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Jean-Luc Ponty - Cosmic Messenger CD (album) cover


Jean-Luc Ponty

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars There were four albums of Jean Luc Ponty that became my favorite and I regularly played at my tape deck from my cassette collection: "Cosmic Messenger", "Imaginary Voyage", "Mystical Adventure" and "Enigmatic Ocean". At that time it was kind of change to play these albums after heavily enjoyed other albums from Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Led Zeppelin because Ponty's music is a jazz-rock fusion kind of style.

The album kicks off with an ambient keyboard / violin augmented with guitar fills in "Cosmic Messenger" (4:38) which then followed by the entrance of drums and soaring organ sound that fit beautifully with rhythm section. The tempo is medium and the music creates a magic nuance which fits well if you play it very early in the morning with turning the volume at high level. Really good experience and great joy.

"The Art of Happiness" (4:33) has a more energetic beat compared to the opening track. I like the combined work of guitar rhythm section and drums at the beginning of the track, augmented with dynamic bass lines. The electric guitar work during interlude is really stunning even though it's mixed very thinly. I think this is done intentionally and it creates brilliant result because it makes the beat much more obvious as result of the rhythm section is displayed more than the guitar solo. For me personally, this is brilliant idea! Not even the guitar solo, the main composer's violin solo that comes after the guitar solo is also mixed thinly. I guess Mr. Ponty did control his ego really well. Salute!

"Don't Let the World Pass You By" (6:23) begins with wonderful guitar work and long sustain keyboard work with drums as beat keeper. This straightforward structure lasts for about two minutes at the beginning part until the bass guitar and drums take more roles to bring the music flows energetically. What follows is a wonderful solo improvisation between keyboard and violin with dynamic bass lines and drum beats. This part is probably the most exciting part of any Jean Luc Ponty's music that I also find with other album like "Enigmatic Ocean".

"I Only Feel Good With You" (3:05) is a beautiful mellow music exploring keyboard and violin. This is a very song-oriented composition with good melody. "Puppets' Dance" (3:40) brings the music back into an upbeat style with violin solo augmented with inventive bassline. The other three remaining tracks are also beautifully crafted.

In summary, this album is highly recommended, an excellent addition to any prog music collection. If you like bands like Passport, Deodato, Return To Forever, you may enjoy this album. The composition is not that complex as Return To Forever but all of them are wonderfully composed. Keep on proggin' .!

Report this review (#55772)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is a great album. Don't get me wrong. Many people say it is his best. I tend to disagree, however only so slightly. I don't beleive this is as good as his previous album, Enigmatic Ocean. But there are PLENTY of gems here.

The title track and opener is very good, but when I had first listened to it, It was so unlike previous Ponty that I had heard I rarely listened to it again. It's just not my style, at least in this musical genre of fusion.

The next song the Art of Happiness, is awesome, and hearkens back to Ponty's chorus solo chorus solo chorus that he set the tone for in his previous 4 albums with Atlantic, as well as before that. Great song, great playing by all.

The next two tracks bore me so I rarely listen to them. However, Puppet's Dance is wonderful, upbeat, and complex. I love the complex time signatures it employs. The track following that, Fake Paradise, I believe is the most underrated song in Ponty's entire career. It's BEAUTIFUL. The use of constant 7th chords, round out the entire song, the sequences, the modulations... it's amazing. It's ethereal jazz. Which brings up ethereal mood, another amazing track, and one of JLP's most popular. the electric piano's dark yet lifting opening riff sets the tone for the entire song. It's awesome. Then last but certainly not least, Egocentric Molecules is the pinnacle of JLP's music, and is one of the best he's ever done.

Barring the two songs I really don't like, this album is full of amazingness.

Report this review (#68809)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars By the late 70's, Ponty's « group » was not even close to its debut line-up, since outside Jean-Luc himself, no one else was still present. But this hardly means that the newer members are not as good (or better) than their predecessor, far from it. But one thing is sure: Ponty's formula is definitely going a little stale by now, with each and every album being systematically a little too close for comfort; Cosmic Messenger is almost incestuously close to Imaginary Voyage and Taste For Passion and you will not be able to tell for sure which album you're on. The problem lies at the very base of the music: this instrumental fusion was also by 78 relatively common, hardly groundbreaking and to be truthful a bit boring.

While the opening title track still sounds exciting, the rest of the first side is rather yawning, unexciting and heard-before while still remaining pleasant and technical. The second side is rather more interesting, but still not worth writing home (or even a dithyrambic review for that matter) about: both Fake Paradise (about angel dust, maybe?) and the excellent Egocentric Molecules are worth a note. While Ethereal Mood is a dreamy atmospheric tune, but failing to evolve much, arouse your interest and ultimately overstaying its welcome.

Yet another late 70's JR/F album. Not the most inspired nor is it the worst either. Just a bit pointless. Désolé Jean-Luc, quand tu en as un, tu les as tous!!!

Report this review (#84044)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another good album from JLP. I find this release more heavy sounding than say Civilized Evil released a year later but nevertheless it holds up very well in the Jazz/Rock/Fusion genre. The album maintains the basic theme throughout and at times the electric violin from JLP is simply awesome. The title track opener is a great song as is ' The Art Of Happiness', ' Fakes Paradise' and ' Egocentric Molecules' the closing track. The album is full of complex arrangements which makes for repeated listening to fully appreciate the wealth of sound it provides.
Report this review (#103076)
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Jean - Luc´s cosmic messenger got stuck in my head after a couple plays. i really dont know the song order from the LP release; but if its the same as the cd, then the first 4 songs from the a-side certainly delivers what the title wants to say, probably a point of vision from life, maybe. i think of (am being subjective now) a -side, as if Ponty creates, giving birth to a cosmic messenger bringing the art of happiness in a world that cant pass you by, and that love is THE essential law in the universe, as somebody wrote. and , yess, a lesser b-side wich characterise negligence of us humans, living together; making it easy: is like the difference between living ease in a small house on top of a mountain next to a calm river, and, living in a speed-up cosmo city tied to office works...anyway just trying to exemplify music in this album. happy listening, L
Report this review (#126878)
Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Owl
3 stars 1977's Enigmatic Ocean was indeed a tough act to follow, given the improvisational and sonic brilliance of one Allan Holdsworth on guitar. So, instead of trying to replicate that disc, Ponty wisely leaned more in a rockier/funky direction for Cosmic Messenger, knowing that NOBODY could match Holdsworth's unique contributions or even get close.

What results is a collection of songs that retain a lot of the characteristics of Ponty's earlier efforts but a bit leaner and meaner sounding. Of the 2 guitarists, Peter Maunu definitely comes up the most distinct sounding with his soaring melodic bluesy rock sound. What I really enjoyed though was the huge punchy sounding rhythm section of drummer Casey Scheurrel and bassist Ralphe Armstrong (I especially loved Ralphe's huge thick growling fretless tone here, deeeeeelicious!). Allan Zavod provides all the appropriately spacey textures with a bank of synths and tosses off some VERY expressive solos, especially on Fake Paradise. Have to admit though I would've loved to hear more acoustic instruments as well to balance it out, as it was a bit synth/electronics heavy.

As for the highlights, Ethereal Mood is beautifully hypnotic with acoustic violin, electronic piano, chiming acoustic guitars, fretless bass and tablas, very beautiful haunting melody. On the funkier/rocky side, Art of Happiness, Don't Let The World Pass You By and Fake Paradise come out swinging.

The one low point for me is the ending tune Egocentric Molecules (corny title BTW!), which sounds more like a mathematical exercise more than it does music. Not one of Ponty's better compositional moments in this Owl's opinion.

Overall, a solid and enjoyable album worth having, but not groundbreaking by any stretch. After this, JLP would seem to just keep making the same record over and over again.

Report this review (#163718)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very good fusion album. I bought this for the low price of a dollar and chose it because I recognized the name, I found it to be a very good listen with really tight and balanced ensemble playing. The bass is quite fast and yet doesn't overwork, the violin playing really shines of course and it is a good blend of cosmic tones and a steady fusion framework. I would recommend this to fans and newcomers, a very good album.
Report this review (#164658)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Will I be the FIRST to give this unbelievably GREAT record its FIRST FIVE STAR rating at ProgArchives?!

Sure, it's predecessor, Enigmatic Ocean, was a landmark recording if there ever was one in the jazz-fusion realm, but it seems that we allow ourselves to judge albums based on previous or future efforts instead of listening to a given record in isolation, without bias.

Cosmic Messenger was my introduction to JLP and only a year or two later did I listen to Enigmatic Ocean. I'm glad that was the progression I took because it's made me appreciate Cosmic Messenger all the more. Honestly, I can't find much difference between the two records, as far as complexity and musicianship are concerned. Other than the trickier solo trading between Holdsworth and Ponty on Ocean nothing stands out from Ocean enough to eclipse Cosmic Messenger.

One thing we can be sure of: Cosmic Messenger is THE LAST HEAVY JLP album. After this he started getting into synth sequencing and more softer, melodic and funkier stuff. Here we have much more distorted and effect driven violin solos than on any future JLP release. The guitars play heavier comping lines and the overall feel of the album is more prog-jazz-rock(think of UK) than the techno-jazz-fusion found in later releases. The guitar solos are more prominent and rock oriented than on most anything that we find later on.

Specially interesting to proggers should be the pieces Don't Let The World Pass You By and Egocentric Molecules. The former has JLP performing violin shredding gymnastics via effects and distortion that may have you wondering if it's a guitar, a keyboard or....or....who knows what! The latter is a flat-out prog masterpiece. Heavy, intense, melodic and frightening to hear such COSMIC musicianship!

FIVE STAR MASTERPIECE, without much thought and equal to Enigmatic Ocean in every respect.

Report this review (#251899)
Posted Friday, November 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I am fortunate to have seen J-LP a few times in concert in my lifetime--and this tour was the first of them. The concert's opening is forever etched in my mind as one of the most amazing concert memories of my life. Opening with the album's title song, Jean-Luc proceeds to strike such unearthly sounds--more like screams--from his electric violin that people on the floor were literally covering their ears, turning this way and that with panicked expressions on their faces, trying to figure out where this never-before-experienced sound was coming from. It was incredible. "Cosmic Messenger" (11/10) will always be my favorite Jean-Luc song because of this amazing concert reproduction. Other 5 star songs: "Don't Let the World Pass You By" (8/10), "I Only Feel Good With You" (9/10), "Ethereal Mood" (10/10), and "Egocentirc Molecules" (10/10)

P.S. Has anyone ever considered all of the guys Jean-Luc has stood toe-to-toe with? Stephane Grappelli, Frank Zappa, George Duke, John McLaughlin, Narada Michael Walden, Jan Hammer, Alan Holdsworth, Daryl Stuermer, Peter Maunu, Joaquin Lievano, Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke, Ralphe Armstrong, Randy Jackson, Rayford Griffin, Monty Alexander, Patrice Rushen and many more. He must be quite respected on his instrument in order to attract this kind of company.

Report this review (#459528)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars In my memory, the seventies were the peak of Jean-Luc Ponty's career. But these days, listening to his albums, I wonder if that is really so.

This album, like many of Ponty's from this time period, consists of a very talented band playing cool rhythms aound not terribly complex chord progressions, with Ponty providing some great violin solos and sometimes sharing the spotlight. There is little melody to speak of, and few breaks.

But the band is excellent. They take these riffs and soar. Ponty is as good as ever, and his sidemen, including guitarists Peter Maunu and Joaquin Lievano and keyboardinst Allan Zavod (who would later tour with Frank Zappa) also provide fine solos.

The highlight is Fake Paradise that trades a compoung 9/8 6/8 rhythm with a more traditional 4/4.

The album is good, but the live concerts were way better.

Report this review (#585356)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2011 | Review Permalink

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