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GEORGE DUKE

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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George Duke biography
January 12, 1946 (San Rafael, California, USA) - August 5, 2013

When he was just four years old, his mother took him to see Duke Ellington in concert. I don't remember it too well, says George, but my mother told me I went crazy. I ran around saying 'Get me a piano, get me a piano!' He began his piano studies at age seven, absorbing the roots of Black music in his local Baptist church. That's where I first began to play funky. I really learned a lot about music from the church. I saw how music could trigger emotions in a cause-and-effect relationship.

By the age of sixteen, George had played with a number of high school jazz groups. He was heavily influenced by Miles Davis and the soul-jazz sound of Les McCann and Cal Tjader. Attending the San Francisco Conservatory Of Music and majoring in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass, he received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1967.

George with Al Jarreau formed a group which became the house band at San Francisco's Half Note Club. George later received a Masters Degree in composition from San Francisco State University and briefly taught a course on Jazz And American Culture at Merritt Junior College in Oakland. It was about this time that George began to release a series of jazz albums on the MPS label.

One night, on a local jazz station, George heard a record by the violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. When he found out that Jean-Luc was coming to California to record, he sent a tape to Dick Bock at World-Pacific Records, along with a note saying There is no other pianist for this guy but me. From those sessions The George Duke Trio was born. They toured Europe and played at The Newport Jazz Festival.

The group's first gig in a rock-oriented venue came in early 1969. In attendance were Cannonball Adderly, Quincy Jones, Frank Zappa, and the unexpected presence of an electric, rather than acoustic, piano on-stage. The Ponty -Duke performance wowed the crowd, and ushered in the West Coast counterpart of the Eastern fusion revolution sparked by Miles Davis, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. Before '69 was out, George joined Frank Zappa (as he put together a new Mothers Of Invention line up) and toured for an entire year. He appeared on a number of Zappa's albums in the early and mid-1970s, including Chunga's Revenge, 200 Motels, Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo, Apostrop...
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George Duke: Greatest HitsGeorge Duke: Greatest Hits
Legacy 2008
$3.79
$7.07 (used)
D'j... VuD'j... Vu
Heads Up 2010
$7.99
$7.98 (used)
FeelFeel
Remastered
Verve 2008
$10.93
$11.65 (used)
SnapshotSnapshot
Warner Jazz 2012
$12.86
$1.69 (used)
Muir Woods SuiteMuir Woods Suite
Warner 2014
$11.88
$8.29 (used)
Follow the RainbowFollow the Rainbow
Soulmusic Records 2011
$8.82
$13.62 (used)
After HoursAfter Hours
Warner Jazz 2011
$8.98
$3.20 (used)

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GEORGE DUKE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

GEORGE DUKE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
The George Duke Quartet: Presented By The Jazz Workshop 1966 Of San Francisco
1966
2.02 | 6 ratings
Save The Country
1970
3.00 | 4 ratings
The Inner Source (Aka: Solus)
1973
4.04 | 11 ratings
Faces In Reflection
1974
4.15 | 13 ratings
Feel
1974
3.99 | 11 ratings
I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry
1975
2.97 | 13 ratings
The Aura Will Prevail
1975
3.07 | 7 ratings
Liberated Fantasies
1976
3.60 | 5 ratings
From Me To You
1977
2.96 | 8 ratings
Reach For It
1977
3.67 | 6 ratings
Don't Let Go
1978
3.85 | 4 ratings
The Dream [Aka: The 1976 Solo Keyboard Album]
1978
3.16 | 6 ratings
A Brazilian Love Affair
1979
3.00 | 6 ratings
Follow The Rainbow
1979
3.44 | 9 ratings
Master Of The Game
1979
3.17 | 6 ratings
Dream On
1982
3.25 | 4 ratings
Guardian Of The Light
1983
4.00 | 1 ratings
Rendezvouz
1984
3.00 | 2 ratings
Thief In The Night
1985
3.00 | 1 ratings
George Duke
1986
3.00 | 2 ratings
Night After Night
1989
1.05 | 2 ratings
Snapshot
1992
2.33 | 3 ratings
Illusions
1995
3.25 | 4 ratings
After Hours
1998
2.09 | 4 ratings
Cool
2000
3.50 | 2 ratings
Face The Music
2003
2.50 | 2 ratings
Duke
2005
5.00 | 1 ratings
In A Mellow Tone
2006
2.05 | 2 ratings
Dukey Treats
2008
3.02 | 4 ratings
Déjà Vu
2010
3.00 | 1 ratings
Dreamweaver
2013

GEORGE DUKE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Muir Woods Suite
1996
2.00 | 3 ratings
Muir Woods Suite
1996

GEORGE DUKE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

GEORGE DUKE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Collection
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Greatest Hits
1996
4.00 | 1 ratings
Is Love Enough?
1997
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Essential George Duke
2004
4.00 | 1 ratings
Jazz Moods: 'Round Midnight
2004
4.50 | 2 ratings
My Soul: The Complete MPS Fusion Recordings
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Original Album Classics
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Brazilian Fusion
2013

GEORGE DUKE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Brazilian Love Affair / Heaven Sent You (split with Stanley Clarke)
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Life And Times
1995

GEORGE DUKE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The George Duke Quartet: Presented By The Jazz Workshop 1966 Of San Francisco by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1966
3.00 | 2 ratings

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The George Duke Quartet: Presented By The Jazz Workshop 1966 Of San Francisco
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Better known for his days in the early 70s as the keyboardist with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on the albums "The Grand Wazoo," "Over-Nite Sensation" and "One Size Fits All" as well as his 1969 collaboration with Jean-Luc Ponty, the California born GEORGE DUKE while never gaining the popularity of artists like Herbie Hancock was one of the premiere jazz-fusionists of the 1970s. While primary associated with the piano and synthesizer, DUKE also mastered the saxophone, flute, bass guitar and trombone but is probably most associated with his keytar synthesizer during his disco and jazz pop years that came later in his career.

DUKE was also quite prolific as a solo artist and released a total of 35 albums before his untimely death at the age of 67 in 2013. While his fusion days would begin with his second album "The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio" which was released in 1969, his cumbersomely titled debut album THE GEORGE DUKE QUARTET PRESENTED BY THE JAZZ WORKSHOP 1966 OF SAN FRANCISCO was really his only straight forward jazz release which found DUKE still in hero worship mode before finding his own voice in the changing tides of the jazz world in the late 60s.

THE GEORGE DUKE QUARTET PRESENTED BY THE JAZZ WORKSHOP 1966 OF SAN FRANCISCO emerged from DUKE's collaborations with THE JAZZ WORKSHOP which was a famous jazz club in 1960s San Francisco. The whole project happened somewhat spontaneously while DUKE was studying at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music and while playing at the club one fateful evening was approached by SABA Records owner Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer who wanted him to record an album. After the shock wore off DUKE signed a deal to release one album and this album was a result. The quartet consisted of DUKE solely on piano, David Simmons on trumpet, John Heard on double bass and George Walker on drums.

The album was recorded quickly and pretty much emulates the great John Coltrane during his post-bop years of the early 60s. Despite this late year in 60s jazz, this album sounds more like what was commonplace in the late 50s / early 60s but in all fairness, the whole thing was thrown at DUKE fairly quickly and with no experience or material prepared, the album comes off as a tight- woven yet standard sounding jazz album of the era. The whole album only took six hours to record so in effect this is most likely a live in the studio sort of album where the chips fell where they did. GEORGE DUKE has always stated that this is his weakest album however this is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagine however originally creative it is not either.

Despite the less than earth-shattering performances on this debut, GEORGE DUKE succeeded in attracting the attention he needed to further his career fairly quickly after this album appeared in the jazz circuits. It would take another three years for the Luc-Ponty collaboration to appear but after that a prolific stream of solo albums and Zappa collaborations would keep DUKE busy for the rest of his days on the planet. THE GEORGE DUKE QUARTET PRESENTED BY THE JAZZ WORKSHOP 1966 OF SAN FRANCISCO is hardly the sort of album that historians will salivate over but it does deliver the proper emerging artist perspectives much like Hancock's "Takin' Off." An excellently performed set of six mostly high velocity tracks but unfortunately lacking in any kind of memorable artistic stamp.

 Dreamweaver by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Dreamweaver
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars One thing progheads tend to remember American keyboardist George Duke from, is his participation in Frank Zappa's band. After that he made a successful career blending rock, jazz and r&b, recording well over 30 studio albums. DreamWeaver is the very last one, released just a month before he passed away at the age of 67. Her wife Corine had died of leukemia in 2012. Three years since his latest album, as Duke was recovering from his grief, he confronted difficulties in making new music. Finally the inspiration came when he was on a cruise watching the sun rise. According to him, DreamWeaver was his most sincere album for a long time.

Stylistic diversity is common on Duke's albums, but this one is a very many-sided set of music, covering lively jazz/fusion, funk, soul-influenced pop, r&b ballads -- and synth music. Like the two little 'Transition' vignettes, the short title track in the beginning is a mysterious-sounding synth piece, followed seamlessly by 'Stones of Orion', an excellent, piano-led jazz/fusion track full of happy groove. Kamasi Washington is on tenor sax, Daniel Higgins on flute, and Stanley Clarke's upright bass sounds great. 'Trippin'' is a cool r&b-ish song sung by Duke. I don't like r&b in general, and the drum programming in this otherwise OK song represents the genre's bad sides. 'Ashtray' is pure funk, very catchy at that.

'Missing You' starts with Duke's spoken, piano-backed intro. The main vocalist is Rachelle Ferrell on this light-hearted song that makes me think of a cocktail bar on a cruise. R&b / gospel syrup 'Change the World' features several guest vocalists. 'Jazzmatazz' is a fast-tempo song with r&b and rap elements. The rest of the album operates more pleasantly between fresh-sounding instrumental fusion ('Brown Sneakers' has marvelous synth and electric guitar soli!) and pretty good vocal numbers that fortunately aren't soaked in that r&b attitude. Teena Marie sings 'Ball & Chain' jazz ballad with sensual passion. 15½-minute 'Burnt Sausage Jam' is a wonderful fusion piece; one can hear the joy of playing from the stellar cast. 'Happy Trails' is a nice, lightly r&b flavoured version of a song that Dale Evans wrote in the early fifties.

Surprisingly happy, sweet and life-celebrating DreamWeaver incorporates musical genres (r&b, funk, gospel) that may not hit the target among the fusion listeners, but being 74 minutes long it sure has several highlights too. When it's good, it's very good.

 The Aura Will Prevail by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.97 | 13 ratings

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The Aura Will Prevail
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by SonomaComa1999

2 stars REVIEW #2 - "The Aura Will Prevail" by George Duke (1975). 5/6/2018

Coming off my first review of Zappa's 1974 "Apostrophe" album, I was particularly struck by the song "Uncle Remus" from that album. The song was written by both Zappa and pianist George Duke, who was born just thirty miles south of where I live in San Rafael, California. Given how Eurocentric the progressive rock genre is as a whole, I found it exciting to be able to review a local artist. Duke's solo work lives entirely in the realm of jazz fusion, in the vein of Jean-Luc Ponty or Weather Report. My first exposure to fusion was when I began collecting LPs in the winter of 2014. I used to comb all of the local thrift shops in my hometown of Petaluma, searching for listenable records to test out on my cheap $60 console turntable that I bought at Target. One store in particular in the heart of the city was partly run by a man who sold his own records and would give me weekly recommendations as to what I should listen to.

It was thanks to this man that I was introduced to King Crimson as a 15-year old kid, as well as other pioneering prog rock bands such as Yes, Genesis, and even Van der Graaf Generation. Better yet, he recommended a lot of jazz fusion albums to me which I promptly put into my collection, even though they never got as much airtime as "Close to the Edge" or "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway". I was introduced to Ponty, Weather Report, Return to Forever and many more - so jazz fusion does hold a place in my heart. George Duke was a prolific songwriter, releasing numerous albums over his musical career in addition to working with guys like Zappa. I chose his 1975 album "The Aura Will Prevail" since it contains his own cover of the aforementioned Zappa work "Uncle Remus."

The album opens up with the instrumental fusion staple "Dawn". Apart from being a mellow and open tune, it is a rather generic example of what fusion brings to the table. It has a solid main theme, and makes use of the synthesizer quite heavily - something which is gonna be a recurrent theme on this album. We move away from the traditional realm of fusion and into the more commercially friendly and lyrical "For Love (I Come Your Friend)" which is just too sugary for my tastes, although I do admit I woke up this morning with the chorus in my head, so I suppose the song does a great job in that regard. It is a fast-paced poppy love tune featuring Duke on lead vocals - it is by no means progressive in any way. Another reviewer on this site noted how the music on this album is bordering on "easy-listening" status, which I wholeheartedly come to agree with as we inch closer and closer to the end of mainstream prog. Here in Sonoma, we would hear this type of music on the soft jazz 93.7FM rather than the classic rock/occasional prog 97.7FM which I indulge in.

"Foosh" doesn't do any better to break the monotony with its mellow and somewhat mischievous tempo. Following "For Love" dead in the middle of the first side, it seems like it was intended to serve as a prelude to the longer and more prominent "Floop De Loop" which is by far the most musically challenging piece of the album. Coming in at 6:43, Duke and his band make better use of their musical talents to appease the more radical prog listener. However, the entire piece just does not resonate with me, meaning it is all too forgettable for my tastes, despite it being what I would consider a decent instrumental showcase. I tried to recall the musical motifs after listening to the entire album numerous times, but I could not come away with anything more than the group playing a long instrumental that was a bit more complex than the rest of the album. At this point, it seems like this album would only be fit for a completionist, but fortunately we still have not come across the "Uncle Remus" cover which I thought might be able to salvage the album.

Opening up the second side of "The Aura Will Prevail" is "Malibu", which features a bit more of a Latin influence, with some exotic percussion and wordless vocals supported by a rather nice-sounding bassline. For some reason this style reminded me a little bit of one of the songs that came off of Camel's debut album, even though I attributed that connection to being a total fluke. As for the song in its entirety, it is another pretty generic fusion staple similar to the album's opener, and while it is not bad per se, it is altogether forgettable just like the rest of the album. "Fools" is another poppy vocal piece which turned me away right after I got into the groove of the album's Latin fusion style. Another reviewer proclaimed that this song was better off found on a Barry White album, which gave me a good laugh - however, I kind of agree with him, as this song veers off the track of prog with "For Love". I'm not saying that his song is awful - both the pop offerings are catchy in their own right, but given I am looking for musically challenging material on a fusion album, I feel almost cheated as Duke moves off into the mainstream midway through the decade. I could see my grandfather, who is a devout listener of R&B and soul having grown up in San Francisco and Oakland in the 1950s through 1970s, listening to this music more than I, and he absolutely detests rock and roll.

The next two songs on the album are pretty intriguing; they are both covers of Frank Zappa songs. Of course, "Uncle Remus" is the latter, but Duke puts the instrumental "Echidna's Arf" on this album, which was a bit surprising. I was actually rather excited to see what Duke would do on this piece given it is a rather fast-paced composition that Zappa played with the Mothers of Invention. On this album, it starts off at a breakneck pace but to my horror, it devolves into a space-rock tier synthesizer showcase which hardly continues on the themes of the piece when played in Zappa's band. In fact, it actually disappointed me that Duke took this route with the song, given that there was an opportunity to go in many positive directions with the piece. Fortunately "Echidna's Arf" isn't a long song being only 3:35, and it feels like Duke is trying to make this one another prelude into "Uncle Remus", which totally feels wrong. First of all, Duke's rendition of "Remus" is much softer and balladic than Zappa's 1974 version, and the spacey introduction does not segue well into it at all. That being said, the cover which I had so long awaited turns out to be the distinct highlight of the album, with Duke not going overboard on the pitch of his vocals; keeping it brisk and cool, which works much better. I feel that if the entire album followed this theme, it would have warranted a better reception. However, I still prefer the original's fast pace, backing vocals, and brutal guitar solo coda. This version is better listened to in a melancholy atmosphere, while you can rock out to Zappa's version.

There is a small closing piece titled "The Aura" but it is moreover a continuation of the fusion themes seen on "Dawn" and "Malibu". Otherwise, that is really it from this album, which I can sum up as mediocre. The only real saving grace for this album from being a one-star is the "Remus" cover which is memorable and listenable. George Duke was a very talented pianist and had a great role in Zappa's band, as well as a prolific solo career, but his 1975 offering just comes off as a generic and forgettable fusion record. I could justify devout fans of the fusion genre being somewhat interested in the rest of the contents on this LP, but overall I think that we all come to this record to listen to Duke's rendition of two Zappa works - it gets a 2-star (63% D-) from me, one song away from being a wash. Only listen for "Uncle Remus", and that's if you're a fan of more mellow music.

 I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.99 | 11 ratings

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I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With George Duke's unfortunate passing just a few days ago, now feels like as good a time as any to revisit one of the man's finest albums, 1975's I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry. This record was released towards the end of Duke's time spent playing with Frank Zappa's band, and it's apparent that some elements of Zappa's quirky and complex fusion music had rubbed off on him by this point - although not entirely a jazz fusion observation, I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry contains some tracks like "That's What She Said" and "Giant Child Within Us - Ego" that sound straight out of the Zappa playbook. Not too surprising when one considers that fellow Zappa alumni Ruth Underwood, Bruce Fowler, and Tom Fowler also participated on this album!

I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry also explores funk and soul-inspired music without ever coming across as bland (even the ballad "Someday" is fantastic!), as well as humorous hard rock on "Rokkinrowl, I Don't Know" and pure traditional blues in the title track. The title track is the only song that I could really do without; I feel that it is a rather weak way to end such a fantastic record, but blues fans may be more into the song than I am. Even taking the out-of-place title track into consideration, I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry is one of the best jazz fusion albums of the classic era, and an essential pickup for all fusion enthusiasts. Rest easy, Duke!

 The Dream [Aka: The 1976 Solo Keyboard Album] by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.85 | 4 ratings

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The Dream [Aka: The 1976 Solo Keyboard Album]
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by besotoxico

4 stars The copy of this album I have is a little different than what is listed at top. Most of the track times are different on mine and some of the names are different. Tzina is listed as Excerpts from Opera Tzina and clocks 6:11. Spock Does The Bump At The Space Disco is listed as Spock Gets Funky and clocks 3:03. Pathways clocks 6:37. The Dream That Ended is listed as The Dream Has Ended. I will review this album based on my copy.

I had already listened to some of Chick Corea's Piano Improvisations. I somewhat expected it to be of that caliber. Whoa was it so much more for me! I couldn't believe it. I already understood how great this man was/is but this album is definitely something special. Although not commercial I believe this music to be completely accessible.

Mr. McFreeze is hot as hell. The title of this track is misleading. One gets sent on a musical roller coaster at the speed of light. He plays at the speed of a metal guitarist but with tastier licks. At about the middle he does cool it down and bring the funk. I take it back this song is as cool as ice. The drumming isn't crazy but it's solid gold and GEORGE IS PLAYING THEM TOO! This song is the precursor for 80's Japanese Jazz Fusion not to mention many Sega Genesis games of the 90s.

Love Reborn is special. It is delicate, decadent, sensual, and tasty like dark chocolate truffles. A solo piano piece. The playing is top shelf.

Synth city on the next track Excerpts from the Opera Tzina. Theme of Opera Tzina came out on the album Feel (One of my favorite fusion albums of all time.) This could have been used in a Final Fantasy cutscene on SNES. Some ET sounds creeping around 2:30. Sometimes sounds dissonant but transitions to full consonance around 3:30. The closing from 3:45 on is inspiring. It sounds like what many Post-Rock groups would emulate 20 years later despite having no guitars (or any other musicians for that matter).

Spock Gets Funky is just that. Funky. You can tell the slap bass is synth but it's still funky as hell.

Pathways starts with some sexy piano. Synth accompanies around 30 or 40 sec mark. Song really builds up and sounds happy and inspiring. Very merry major key.

Vulcan Mind Probe must be a tribute to Stanley Clarke. Very Extraterrestrial. Sounds like he's playing in 13/8. Despite the complexity of such a time signature he plays flawlessly. Very psychedelic soloing. Around 2:35 it sails away into triplet feel. 1 and uh 2 and uh 3 and uh 4 and uh. The synth bass and solo are sick. Although the drums could be more impressive they are solid for a non-drummer. This part of the track is ultra fusion.

The Dream Has Ended is elegant piano piece. Very beautiful chordal structure. Great control of volume and speed. It almost feels like you're reminiscing on the journey just traveled. Some parts floating while some parts intense while some parts yearn for more. Truly a dream as most dreams end without complete resolve.

This album is truly a masterpiece in the Fusion category. It is a shame that it is overlooked by most jazz and prog aficionados alike. Maybe it's because the drumming and bass aren't on par with real drummers and real bass players. Coming from the point of view that he is playing every instrument I find it brilliant but ultimately this is the albums only shortfall. Seeing as Duke would later dominate the world with his funk and disco glory makes this album even more of a gem. A solid 4 stars.

 Liberated Fantasies by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.07 | 7 ratings

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Liberated Fantasies
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars By 76, George Duke had pretty well turned his back on JR/F and was churning some increasingly sickening love ditties aimed at radio airplay, and this album bears well its name, but not the positive way that you'd expect from an artiste his calibre. This album changes again the formula, this time inviting everyone around the studios at the time (the usual suspects if you wish), but much less successfully so than that "Blues" album released the previous year.

Indeed opening on two insipid and syrupy love ballads, George has the guts to bring us Back To Where We Never Left funky-fusion piece, which is indeed quite dishonest, since the man has been trailing along every possible aisle of the pop-gunk industrial waste dumps. After an interesting but way too short What The, the album plunges into the unfathomable depths of MOR/AOR gunk with the Tryin' track and later on the over-sweetish After The Love (wouldn't you have guessed it with such a title). There are still some good JR/F tracks like Can Hear That (with those jungle wails), the syrupy but thankfully-short synth-string-filled instrumental Tzina and finally the entertaining, lengthy but filled with Wishbone-meets-Magma kitsch vocals title track with Embamba's bass solo and a slight twist of Santana; all of these should or will please most progheads.

Not as bad as it might seem from my review so far, Liberated Fantasies still have some cool fusion moments, even if they now sound a little worn-thin, but it's got some real stinkers on it that ruin the album's continuity and again one can only question Duke's production choices. Approach with care and caution, but if you don't mind half-good albums with tons of gunky AOR crap, this can still be up your alley, but it's nothing essential for sure.

 The Aura Will Prevail by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.97 | 13 ratings

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The Aura Will Prevail
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars By the middle of the decade, George Duke was churning out albums at a frenetic pace, this one recorded in early 75 and released a few months after the preceding I Love the Blues album. The least we can say is that this album's artwork and title inspire more confidence in the musical content inside, even if the album is not intrinsically superior in quality than its predecessor. From that Remaining Aura, Duke chose to retain much less personnel for this album's sessions, relying on the now-faithful Chancler, the returning Moreira (two tracks) and having Alphonso Johnson (ex-Weather report) on bass.

After a "normal" jr/f opening Dawn track, follows an atrociously-sung and strange For Love track, not totally devoid of interest, but the slow-fusion Foosh lacks fire and if Floop De Loop (George, who was your dealer at the time??) returns to the Beck/Hammer-sounding (but guitar-less) realm, this is starting to sound like just another Duke fusion album, with its already heard composition a flogged-to-death formula, but it ends up being one of my faves of the present album.

On the flipside, Malibu is not exactly successful Latino-fusion track with its cheesy vocals and no-less kitschy synth sounds (by this time, Duke had bought a Moog, but was obviously still a rookie with it), and Fools is an atrocious love ballad that could've fit on a Barry White album. The short spacey Echidna's Arf makes a calm intro to the sickeningly over-sweetish cover of Zappa's Uncle Remus, which again breaks the album's continuity. The closing outro of The Aura again returns to the usual funky fusion of his.

Aura is to be approached with caution, because there are a few objectionable tunes that breaks the album's overall fusion cohesiveness, but then again these tracks are numerous enough to start questioning if this album "fusion" label is the correct one. I wonder if George would gathered the JR/F tracks on one side and glued the other weirdies together on the flipside might not have been wiser choice, than this strange mix and un-match mess.

 I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.99 | 11 ratings

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I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars A slightly disappointing album that sees Duke heading in a funky directions, where vocals take on a more important role, but it's not yet at the detriment of the music. Recorded in late 74 and released the following year under a puzzling old cotton-field blues-type of cliché photo (is that an oxymoron or what?) and title, which for the longest of time fooled me into avoiding it. Getting lots of studio help from whoever was around from the Zappa entourage and the Santana crowd and others hanging around, this is still a fairly interesting album at times

If Chariot and Her Eyes are good funky-leaning tracks, I must say that the vocals turn me off a bit. Some tracks are still instrumental like the quiet Beck/Hammer-sounding Serene Sister, That's What She Said or the funky-spacey-jungle Mashavu, but the majority has vocals, including the rocking-Hendrix-ey (that means very guitar-ey) and spoof-ey Rokkinrowl track; fun stuff. I wouldn't want to overstress the vocals, as they are not too intrusive except on the totally out-of-character bluesy title track closing the album and the awful Someday just preceding it.

The flipside is certainly more prone to singing, including the ultra-funky-jazzy Prepare Yourself, but it has a fine middle section where the Miller/Johnson duo shines on bass and guitar respectively. Giant Child starts on a slightly dissonant intro, which bears little resemblance to what's been just heard, being more standard jazz, but soon jumps into the fusion fire with a horn section and strings. Don't be fooled like I was for almost two decades by the misleading artwork and title, this is still a good fusion album, which is rather pleasant until it reaches the final two tracks to become a bit of "n'importe-quoi", ruining the album's cohesiveness. Make sure you investigate previous duke albums, but this one is still likely to please progheads.

 Faces In Reflection by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.04 | 11 ratings

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Faces In Reflection
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars One of the last full JR/F albums in Duke's lengthy discography, Faces In Reflection was originally intended to be called Faces, but George had to change it in the last minute, because there was a very recent release that bore that precise title. Recorded in the scorching heat of LA and released in early 74, the album bears a superb double African mask artwork and hints at an ethnic spiritual direction, which is not really overpowering to say the least.

The album was recorded as a trio, and outside Duke on keyboards, Leon Chancler (of Santana fame amongst others) on drums and John Heard on bass, and is very reminiscent of the highly-regarded Wired-era Jeff Beck albums, despite the total absence of guitars. Duke had just bought a ARP Odyssey synth to diversify his keyboard palette, and in doing so he thought that he'd sound different than Jan Hammer's Mini Moog synth, but alas much of the album is reminiscent of the Beck-Hammer collabs. Indeed right from the opening The Opening track, one is drawn to stuff like Freeway Jam in mind, and if Capricorn offers some scatting vocals from George, we remain in the same galaxy inspiration-wise. The double Piano Solos are more classically oriented, but bear an Alice Coltrane paw as well. With Psychomatic Dung (my fave in this album), we return to Beck- Hammer territory, but bear in mind that those albums were still a few years away, so Duke inspired the duo, rather the other way. The title track is divided in two parts, each ending its own side of the vinyl, an instrumental on the A-side and a sung-version (nothing cringey) on the flipside, both in 9/8.

Heard's bass is rather funky, while Chancler drums up a storm whenever needed, but knows when to slow down to be at the service of the music. Change of tone a bit on the flipside, as the opening bossa track of Maria Tres Filhos (a cover of Nascimento's famous track) is quite Latino-sounding, but it's a bit repetitive and overstays its welcome by a full two minutes. A fully-echoplexed keyboard opens North Beach and tears up a storm almost solo in a John Martyn fashion, and while it might sound a bit dated to jaded keyboardist wizards, it's still quite adventurous, especially for the times. Da Somba returns to Hammer- Beck land but in up-tempoed samba way (hence the title) including a bass solo and a drum solo. The remaster of this album was done in Berlin in the MPS (most promising sound) technique, and the album re-issued in a mini-Lp gatefold format with a black CD disc and it's quite a nice artefact of one of the best George Duke album, the start of a long collab between him and Leon Chancler.

 Déjà Vu by DUKE,GEORGE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.02 | 4 ratings

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Déjà Vu
George Duke Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Sometimes I really wonder why I still bother with new George Duke releases. Even after being disappointed time and time again by his recent albums, I still bought Déjà Vu right after its release date. With a hazy memory of the disastrous Dukey Treats in my mind, I was hoping that many of the issues there could be solved with Déjà Vu. Although Déjà Vu is a slight improvement over its predecessor, it's still a mediocre album at best. If you are looking for smooth adult contemporary jazz, you'll find a lot of that. If you're looking to hear George Duke's mastery as a jazz fusion keyboard maestro, you'll be sorely disappointed. With the sole exception of a few tracks, this is an hour of boring soul-funk that will make you wonder just where Dukey went wrong. Strangely enough, the good songs on this album (which are very few) are what make this album so disappointing. George Duke has proven that he still knows how to play solid jazz rock - it's more an issue of him choosing to play radio-friendly smooth jazz. There's no doubt that there's an audience for Déjà Vu, but I must say that I'm not part of it.

As previously mentioned the music here is adult contemporary jazz with very few jazz rock tendencies. Compositionally, the songs aren't that enjoyable either, regardless of my own genre preferences. Songs like "Bring Me Joy" and "Come to Me Now" are extremely cringe-worthy, whether it be from the clichéd lyrics, boring instrumentation, or awful radio-friendly vibe. The only songs that are slightly above average are the two closers, "Stupid Is As Stupid Does" and the title track. Unfortunately, waiting 40 minutes to get to those songs is pretty worthless. Despite my lack of affection towards this album, that isn't to say that there's nothing good about it. The musicianship and production are both excellent and professional, but that isn't nessacerily a huge surprise when you consider the product that we're dealing with here. The production is expected to be pretty good on a professional album like this, as is the musicianship from this cast of musicians. The biggest problem here is just that this is over-polished contemporary jazz that is often uninspired and boring. A good production and delivery can't quite change that.

Déjà Vu is yet another disappointing album from George Duke. I keep hoping he'll go back to making great jazz rock, but I guess it's just not meant to be. There's hintings of greatness here, but they are much too few and far between to spend your money on. The only people I would recommend this album to are fans of smooth jazz and George Duke completists. Because the production and musicianship are good, I'll go with a very small 2 stars. If you've been disappointed with other recent George Duke albums, odds are that Déjà Vu won't change your mind.

Thanks to snobb for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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