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Brian Auger - Befour (with the Trinity) CD (album) cover


Brian Auger


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.87 | 35 ratings

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4 stars After the stunning vocalist Julie Driscoll abruptly left the group while touring the states, Brian Auger & the Trinity returned to England, replaced "Jools" with guitarist Gary Winston Boyle and went back into the studio to continue laying the groundwork for the still-in-its-infancy jazz rock/fusion movement. By covering relatively unknown American jazz artists/composers, the group introduced millions of rock fans to the magical concoctions of underground modern jazz at a time when rock & roll and Motown were dominating the airwaves. The whole jazz rock/fusion world owes a big debt to these guys for having the cajones to carry a banner that didn't exactly translate into huge record sales. "Befour," while slightly uneven in places, is still a pivotal album that must be duly recognized in progressive music history. Plus, it's an absolute blast!

Lest you sneer at their bar-band rendition of Sly & the Family Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher," it's important to acknowledge the timeline it was recorded in. As the liner notes inform us, drummer Clive Thacker brought back that band's landmark album "Stand" (released in May '69) from the US and that groundbreaking song "blew their minds" so much that they eagerly laid down their own version in July '69. (Bear in mind that this was before Woodstock made it a huge hit worldwide.) What I'm trying to convey is that considerable slack is appropriate to give here since their homogenized (and Anglicized) version pales in comparison to the incredibly funky original. Their enthusiasm got the best of their judgment in this case. Whatever misgivings the listener might have after that are quickly dispelled by their amazing arrangement of Gabriel Faure's "Pavane" that follows. It's a very cool mix of jazz and classical music that flows like a river. The tight, concise rhythm track and the subtle backing orchestration make this cut a treasure. Next comes their beautiful take on Traffic's atmospheric "No Time to Live." While no singer stands a chance of matching Steve Winwood's vocal chops, Boyle ain't too shabby here and does this moody, haunting tune justice. In another bold move the band takes on Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" and makes it their own. Its unorthodox chord progression and tricky melody pose a little problem for the guitarist here but Auger's organ solo is exquisitely tasteful.

Their exuberant excursion into Eddie Harris' "Listen Here" is one of the most exciting tracks you'll ever hear. Recorded in one raw take, this "experiment with four drummers" has its blemishes, to be sure, but the unadulterated joy that springs from this instrumental tune's irrepressible melody and spirit cannot be denied. To join Thacker they recruited percussionists Mickey Waller, Barry Reeves, and Colin Allen to meld with bassists Dave Ambrose and Roger Sutton to create the world's most powerful rhythm section and the result is a monstrous groove that just won't quit. I absolutely adore this cut! After Gary valiantly tries to keep up with the thundering momentum on guitar the whole thing drops down into a mellower Ramsey Lewis-style aura with Brian delivering a great piano break. The drum solo section has to be heard to believe. While it's all a tiny bit loose (understandably), their shared energy is obvious and when they perform their unison lead-in fill to Auger's fierce organ ride they elevate the tune to a whole new level. And if you love Katy-bar-the-door Hammond extravaganzas you'll be beside yourself during Brian's mind- numbing lead. It's awesome. This is the kind of song that can give your day a jump-start. Try it sometime.

In another courageous undertaking, their symphonic prog attempt at performing Albinoni's "Adagio Per Archi E Organo" (you'll recognize it when you hear it), is quite admirable though far from being an easy accomplishment to pull off. As "Auge" notes on the cover, "the thing we learned while trying to get it together was why orchestras have conductors." Still, it provides a necessary change of pace following the boisterous track that preceded it. The only original song on the album, Brian's "Just You Just Me," provides a glimpse of the direction his next project would take in that it truly incorporates the best qualities of jazz and contemporary rock into one tune. It has a hypnotic, "walking" feel that strides underneath from beginning to end with Boyle's intricate guitar and Auger's atmospheric organ solos creating a captivating mood. Nicely done.

This was to be the Trinity's last hurrah as this album failed to make a dent in the record charts and they disbanded in mid 1970. Auger went on to form his Oblivion Express in order to further the cause of the new jazz rock/fusion revolution (and achieved considerably more success with that endeavor) but a lot of the genre's foundation was laid by this band. "Befour" is a slightly flawed gem in my eyes that will forever hold a special place in my heart because I played this LP till the needle wore out. It may be a little "all over the place" for some but therein lies its unique charm. This is not a recording to be dissected necessarily, but simply enjoyed for what it is. 4 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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