Larry Coryell – Coryell
1969 Vanguard Apostolic VSD 6547 | Vinyl rip in 24 bit 196 khz | Art at 600 and 300 dpi
Jazz-Rock / Jazz-Funk / Soul / Fusion / Psychedelic
I’ve been holding back on posting about this album until I could commemorate the 10th ANNIVERSARY of this blog. It’s a very special record to me from the great guitarist Larry Coryell, who passed away in 2017. It’s unique in that it captures him in a kind of transition between his time playing in the psychedelic rock group The Free Spirits and his future as an icon of jazz fusion, in the pre-Bitches Brew era when that genre was still fresh and nascent. And it’s soul-shaking, mind-melting grooviness from start to finish. I like to imagine that Hendrix heard this album and decided to shelve the Experience on the spot and start up his Band of Gypsies. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on the drums and Chuck Rainey on bass are holding down a solid soul groove here, which just elevates the vibe to transcendent levels.
A1 Sex 3:51
A2 Beautiful Woman 4:32
A3 The Jam With Albert 9:20
B1 Elementary Guitar Solo #5 6:49
B2 No One Really Knows 5:07
B3 Morning Sickness 5:20
B4 Ah Wuv Ooh 4:22
Recorded At – Apostolic Studios
Mixed At – Vanguard Studios
Published By – Ryerson Music
Published By – Coryell Publishing Co.
Bass – Chuck Rainey, Albert Stimson (on A3 and B2)
Drums – Bernard Purdie
Flute – Jim Pepper
Guitar, Vocals – Larry Coryell
Organ – Mike Mandel
Music By – Julie Coryell (tracks: B2, B4), Larry Coryell (tracks: A1 to B1, B3)
Words By – Larry Coryell
Cover design – Jules E. Halfant
Cover photo by happy Diederich
Back cover photography and design – Mike Sullivan
Mixing engineer – Ed Friedner
Recording engineer – David Baker, Paul Berkowitz, Randy Rand
Liner Notes – Julie Coryell
Producer – Daniel Weiss
Recorded at Apostolic Studios, NYC, 1969
Mixed at Vanguard Recording Studios, NYC
(continued from above..) Of course anyone with ears can hear the massive debt that Coryell has to Jimi Hendrix in his playing on this record. The sounds contained herein simply wouldn’t have been possible just a few years earlier if it weren’t for that pioneer. But I don’t consider it sacrilege to say that Coryell was technically a better player than Jimi, because I don’t place “technique” at the top of some hierarchy of musical values: I don’t listen to music just for technique, and that’s never been the main reason I adore the music of Hendrix (words like ‘vision’ and ‘originality’ come to my lips first, and his beautiful songwriting). The songs with vocals (the album is half instrumental) are tuneful enough, but there are no melodies as sing-along catchy as “The Wind Cried Mary” or “Axis: Bold as Love.” You might find yourself trying to sing “Gold and rose, the color of the dream I had…” to the latter, though. The instrumental “Jam With Albert”, named after bassist Albert Stimson who only appears on two tracks here (he died from an overdose the same year), is a blistering behemoth of consciousness expanding jazz-rock. The track would later be reworked in a live setting with Rainey on bass, and issued on 1972’s “Fairyland” album with the title “Further Explorations With Albert.” This 1968 version is better, in my opinion.
Larry’s playing took a quantum leap at some point in the late 60s and this record may be the best snapshot of that transformation. He was no slouch in vibraphonist Gary Burton’s band from the mid-60s, where his playing was redolent of a more nimble Gábor Szábo, to whom he literally owes a debt, as he stepped into his shoes in Chico Hamilton’s group when Szábo left. 1968 saw him releasing his first record as a group leader, named “Lady Coryell” with a portrait of his wife Julie in a locket on the front cover – she wrote the liner notes and several lyrics for the album in this post, by the way. “Lady Coryell” finds him hooking up the fuzz pedals and wah-wahs that would become part of his sound for quite a while on some of the tracks, but there is also a lot of straight-up jazz where he plays with a clean, round tone. Stylistically, “Lady Coryell” is all over the place – straight jazz, electric jazz, psychedelic pop-rock with backward guitar tracks, there’s even some country-rock on it. It’s almost as if he wants to impress us with the versatility of his sonic palette. And while it is impressive, it doesn’t make as distinct and singular a statement as “Coryell” from 1969. Wherein he opts to go far and deep in a way that earns this record a kind of “Underground Legendary Status” in my book, a statement of the wide-open potential a perennial musical counterculture that has little use for the restraints of genre or categories of marketing. So, Coryell obviously wasn’t the only person taking a page from Hendrix’s book in 69. But unlike John McLaughlin (with whom Coryell would soon collaborate) who took some ingredients of his sound, among other influences, and pushed it into jazz and proto-metal shredding with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Coryell retained the blues and soul music roots of the great Master (at least on this album). He had a brilliant sense of texture in his tone, and would sometimes just play rhythm and make it seem deceptively simple, which made him a good foil for McLaughlin’s Apollonian extroversion on records like 1970’s “Spaces.” Larry Coryell’s overall vision is original and powerful on this album, and it would have been something to see this lineup live. This album was recorded immaculately, and with a minimum of over-dubbing, so it has a very live and spontaneous feel to it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
As stated on the “About” page of this blog, I never expected it to endure as long as it has. My thanks go out to everyone who has kept visiting and leaving the occasional comment throughout the years, through various ups and downs. I had hoped to plan something extravagant for July, like trying to make a post every day for a month. But that’s just not feasible. Incidentally, don’t try to find the earliest posts here – I’ve hidden them, as they are kind of cringe-worthy and embarrassing, or else just bereft of substance (literally some where of the “I like this record, check it out” variety and that was all). The official 10th Birthday of the black was around July 7 or 8, as far as I know. But I’m accepting chocolate cake and gifts all summer long.
Vanguard’s “Apostolic” imprint was pretty rad. Just check out their inner sleevepass: