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Niacin - Time Crunch CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.66 | 48 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars It's funny how a band of this caliber can sometimes be found hiding right under your nose. Niacin has always been a familiar name in Western New York, thanks to local bass guitar legend and City of Buffalo hometown hero Billy Sheehan. But it took a decade and more for this ex-Californian émigré to actively seek out any of their CDs, and now I have a lot of catching up to do, kicking myself along the way for waiting so long.

The line-up matches Sheehan with organist John Novello and drummer Dennis Chambers, forming an instrumental trio of certified virtuosos able to generate more kilowatt energy than the New York Power Authority at Niagara Falls. Sheehan attacks his bass with all the fluency and ferocity of a lead guitarist; Novello shuns the latest digital keyboard technology in favor of that old-fashioned analog Hammond B-3 grunge (with occasional digressions on piano and clavinet); and Chambers is never less than rock-solid behind his drum kit.

I'm guessing this 2001 studio album is more or less typical of the band's funky, muscular rock-jazz template, for the sake of easy comparison sounding not unlike THE DREGS, minus the guitars and fiddles of course, and with a distinctive Rust-Belt bar vibe replacing the Southern-fried barnyard boogie of Steve Morse's outfit. The playing is dynamic from start to finish, but in the end there isn't much overall variation to the material, which might explain why the standout tracks are the two covers, both of them links in a musical chain of influence stretching all the back to Rock's mid-'70s Golden Age.

The first is a thrilling re-make of the 1974 KING CRIMSON classic "Red", in which the monster guitar of Robert Fripp is (believe it or not) hardly missed, replaced here by the equally heavy riffing of Novello's Hammond. Closing the album is a likewise energetic update of the old JAN HAMMER/JEFF BECK chestnut "Blue Wind" (from Beck's popular 1976 album "Wired"), with Sheehan's bass guitar approximating the patented pitch- bending whine of Hammer's moog synthesizer.

If the remaining nine original numbers aren't quite as memorable it might just be a question of exposure: when opening up new musical territory we're always going to respond quicker to more familiar touchstones. But the tightness of the playing and the pyrotechnics of the soloing is something to hear, and the album certainly turned my head toward a deeper exploration of this formidable Prog-Fusion trio.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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