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Weather Report - Black Market CD (album) cover

BLACK MARKET

Weather Report

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 252 ratings

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Mr. Gone
4 stars This may be overall my favorite WR album. That doesn't mean I believe it's truly a classic like their debut, but it's fun, enjoyable, sophisticated and accessible all at once. Top-notch writing and great performances, with Joe Zawinul adding in more - but not excessive - synthesizers (I'm looking at you, Domino Theory). Not a ton of soloing, but enough to make things interesting.

The title track starts off as a fun trot courtesy of Chester Thompson's laid-back drumming (despite the credits on the remaster, he plays the beginning portion of this song; Narada Michael Walden takes over in the frenetic ending after a hard cymbal edit); Zawinal plays a synth set up in reverse just for the challenge of it and you'd never know the difference. The song starts to wind up before breaking into a full gallop with an almost symphonic synth/sax line before winding down with a Wayne Shorter soprano solo. Just a great song that I never tire of hearing.

Zawinal's tribute to his former bandleader, Julian "Cannonball" Adderly, is a fantastic tune. Gentle synths and warbling bass courtesy of the newly minted Jaco Pastorious occupy much of the song before an almost elegiastic tenor sax solo from Shorter brings the song to an amazing crescendo. The synth/bass theme returns in a coda with more emphasis (likely with help from Shorter) before melting into an ambient section. All highly enjoyable and meaningful.

"Gibraltar" bubbles with energy. Great playing all around (Alex Acuņa's percussion here, as it is on the entire album, is excellent), and some great synth and sax interplay. A terrific first side by any standard.

Side two begins with "Elegant People". Wayne Shorter has always been sort of my "George Harrison" when it comes to WR - not as prolific as "Lennon/McCartney" (Zawinul), but I probably favor his songs the most (or at least a higher percentage of them). This is one of my faves by this group and by Shorter himself - probably one of my top three WR tracks ever. I particularly love the piano near the beginning before the main theme of the song breaks in. Terrific drums and percussion (again), and Alphonso Johnson's bass playing is melodic and energetic. Shorter's terrific solo in the middle is the icing on a very delicious cake. (Can you tell I love this song?)

After such a great song (great four songs, really), "Three Clowns" is a bit of a letdown. It's definitely an attempt at being truly experimental on the strange-sounding lyricon, but having it as a central instrument with very sparse surroundings makes it just not work very well. It doesn't even work as a tone poem like "The Elders" or "Badia". Given that jazz is about pushing boundaries, though, I can forgive this as a failed attempt to do something original and appreciate the spirit in which it is offered.

"Barbary Coast" is a bouncy, poppish electric piano/bass/sax tune that doesn't have a ton of variety but is highly enjoyable nonetheless. Pastorious made a nice start in the group here as a composer (his debut album is terrific as well) and his playing and writing would become essential to the WR sound for the next several albums.

The album finishes with Johnson's "Herandnu", which starts with Shorter blowing over an odd synth/bass time signature before breaking out into a more traditional rhythm with lots of nice interplay. A bit overlong, perhaps, but still enjoyable, and a nice valedictory for Johnson in the band.

Is it perfect? No. There are a few not-so-classic moments in the album's latter half. But the first four songs alone are all five-star efforts, and the more experimental or poppish material later is still better than many groups could ever hope to achieve on their best day. The playing is awesome, and the composing is at worst good and at best outstanding. I break this out often after many listens, and will continue to do so. Four enthusiastic stars.

Mr. Gone | 4/5 |

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