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Vital Information - Ray Of Hope CD (album) cover


Vital Information


Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.32 | 6 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars Vital Information is an 80's group with its roots in the 70's, with Journey's Steve Smith and Santana's Tom Coster, it also features guitarist Frank Gambale, but by the time of the release of Ray Of Hope (in 96), Baron Brown had been replaced with Jeff Andrews. So this relatively stable unit produced a line of fusion albums, in the typical over-polished 80's mode, one that induces sleep, as opposite to the previous decade's fire-setting jazz-rock. Obviously their instrumental fusion had a slice LA sound ala Steely Dan, combining some funk influence (mainly Andrews' bass), jazzy guitars from Gambale, but it also features the typically stinky 80's studio technology traits and technologies, down to an irritating drum sound.

As usual with VI, a good deal of the compositions is collegial, but there are also a bunch of solo compositions, mainly in the second half of the album, but also Narada Walden participating to Sacred Treasure. Despite the four member's proficiency and virtuosity at their respective instruments, they go at great lengths not to appear "showing off" or strutting it hard (outside Smith's tribute to Max Roach), but the tame (and even lame) soundscapes appear quite calculated, which does no favour to RoF. It's been ages since I heard early VI albums, but I think I prefer the "freshness" (everything being relative) and excitement (again relative) to the conventional fuzak of the present album. Actually an album's title has rarely be been more ill-fitting than here. Don't get me wrong, I'd still prefer to listen to Clouds or Maxed Out than to any of the crap on the commercial radios?. But to suffer an hour-long of fuzak is beyond me. Even the Horace Silver cover of Peace can not bring me out of my torpor.

Sometimes one has to wonder just why such albums were still made by the mid-90's, outside financial considerations (and even then, who actually bought such heard- elsewhere albums) and studio-time pre-occupations, because this the type of easy- listening fusion that brings absolutely nothing new to the genre, and it's quite difficult to sit through such a long series of flawlessly played but unexciting succession of tracks. Your call, but it can't be worse than a Yellowjackets album, but should you want to investigate VI, go for for a Live album, where you'll be more susceptible of staying awake, because of the "live" power and energy.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |


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