums from dances or theatre do not always provide music interesting enough to be listened to out of their context (and this is certainly not the case of the atrocious Episodes At 4AM), but here there are moments where the music is fascinating, including the opening Spanish Plain where Barry Guy induces the flamenco through his bass, Smith marching on along on the warpath, and Bob's fascinating flute flying all over the lace, from full dramatics to free form improv;

Further down the line, Sea Shore is an interesting tune, and Jeff Clyne's distinctive bass style (see Nucleus), but Bob's flute reign as queen of the show. Opening the flipside, in the album's centrepiece called Seventh Wave, Downes tries his luck with a tenor sax and pulls a very convincing trick for the 11 minutes of duration. Clearly Bob is another John Coltrane fan, and is coming close to the Africa/Brass sound and Barry Guy's bow on the contrabass adds to the illusion, especially when getting dissonant. Maya is a up-tempoed live-recorded track that features manic flutes, Downes' semi-scat-like vocals, some wild percussion/drums and a suitable end to the album.

However there are some real duds on this album and Naked Forest is one of those, because Bob's flute alone can't pull it off, and our interest wades from boredom into oblivion as the next The Dream track offers more of the same plus some VCS3-induced wind and space noises. Samurai also prefers trying the flute alone although it's "helped out" by banging a piano's keyboards and wooden case and having the mike inside the piano. Frank Zappa would do this stuff some 15 years later with Civilization Phase 3, with as little success. Requiem is again mostly a flute-only thing, although it gets the company of the bass and drums, shy at first, than slightly more present after, to end up as a soft jazz by its end.

So the album is resting on a strange formula where of the four pieces aside, there is two almost-solo flute-only tracks, sandwiched between two group tracks, the latter four being of much greater interest than the other four. A rather interesting album, hardly perfect, but the better moments outnumbers the weaker ones, this is a sure pleaser to flute fans.

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 Electric city by DOWNES' OPEN MUSIC, BOB album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.15 | 7 ratings

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Electric city
Bob Downes' Open Music Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Released on the legendary Vertigo "swirl" label, Electric City was one of the wilder and more obscure issues of the famous 6360 series. But if I say wild and obscure, it is nothing compared to his later works in the mid-70's, as here the music is very accessible resembling some kind of brass rock, as the cast of guest on Bob's first album is an impressive who's who of Phillips-related musicians, pictured assembled on the inner gatefold. The outer gatefold presents a wild collage electronic devices, wild psychedelic colours and Downes in full action, the whole thing permeating a white dummy head; stunning, especially once you'll be that white face

Made of short tracks (except the closing opus), the album has splendid up-tempo rhythms, juicy horn arrangements, great virtuoso musicianship and acceptable vocals. Yup, Downes' vocals are not the main asset of this album yet, Bob's lyrics (all his except for the opening No Time like The Present, which is from poet Robert Cockburn, foreseeing their collab of Deep Down Heavy) are always interesting, but let's face it, we want his flute and sax and he doesn't disappoint. Indeed the fabulous Keep Off The Grass, Dawn Until Dawn (where Downes shows his passion for sax as well), the pedestrian Walkin' On (Bob goes nuts on the sax), the tense Crush Hour, the explosive Piccadilly Circles (waaaah, the pun) and its direct continuity into the lengthy (7-mins+) Gonna Take A Journey, which plunges into free improvs.

Other titles are more R'nB, like Don't Let Tommorrow, Go Find Time, and the bossa nova West II (the worst track of the album, even if saved by a high-flying sax solo) are less enthralling, but all remain high energy. Although we are in full brass-rock delire with this album, it never gets cheesy or pompous or bombastic as BS&T. No we're facing some of the best of the genre, right up with Brainchild, Galliard and a few more.

Although Electric City is a fine album, one that epitomizes his first three efforts, it sounds NOTHING like the later works of his. But this one is definitely worth a shot and should be the introduction to Downes' world of sounds.

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Thanks to sean trane for the artist addition.

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