Groon: Refusal to Comply (CD, 70:58); Progressive International PRO 050, 1994 E-mail: email@example.com Cyberhome: http://www.visionlogic.demon.co.uk Tim Crowther is a well-kept secret when it comes to fiery fusion guitar work. His playing here on Refusal to Comply is the epitome of high-energy. Riffs are explosive, driving, full of sustain and overdriven in raw power with phrasings to delight the hearts of any die-hard, fusion head. This power trio of Crowther on guitar/guitar synth, Algy Ward on bass and Steve Clarke on drums calls back the huge sound accomplished by King Crimson on Red. Yet this isn't progressive rock as much as it is volcanic jazz rock. Crowther wails on wah-wah, ostinato bursts of unparalleled speed and legato leaps of John McLaughlin wildness, all with Bill Connors-flavored overdrive. Song compositions are widely varied and pull the listener into rapt attention for fusion fusillades funneling forth and wispy vapor trails of quieter moments of anticipation. Each member writes tracks as well as they create in combination. The spirit of adventure runs rampant here with Clarke exploding on drums in a very Billy Cobham style. Crowther interprets sonic moods perfectly. To truly exhibit this trio's finesse they even cover The Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" from Birds of Fire! Wow, Crowther and gang tear it up, the only thing missing was Hammerian Moog fills. This Crowther is flat-out awesome. The remaining seven tracks are filled with wonderful power chords, open chords, killer lead breaks, and effects. This is a jazz rock fusion gem mine here. Catch a drum solo, get funked up, rocked out in distortion/wah-wah/angst riffage and masive attack and drones. All the good stuff of hard fusion just comes natural to these guys. Make sure you seek this rare release out if you like your fusion with some "bite". Highly recommended. ~ John W. Patterson
Tony Marsh/Steve Franklin/Tim Crowther - Shell of Certainty A British trio of drums, keyboards, and guitar/guitar synth respectively, Marsh, Franklin, and Crowther have extensive resumes of jazz and improvised rock work. Shell of Certainty is their first CD together, and all tracks were improvised and recorded live with no overdubs. These improvisations are sonically and thematically chaotic and scattered, loosely in the vein of King Crimson's live improvs in 73-74. Melodic fragments are jumbled; chordal features are short and clipped. The jazz influence is most prominent sonically, but not compositionally, as the structures are more random. Marsh's drumming has a light jazz flavor with subtle cymbal work. Franklin uses crunchy analog synth sounds and clean piano, among other textures, to good effect. Crowther's guitar sounds also range widely, including a smooth fusion sound like a cross between Allan Holdsworth and Scott Henderson. The musicians interact quite well, developing improvised themes and directions that remain engaging as they build. Improvised rock is difficult to listen to, absorb, and most of all, judge, especially in a short time frame, instead requiring repeated listening and reflection. The highest compliment should be that a listener is intrigued enough to want to listen more, to invest time and work in listening and comprehending. Marsh, Franklin, and Crowther's music definitely holds this appeal, and fans of sonic experimentation in rock improvisation should definitely check out Shell of Certainty. Reviewed by Scott Andrews
More information at: www.visionlogic.demon.co.uk
Conglomerate - Precisely the Opposite Of What We Know To Be True (Progressive International, 1994) Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberhome: Tim Crowther's Visionlogic - new electric music http://www.visionlogic.demon.co.uk/ This arrived at the same time as Network's Corroded Path, on the same label, and sharing three band members with the lineup on that album. "All tracks improvised by Conglomerate," the liner notes inform me, so it seems like we're looking at a project formed to scratch Network's itch for improvisational jazz workouts. And what an itch they must've had, 'cause here we are presented with seventy-five minutes of obviously improvised and often blisteringly intense fusion jams. Parent band Network is a composed and highly intense fusion outfit, often reminiscent of Holdsworth or the Dregs, led by the prodigous talents of guitarist Tim Crowther. Conglomerate, on the other hand, lies squarely in the realm of Miles Davis' mid-70s free-fusion freakouts like Dark Magus and Live Evil, but is perhaps a bit more spritely and less menacing. Improvised projects can so often fall into complete disarray (especially for this listener), so it's heartening to note that each of these ten tracks bears a different stylistic stamp and no one tune outstays its welcome (well, except for the drum solo, but I suppose that's a matter of taste). Unlike Network, where the horns are generally relegated to the back of the mix in favor of Crowther's guitar, Conglomerate gives trumpet player Ted Emmett free rein. Ted runs with it, sharing (or often stealing) the spotlight from Crowther. "Candles," the epic opening track, gives him center stage more often than not, and his soloing is always unique and tasteful. Each other member is more than formidable. Crowther, often subtle on this disc, falls into some sort of wonderful trance about halfway through track seven, "Position B," and channels John McLaughlin while the rest of the band struggle to keep up. Keyboards are used mainly as a backdrop, which is unfortunate, as the soloing and synth tone on "Candles" is simply fantastic. I do wish keyboardist Steve Franklin had taken more leads on this disc. It makes me wonder how much of the diversity on this album is the result of always-fresh improvisational ideas and how much results from the too-many-cooks syndrome. The rhythm section certainly deserves a mention, as drummer Steve Clarke rarely stops riffing, and bassist Hugh Hopper is a veteran of stalwart Canterbury prog-jazzers Soft Machine. Despite his pedigree, Hopper is, honestly, the least standout member of the ensemble. It's perhaps understandable considering that at least three-fifths of the band have worked together in Network and, if Conglomerate is any indication, have developed a musical telepathy of sorts. Still, Hopper provides a more than adequate basis for these fierce soloists and enough tonal color to keep the bottom end interesting. If you're at all enamored of Miles' more experimental side, I recommend hunting down this release. In fact, those who enjoyed the Bruford/Levin Upper Extremities disc (as well as David Torn's Cloud About Mercury) might find plenty to appreciate here, even though the general tone is a bit more intense. Network and fusion fans will need to gauge their level of tolerance for free improvisation before seeking this out, but if they're willing to embrace flights of fancy by these five talented musicians (including one bonafide legend), then by all means move this one to the top of your list. ~ Mike Thaxton Tracks: 1. Candles 14:07 2. Vespers 6:06 3. Arthur's Paranoid Half Hour 10:53 4. Fridge of Flies 8:08 5. All Nice and Clean 5:18 6. Patterns 5:34 7. Position B 5:56 8. More Wine, Darling 7:02 9. Bertie Simply Refused to Grow 3:32 10. Perverted Foods 8:12 Lineup: Tim Crowther - Guitar/Guitar Synth Ted Emmett - Trumpet Steve Franklin - Keyboards Hugh Hopper - Bass Steve Clarke - Drums
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