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Cozy Powell - Over the Top CD (album) cover


Cozy Powell


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.54 | 32 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Cozy Powell appears courtesy of Swindon Town Football Club (sleeve note)

In any list of top rock drummers, the name of the late Cozy Powell is guaranteed to appear. He may not have been the most subtle or the most technically gifted, but he could provide a powerhouse to drive even the most demanding of bands. Such was the journeyman nature of the way Powell preferred to operate that he made many friends along the way. For his first solo album, released in 1979, he called upon a select few of these to make up a band for the purposes of recording. With names such as guitarist Gary Moore, the legendary Jack Bruce on bass, and Don Airey on keyboards, it quickly becomes clear that this is not to simply be a self indulgent drumfest. Not only does Powell exploit the musicianship of these greats, he also persuades them to donate their songwriting skills too.

"Over the top" is undoubtedly the most progressive of Powell's solo releases, recorded when his career with Rainbow was all but at an end (he left them in 1980 bringing him to the attention of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of ELP who later enticed him to join them in Emerson Lake and Powell).

Inevitably we kick off with some thumping drums introducing George Martin's "Theme one", an instrumental covered rather successfully by Van Der Graaf Generator. This version of the irresistibly catchy melody is entirely faithful while emphasising the strong rhythm of the piece. The track sets the tone for the album, which is one of power and melody, devoid of subtlety. "Killer", written by Don Airey and Gary Moore, is the first time we get to understand Powell's true vision for the album, the 7 minute piece being a jazz rock number with the accent still very much on the rock. The track was recorded live in the studio, the feel being one of controlled improvisation featuring the lead guitar of Gary Moore.

The brief "Heidi goes to town" features the synth of Don Airey in a light repetitive theme not unlike "Theme one". Side one of the album closes with "El cid", a hard rocking piece which contains the screaming guitars of Bernie Marsden, who is credited with writing the song.

The second side of the album has just three tracks, two of which run to over 8 minutes. "Sweet poison" is primarily a vehicle for guitarist Dave (Clem) Clempson to display his skills alongside those of Max Middleton on Fender Rhodes and piano. "The loner" will be recognisable to anyone who is familiar with the work of Gary Moore, as he has made this Max Middleton compostion his own as a solo artist. Here, it is Clemson who plays lead guitar, the 5 minute piece being dedicated to Jeff Beck.

The album closes with a piece of pure inspiration. Powell adapts the latter part of Tchaikovsky's "1812 overture" in a magnificent orgy of "Over the top" rock indulgence. The original overture is one of the most famous pieces of classic music, but here Powell and his posse transform it into a stunning rock suite. The first part of the track gives little indication what to expect although there is a greater tightness to the bombastic melody. Only as Powell takes control do the familiar tones of the 1812, complete with canon fire, take over. The piece is ideal for Powell, allowing him to hit everything in site as we reach the triumphal conclusion.

While the album is credited to Cozy Powell, this is very much a band album. Powell resists any temptation to make the drums the focus of the set, preferring to use his skills to drive along the rhythm behind the musicians. It is to his great credit that we are not subjected to endless percussion solos, but instead are treated to the combined talents of an enviable collection of great players. While probably rightly classified overall as a jazz rock album, it is the rock aspect which is by far the more dominant here.

The word subtlety should not be used anywhere in connection with this album. This is Powell at his "Over the top" best. Turn everything up to 11, and simply enjoy it.

Incidentally, another the sleeve note says "Lyrics enclosed"; but don't go looking for them, nobody sings!!

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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