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CD Review: Original Album Series – Al Jarreau

Original Album Series – Al Jarreau
(Rhino/ Warner Classics and Jazz 8122-79769-7. 5CDs. CD review by Jeanie Barton)

This is an enjoyable, neatly re-mastered five album CD box set. It contains card sleeve replicas of the original artwork, re-released by Warner Music Group.

The albums are: We Got By (1975) and All Fly Home (1978) produced by Al Schmitt, Glow (1976) produced by Al Schmitt and Tommy LiPuma, This Time (1980) and Breakin’ Away (1981) produced by Jay Graydon.

Although Al Jarreau had been recording since 1965 enjoying long time collaborations with Bill Withers and Al Green, it wasn’t until 1975 that his big break came commercially when he was signed by Warner Bros and made the first of these albums. He went on to record the phenomenally successful live album Look to the Rainbow in 1977; which reprised numbers from We Got By and Glow as well as showcasing other numbers old and new, upon which he spread his improvisational wings, employed his unique signature style and secured his status as a vocal jazz legend.

There does seem to be a subtle departure from jazz when Al Schmitt makes way for Jay Graydon in the producer’s chair – Al’s Grammy award wins emphasise this also – 1978, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Look To The Rainbow – 1979, Best Jazz Vocal Performance, All Fly Home – 1982, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Breakin’ Away. Al manages to cling onto his jazz roots during their first record, This Time, with track 6 (his beautifully crafted vocalese on Chick Corea’s Spain) however to me the track stands apart from smooth disco-edged funk feel on most of the album.

Fewer musical risks appear to be taken from here on in, but this perhaps only echoes music fashion as a whole in the 80s when synthesised machines began to eclipse instrumentalists.

After all the hits and sync deals (We’re in this Love Together as the theme of Moonlighting theme secured Breakin’ Away’s commercial success) it was great to see Al Jarreau live this summer on his greatest hits tour – in front of an audience he shows, for all the fame and money, he would never be persuaded to fully depart from his beloved jazz.

ooooooooooooooooo

The other sets in the current batch of re-releases in the Warner Classics and Jazz/ Rhino Original Album series are:

Antonio Carlos Jobim: The Wonderful World of Antonio Carlos Jobim; Love, Strings and Jobim; A Certain Mr. Jobim; Urubu; Terra Brasilis

John Coltrane: Giant Steps; Coltrane Jazz; My Favorite Things; Coltrane Plays the Blues; Coltrane’s Sound

Ornette Coleman: The Shape of Jazz To Come; Change of the Century; This is Our Music; Free Jazz; Ornette!

Herbie Mann: At the Village Gate; Do the Bossa Nova With Herbie Mann; Nirvana; Muscle Shoals; Nitty Gritty; Hold On, I’m Coming

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3 replies »

  1. I'm not sure this reviewer really understands Al Jarreau's music or the key individuals who have played with him for years. Al was a unique artist whether doing standard jazz numbers or reaching out to a wider audience with a more accessible sound. There are notable tracks within the whole set, for instance Roof Garden is a masterful piece of music with Al's vocals, George Duke's rhodes and Steve Gadd and others. Jay Graydon's guitar work on Breakin Away is some of his finest, and remember he nailed the guitar solo on Steely Dan's Peg when numerous A-list session player's efforts had been rejected. Tom Canning's work on We Got By is wonderful and I believe he was one of the people who discovered Al before he came to the attention of a record company. Forget all of the negative critic stuff from people who don't really know this music, listen to the words of Michael Frank's The Critics Are Never Kind on his Rendezvous in Rio, he sums it up perfectly. These are great albums, unless you don't like this style of music go and get it, it's a bargain.

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