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Jan Hammer - Jan Hammer Group: Oh,Yeah? CD (album) cover


Jan Hammer

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
5 stars Some background: 1. This has long been in my all time top ten selection of jazz rock albums. However, having only the vinyl version it hasn't had its fair share of play over the last 5 year, (cf. my favourite recordings on CD) - so now with the arrival of the CD I have been wondering if it still stands up as a personal timeless classic? 2. Soon after getting my first CD player, circa 1987 I drew up a list of 'must replace my now worn vinyl with CD'. This list totalled 107 LPs, many as obscure as you can get. Last year 106 was released and purchased i.e. 'Don Ellis Live At Fillmore', at which point I thought No. 107 - 'Oh Yeah!' - was doomed never to be issued. But earlier this year Jan Hammer received an award from Moog in NYC when he played music from 'Oh Yeah!' supported by the tribute band, Mahavishnu Project - at which point I grew more certain 'Oh Yeah!' was on its way.

'Oh Yeah!' is Jan Hammer's third solo album (the second for Nemperor) and probably the one with the strongest element of jazz rock running through all the tracks . The earlier Nemperor Records album 'The First Seven Days' had more emphasis on electronica, hinting to the future Miami Vice period. The first album had been recorded for the German label BASF: that straighter jazz. With the full catalogue of Hammer's solo and group albums now available on CD, a clear progression can be heard away from the jazz rock of Mahavishnu Orchestra, through funk and Latin towards straighter rock and then into electronica. With the third Nemperor release 'Melodies', Hammer & Co had moved more into funk (indeed lightweight soul) and more electronica.

With 'Oh yeah!' you will get the tight interplay between Steve Kindler's violin and Hammer's keys on some tracks, that had earlier characterised MO's music. But through their use of funky bass lines - from both electric bass and low register Mini-Moog - we are treated to more soulful, groove-based jazz rock than experienced from MO, e.g. check the title track. Some soulful vocals adding to this view. But what is perhaps unique iss the funk with violin - although both Michael White and Michel Urbaniak released funky violin albums subsequently. And then because of Hammer second musicial love, that of percusssion, funk gives way to Latin flavoured but still grooved-based jazz rock.

One track to pick out: Red & Orange. Jan Hammer plays quite a different, more jazz-based Hammond organ interpretation of this tune on John Abercrombie's 'Timeless ' (itself a great version). However, the 'Oh Yeah!' version has all the stops out and let the fireworks explode, reflecting the great energy and dynamics of the whole album.

Having not listened to this album properly for a couple of years, the CD has been set on continuous play over the last 3 days. I am reminded of a familar friend not seen for some times, but all the qualities came flooding back on reacquaintance. Indeed I was reminded why this is one of my top ten jazz rock album. Still a classic. (BTW the liner notes state Jan Hammer did the remastering).

After stating all that I cannot but give it the full 5 star rating!

Report this review (#97672)
Posted Wednesday, November 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars It's Hammer time ! Oh yeah it is (groan). Sorry about that I just couldn't resist. I have to agree with Dick and Slarts on their thoughts and rating for this one.This is the [&*!#] people. I must say I was very surprised with this one after spending considerable time wih his previous album "The First Seven Days".That was such a laid back and subtle album, very intricate and very far away from what Jan's previous band MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA was doing. Well "Oh, Yeah ?" is very MAHAVISHNU-like. Actually it's like a MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA / Herbie Hancock hybrid. This is energetic, dynamic and lights out good. We even get a composition from Rick Laird.The drumming from Tony Smith is unbeliveable, and Steven Kindler on violin simply shreds. We get a percussionist as well, and then there is Hammer with his variety of keyboards and synths. He has this Minimoog-Oberheim synth combination that sounds just like a guitar.

"Magical Dog" has this fantastic keyboard intro as the violin comes and goes. Nice prominant bass too. It's all so crisp and intricate. A calm with electric piano and violin follows. Nice. Percussion joins in then it kicks back in around 2 1/2 minutes.This is an amazing section. It sounds like guitar before 5 minutes.

"One To One" is a vocal track with a funky groove. What up ! "Evolve" is the Laird composition.The bass, percussion and electric piano sound amazing.Violin joins in then check out the drumming before 1 1/2 minutes.Violin then leads, then synths, then back to violin. Electric piano and percussion end it.

"Oh,Yeah ?" opens with drums as bass and electric piano join in. Synths too in this catchy song. Violin after 3 minutes. Drums and vocal expressions end it. Nice. "Bambu Forest" is probably my favourite. It's dark and powerful to start and very MAHAVISHNU-like. Love the drum work here. It sounds like guitar wailing away before 2 minutes as it continues for some time.Violin 3 1/2 minutes in.

"Twenty One" has some incredible violin and drumming in it early on.The violin is ripping it up.The synths and drums lead before 3 1/2 minutes. Man this song is a show-case for the drummer. Amazing ! "Let The Children Grow" opens with piano as the vocals join in. It's fuller before 1 1/2 minutes as the contrasts continue. A catchy tune.

"Red And Orange" opens with some killer drum and bass work. Electric piano joins in then violin and percussion. Powerful stuff. Some crazy synths 6 minutes in. A top three track for me.

A must for JRF types.

Report this review (#501851)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Jan Hammer unleashes a funky style of fusion on Oh Yeah? which sets it aside from his previous solo effort (The First Seven Days), which was a more laid back affair. Whereas on The First Seven Days Hammer seemed to be working through some ideas which wouldn't have fit in the Mahavishnu context, here Hammer produces his own vision of where the Mahavishnu Orchestra's style of vision might have developed. (Notably, there's actual guitar this time around courtesy of Steve Kindler, though Hammer does use his synths to create a faux-guitar effect once again here too.) Invigorating stuff which will appeal to Mahavishnu Orchestra fans, though as far as funk-fusion in general goes it has quite a bit of work before it hits the standard of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters work.
Report this review (#966473)
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Mahavishnu Orchestra's first (and arguably most prolific) incarnation came to a painful end in 1973, as a sudden rise in popularity and a series of calamitous recording failures suddenly turned the great Mahavishnu into less of what they originally were into more or less the John McLaughlin Group. The band's original lineup, however, was so bursting-at-the-seams with talent and skill that it's members couldn't help but go on to form formidable solo careers -- Billy Cobham would traverse the jazz fusion path himself with Spectrum in 1973, and Jan Hammer, after collaborating with fellow musician Jerry Goodman, debuted his own solo material with The First Seven Days in 1975.

The album was well-received, and showcased the excellent skill Hammer obviously had. He continued on with the jazz- fusion shtick until the 80's, where he found himself composing film and television scores for such programs as Miami Vice. For the time being however Hammer really got in the swing of things and, not but a year later, delivered the facetiously titled Oh, Yeah? in 1976.

It's common for musicians to take an album or two to really get going, and get going Hammer did. Oh, Yeah? is a romp through some of the most thought-provoking and challenging sides of the jazz rock genre, whether it be the thumping bass/timbale combination of 'Bambu Forest', the eclectic and insane callbacks to Mahavishnu on 'Twenty One', or the driving openers and closers, 'Magical Dog' and 'Red and Orange', respectively. Almost every single song has something different to say in their own right, such as the throwing in of drummer Tony Smith's soulful vocals on 'One To One'. Jan Hammer and his band utilize an almost proto-80s synth culture to design Oh, Yeah? to be a sort of generational bridge that sits on neither side of the waters. A culture clash it may be, but it's a good one. Jan Hammer himself is the main pioneer in this regard, and with his effective use of a gamut of different synthesizing and keyboard effects it's easy to see why his more progressive electronic leanings make a greater impact than the likes of new age artists like Jean Michel Jarre did.

Towering and powerful, Oh, Yeah? is a can't-miss album, not only of the jazz fusion genre but of 70's music in general. It is the definition of a passion-project and is justly the penultimate release of Hammer's career.

Report this review (#1703030)
Posted Saturday, March 18, 2017 | Review Permalink

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