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Tony Williams Lifetime - Believe It CD (album) cover


Tony Williams Lifetime


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.18 | 84 ratings

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4 stars An album that is as notable for luring guitar phenom Allan Holdsworth away from a pretty good gig with The Soft Machine as it is for being one of the legendary drummer's finest. Allan considered this the most pivotal collaboration of his career.

1. "Snake Oil" (6:30) opening with a truly funked up bass, the surprisingly-raunchy guitar from Allan Holdsworth enters with Tony's surprisingly straightforward drumming to establish a foundational framework within which the band members work in their little nuances of extras until 1:40 when Allan begins a guitar solo of subtly varied guitar chords based on the foundational flow. The band is very tight but, again, surprisingly stiff and unadventurous--until Alan Pasqua starts a clavinet solo around the three-minute mark. Thereafter one can hear Tony start to loosen up and fly around his drum kit beneath the rigid form of his bandmates. In the sixth minute, Allan launches on a surprisingly controlled and "slow" solo for about a minute, and then the song just slow fades! Wow! Kind of weird--and definitely unexpected! (8.75/10)

2. "Fred" (6:48) one of Allan's compositions, it is surprisingly melodic and smooth--especially Allan Pasqua's keyboard parts (which Allan matches with his soft guitar chords for the first two minutes. Tony's play is nice. Electric piano gets the first solo--a surprisingly extended two minute jaunt during which Tony's drum play just gets more and more dynamic. Allan finally enters as the soloist at 3:45--but it's Tony again who garners all my attention--even after 4:25 when Allan finally starts to cook, it's Tony that I am enjoying the most. How can a drummer be this "melodic"? Nice guitar solo finally ends about 5:37 whereupon we reenter the lush keyboard-and-guitar chord sequence of the opening. Nice tune. Great drum display! My favorite. (13.75/15)

3. "Proto-Cosmos" (4:02) a nice driving jazz-rock tune on which Tony once again shines despite more-than-adequate performances from his band mates--just nothing as extraordinary or dynamic as Tony's play. (8.875/10)

4. "Red Alert" (4:39) opening with a rock sound that sounds like the sound palette of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein." At the end of the first minute bass player Tony Newton is the only one left carrying the song forward as everybody else clears out for a stupendous Allan Holdsworth solo. This is the first time on the album that Allan has displayed any of the fireworks that we heard on his last album prior to this one, The Soft Machine's Bundles. Alan Pasqua gets the next solo on his electric piano in the second half of the third minute. I love how both Holdsworth and Newton (as well as Williams) embellish their own "support" play beneath Pasqua--this is the first time the three have done this to this degree. (8.875/10)

5. "Wildlife" (5:22) a slow, melodic arrangement with upper register electric piano and electric guitar presenting and carrying the BOB JAMES-like melody forward from the start. Holdsworth takes his time taking the first solo slot--and never hits third gear, just maintains and supports the basic melody, pretty much. Pasqua's clavinet is a nice second keyboard and Newton's bass play is the most loose and satisfying that we've heard beneath Pasqua's cool electric piano solo in the fourth minute. I LOVE how the bass and drum play--both fairly straightforaward and sedate--give the feeling of pushing: giving more power and even trying to push the pace up a notch. Really cool feeling! Otherwise, just a nice song. My second favorite song. (9/10)

6. "Mr. Spock" (6:15) another song that seems to have more of a rock and pop orientation--at least until the speed is finally established at the one-minute mark. In the second minute, Alan Pasqua takes the first solo with silence from Mr. Holdsworth beneath--which makes Tony's play even more noticeable. Nice bass play from Mr. Newton. Even Tony's straightforward play is filled with such nuance and subtlety! Holdsworth puts in a decent solo in the fourth minute with Pasqua now completely dropping out. Cool idea! Tony's solo play in the second half of the fifth minute (beneath Holdsworth somewhat annoying distorted three-chord guitar play) feels a little bit "amateurish" for its showy-ness. (8.87510)

Total time 33:36

Overall this is a nice album of almost proto-Smooth Jazz on which Tony Williams shows us some of the amazing power he controls in his most basic drum play. The rest of the quartet are adequate in their play but rarely jaw-dropping. The songs are a little too formulaic with the way in which they are set up to harbor a succession of individual solos (except for "Fred").

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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