Brian Auger's Oblivion Express — Happiness Heartaches
(Wounded Bird WOU 2981, 1977/2003, CD)
by Jeff Melton, Published 2003-12-01
The latter incarnation of Oblivion Express (led by Hammond B3 player extraordinaire Brian Auger) was characterized by soulful blues-rock, percussion, and danceable grooves. Ex-Return to Forever drummer Lenny White (just a few months after the band’s peak on Romantic Warrior) sets up an excellent back beat for bassist Clive Chaman (ex-Jeff Beck group) to pound steady pulses as on the funky opener “Back Street Bible Class.” Guitarist Jack Mills co-writes three pieces on the album and gives his best lead guitar solo on the title song. Lennox Langton was also an essential member of the six-piece group adding smooth conga playing on the LP’s longest track, “Spice Island.” Chaman’s funky submission, “Never Gonna Come Down,” is propelled by a Moog synthesizer lead, wah-wah guitar, and more feel-good bump and grind. Vocalist Alex Ligertwood’s lead vocal was an essential part of this line-up as well before his later stint with Santana. In this working environment, he is at home belting out up-tempo numbers such as “Gimme a Funky Beat” (that also features Auger’s best organ solo here). “Paging Mr. McCoy” is the album’s closer and the only instrumental piece from the keyboardist’s pen. It’s also the highpoint of the disc with its emphasis on synthesizers atop piano rhythms and a blistering attack from the rhythm section. Overall it’s another consistent performance from an underrated fusion outfit with a long catalog of noteworthy releases.
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more