David Sancious and Tone – Transformation (The Speed of Love) (1976 Epic)

David Sancious and Tone – Transformation (The Speed Of Love)
1976 Epic Records PE 33939| Genre:  Fusion, Jazz-rock, Progressive rock

If, like me, you thought that Incident on 57th Street and New York City Serenade were the high points of Bruce Springsteen’s early career, then you should probably give your attention to musical polymath and chameleon David Sancious.  Sancious was keyboardist for the E. Street Band on their first two albums, and contributed to the title track of Born To Run.  I think it would be a safe claim to say that his sensibility probably helped sculpt the “epic” sound they were crafting, particularly on the longer songs, but if you have The Boss too firmly in mind when putting on this record, you might be jarred by just how dissimilar it seems.  I’ve always been a champion of things eclectic, but Sanscious might be too eclectic for his own good at times.  With his virtuosity on multiple instruments taking front and center stage, it is hard not to marvel at least a little at the breadth of vision, but sometimes they straddle the grey area between stylistic transcendence and plain confusion.  His debut record for Epic (Forest of Feelings, 1975) was produced by none other than legendary jazz-fusion drummer Billy Cobham, and at times the music comes close to holding its own with Return To Forever or Weather Report or Mahavishnu Orchestra, and at other times sounding a bit like a slightly funky Rush without the benefit of no horrible lyrics (everything here is instrumental).

A1  Piktor’s Metamorphosis  6:33
A2  Sky Church Hymn #9  8:49
A3  The Play And Display Of The Heart  6:27
B  Transformation (The Speed Of Love)  18:07

Artwork – Anthony Tillman
Engineer – Allan Burnham, Tom Likes
Producer – Bruce Botnick, David Sancious
Written-By – D. Sancious

Recorded and mixed at Caribou ranch, Colorado, by Bruce Botnick 1975-10-24 – 1975-11-10 assisted by Jeff Guercio, Mark Guercio and Randall W. Blunt.

LINEAGE: Epic PE 33939 vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; Audioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

For me the main thing that prevents Sancious & Tone from reaching the heights of the aforementioned fusion legends is Sancious’ insistent playing with himself… by which I mean his reliance on overdubs, obviously.  While improvisation can often take a back seat with jet-fueled fusion in general, veering into a kind of steroidal anti-jazz, the space left open for improv is even more restricted when your group depends so much on one guy playing a crap-ton of instruments like David Sanscious.  It is too bad they never made a live record and I am unaware of any circulating bootlegs (although to be perfectly honest, I haven’t really looked).  Besides one more official album with Tone (and one which fell into the cracks of contractual disputes and wasn’t released until about a decade ago), David Sancious remained a very in-demand session player in jazz, rock, and pop music, playing with Jon Anderson, Peter Gabrield, Sting, Hall & Oates, Stanley Clarke (where he was part of a lineup that featured Billy Cobham), and he also had a working relationship with Narada Michael Walden during the 1980s.




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  1. Thanks for the discovery!

  2. Thank you! I didn’t know about this individual. Exceptional instrumentalist, but he’s all over the place and I see what you mean about “confusion.” The confusion might be related to the fact it was recorded at the legendary Caribou Ranch in Colorado. There are many stories about the lack of discipline this setting engendered.

    For example at https://www.songfacts.com/place/caribou-ranch-nederland-colorado/rocky-mountain-way, it is mentioned that ” …It will surprise few people to hear that a recording studio isolated in the mountainous wilds of Colorado became not only a place to make great art, but also a place to enjoy some good, old-fashioned drunken and drug-induced debauchery. There were even some local girls who lived full time at the ranch, performing basic chores by day, and satisfying some of the artist’s other basic needs by night… ” Debauchery (and resultant confusion), indeed!

    • Hey Norio, really weird but a plugin on this blog trapped your comment (for a year!) in a “pending approval” folder, I have no idea why it was flagged as spam when it is no way spammy. Sorry about that and thank you for the comment… Yeah that studio was infamous, it even attracted the famously debauched Elton John in the mid-70’s 😀

  3. This is a fantastic fusion record. The composition and arrangements are fresh and compelling, even when listened to today. What makes it so wonderful are the beautiful soaring melodies, the variety of tasteful rhythms, textures, and transitions that hold it all together, and its execution. The musicianship is superb. The engineering and production are also excellent, particularly for its time. Really nice drum sound (the flam drum entrance at the beginning of the title track is sublime), and no one plays the minimoog like Sancious. He really makes its three oscillators sing in all their analog glory. The bass is excellent, providing a satisfyingly melodic underpinning without drawing too much attention to itself.

    The drumming sounds to me like Billy Cobham’s even though Ernest Carter gets the credit. I’ve heard Carter’s drumming on subsequent Sancious releases and it in no way compares to the drumming on this record, stylistically or technically. Compare the drumming on this LP (and Forest of Feelings, for that matter, which was produced by Cobham) with Cobham’s Spectrum LP (a classic), then compare it with Carter’s drumming on subsequent Sancious releases, and you’ll see what I mean. Not sure what the deal is there.

    The title track is a masterpiece. I played it frequently as a DJ on WDBS in Durham, NC when this record was released. At the time, this record was woefully under-appreciated, and only in recent years has it gotten some of the attention it deserves.

    I can’t agree that there’s any “confusion” on this record. I think they knew exactly what they were doing.

    — NR

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and articulate comment, NR! Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time with this record or (just as likely) maybe I’m just not as well-versed in fusion as you are. I went through a fusion ‘phase’ as a younger person but these days my forays into it tend to be limited to Weather Report, Return To Forever and related offshoots. “Spectrum” is a phenomenal record. It’s an interesting notion / implication that you think Cobham may have played on this but stayed uncredited. I’m pretty sure I’ve given credit of another sort to Billy elsewhere on this blog for his versatility as a drummer, in that he can also ‘play to the song’ in straightforward soul, R&B, or ‘straight’ jazz when the situation called for it. Even if that just means he wasn’t above doing some session work for some extra bread, I still admire him for it.

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