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Ronald Shannon Jackson - Decode Yourself (with The Decoding Society) CD (album) cover


Ronald Shannon Jackson


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.00 | 1 ratings

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Easy Money
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars When this album came out in the mid 80s Ronald Shannon Jackson was making a timely but not quite successful attempt to tie together many disparate musical trends of that time period; including a return to free jazz, early hip-hop drum machine patterns, post-punk thrash guitar jams and an eclectic approach to fusion that defied the bland uniform 'fuzak' of the early 80s. Unfortunately the 80s (there's a song on here called Software Shuffle) was all about electronic drums, and this album has that Simmons sound in abundance. In fact the crash bang of the garbage can lids on every downbeat on Thieves Market is enough to drive anyway crazy, or crazy enough to get up and move to the next song.

The influence of Ornette Coleman's 'free-funk' Prime Time ensemble (Jackson was a founding member) is large. The exotic languid melodies, uniquely scored for sax, trombone and violin, all sound like they could have been penned by Ornette himself. Likewise the guitar work of then rising star and ex-Ornette sideman Vernon Reid is also a strong presence. Reid's ability to mix modern jazz with the latest developments in metal and hardcore punk are used to good effect as he leads the band into really rockin heavy fusion the likes of which hadn't been heard since the glory days of McLaughlin's duels with Billy Cobham in Mahavishnu.

This album was a real trendy groundbreaker when it came out. but I don't know how well it translates today. On side two, Undressing features a pounding Simmons beat with Prince styled synth stabs while the horn/string section plays a mournful Ornette styled lengthy minor key melody. It doesn't sound as much innovative anymore as just weird. For fans of Jackson's thrash/jazz drumming, he does turn off the machines occasionally and tears it up with Reid and the others on some crazy free jazz as well as some hardcore influenced jazz-rock. Overall this is an uneven album, but one that has some good cuts and moments scattered throughout.

Easy Money | 3/5 |


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