Friday, February 24, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Spectrum, by Billy Cobham

In 1973 jazz drummer Billy Cobham, who is most famous for his collaborative work with jazz legend Miles Davis set out on a grand musical adventure by recording, producing, and putting out his debut solo album Spectrum. To do this Cobham assembled an all star group of musicians in New York to act as his band including: Jan Hammer on keyboards, Tommy Bolin on guitar, Lee Sklar on bass, and several others on other instruments for various tracks. In only two days they had the album completely done.

Spectrum has to be one of my favorite jazz fusion albums to ever exist. The way these musicians just jam and play off one another is fantastic. It's entirely instrumental, but you can tell that everyone in that studio had something to say. In a way, it's like all those songs are like a conversation where the band is talking among itself. Cobham definitely picked the right musicians for this venture. It's raw, but precise. Free formed, but tight. Everyone latched onto the groove quickly. The result is something that speaks for itself.

Stratus in my opinion is where Hammer and Bolin definitely take the limelight. There is an absolutely wicked steady groove being kept going by Cobham and Sklar, and Hammer and Bolin use it to do some of their best solos of all time while also knowing when to lay back and be there more for layers and atmosphere. It definitely seems like a night time kind of tune that you would put on while you're driving down the highway and it's getting pretty late. Good mood music, to say the least.

Snoopy's Search - Red Baron is probably my favorite track on the entire Spectrum album. It starts off with a rather odd synth intro, but when the actual song kicks in with the full band it's got a really nice, easy groove to go on. Lots of nice blues licks from Bolin with some tasteful accents and solos on keys here and there. You can hear the older jazz influence in this tune for sure, but it is still pretty forward thinking and modern for the time.

Spectrum is definitely not an album that would be everybody's cup of tea, especially if they are primarily into tunes that are under 3-4 minutes and have vocals. However, if you are interested at all in music that pushes beyond the boundaries of normal pop structure and style then this might be up your alley after all. It is great for either active or just casual listening. I used to listen to it all the way through when writing papers in college and it definitely helped keep my mind sharp, active, and focused. Might be worth a listen for you too for another reason.

Spectrum, by Billy Cobham receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Quadrant 4
2. Searching for the Right Door/Spectrum
3. Anxiety/Taurian Matador
4. Stratus
5. To the Women in My Life/Le Lis
6. Snoopy's Search - Red Baron

Buy the album on Amazon:

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