Charles Earland – Odyssey (1976)

CHARLES EARLAND
ODYSSEY
Released 1976
Mercury SRM-1-1049

After the phenomenal double-LP ‘Leaving This Planet’, which featured Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson as rocket fuel, Earland continued in a similarly cosmic-jazz direction.  He made one more LP for Prestige, a live album of new material called Kharma, and then began a new phase at Mercury Records with this jazz-funk-latin-disco-rock fusion called Odyssey, which also became the name of his spaceship, I mean vehicle, for releasing this kind of thing for the next few years.  This album has never ever been issued on CD.  Meet you after the jump to continue the voyage.. Continue reading

Charles Earland – Intensity (1972)

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Charles Earland
INTENSITY
Released 1972 on Prestige
OJC Release 1999 (OJCCD-1021-2)

Happy ‘Cause I’m Goin’ Home
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Cause I Love Her
Morgan
———
Lowdown
Speedball

Charles Earland: organ
Lee Morgan, Virgil Jones, Victor Paz, Jon Faddis: trumpet, flugelhorn
Dick Griffin, Clifford Adams: tenor trombone
Jack Jeffers: bass trombone
Billy Harper: tenor sax
William Thorpe: baritone sax
Hubert Laws: flute, piccolo
John Fourie, Greg Miller, Maynard Parker: guitar
Billy Cobham: drums
Sonny Morgan: congas

Recorded February 17, 1972 at Englewood Cliffs, NJ, by Rudy Van Gelder

This is sort of a lazy post – I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m not going to say much about this record because I agree pretty much entirely with Doug Payne’s take on it. I’ll just mention that I kind of like the “needless fuzz guitar”, and that the Goffin/King Shirelle’s hit “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” gets a righteous soul-jazz treatment. Also I’d like to give some applause to Billy Harper on sax, whose own Black Saint albums are essential listening.

By
DOUGLAS PAYNE,
Published: August 1, 1999

For 1972’s Intensity, Charles Earland’s fifth of ten Prestige discs, the Mighty Burner seemed to be aiming toward something a little different than his usual collection of soulful tenor-organ jams. The presence of two songs from the rock group Chicago and a small trumpet-dominated horn section indicate that jazz-rock was the goal. The result, the LP’s four original tracks plus two tracks from the same date originally released as part of Charles III, is one of his very best.

Unfortunately, though, Intensity has the notorious reputation as the last recording trumpeter Lee Morgan participated in (done two days before his girlfriend shot him to death). But Morgan is perhaps the least notable aspect of what makes the record work well. His playing here – and elsewhere at the time – sounds rather indifferent, sometimes sloppy and far less stellar than the glowing commentary he offered up on a string of excellent Blue Note records throughout the 1960s (evident on his own lackluster “Speedball,” also included here).

What does stand out is Earland’s strong performances, especially on two lesser known Chicago tunes (“Happy Cause I Love You” and a “Lowdown” that is not Boz Scaggs’s more famous hit, as the disc’s liners imply). Both are punctuated for effect with a needless fuzz guitar. But it doesn’t detract from the attractive energy the Earland-Laws-Morgan triumvirate achieves.

Earland also contributes two of his own above average originals: the wonderfully melodic medium tempo swinger, “Cause I Love Her,” and the cooking “Morgan” (named after the fact of death, but neither a Morgan feature nor specifically dedicated to him).

One notices, too, the interesting sound spectrum engineer Rudy Van Gelder achieves here. The occasional trumpet punctuation (arranged by Earland and the underrated trumpeter Virgil Jones) shimmers, even though its glory-hallelujah harshness seems a bit overheated. But the combo tracks are superbly captured. Compare the sound here to any one of Laws’s Van Gelder engineered CTI dates. Then listen to any one of Morgan’s Van Gelder engineered Blue Note dates. The difference is remarkable. Unfortunately, though, Billy Cobham’s exceptionally vibrant drumming sounds as muffled and in-the-next-room as too many Van Gelder sessions did during that time.

The Prestige records Earland made between 1969 and 1974 remain his finest work. Intensity certainly ranks among the best, capturing a fine player at the very top of his game and easily recommended to those who seek meaningful organ jazz and of equal appeal to fans of the ever-diverse Hubert Laws.

Fritz the Cat & Heavy Traffic OST (1972-3)

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FRITZ THE CAT Soundtrack Released 1972 (Fantasy 9406)
HEAVY TRAFFIC Soundtrack Released 1973 (Fantasy 9436)
2-on-1 CD released 1996 on Fantasy (FCD-24745-2)

Fritz the Cat is also known as:

Fritz el gato
El gato caliente
Fritz – kova kolli
Fritz il gatto
Fritz le chat
Fritz, o ponirogatos
Katten Fritz
O Gato Fritz

It has been many years since I saw either of these films, and I never realized the soundtrack had so many great musicians on it back in those days. And then I ran across a CD pressing from Fantasy containing both soundtracks and, damn, what a surprised! First a little about the films. It took me a little internet research to find a review of this film by anyone who took it halfway seriously. Here is a link to the Wikipedia synopsis of the film along with some material on its production and reception as well, including Robert Crumb’s disowning of the film.

These are very pleasant soundtracks to listen to, and the first one for Fritz the Cat should be much better known : grooving soul jazz and funk instrumentals interspersed with classics from Bo Diddley, Billie Holiday. The list of musicians is filled with some serious heavy hitters: Charles Earland, Idris Muhammad, Pretty Purdie, Cornell Dupree, Melvin Sparks, Chuck Rainey — hell, even Cal Tjader appears on one tune. I suppose this could bear a similarity to a “Blaxploitation” soundtrack even though it is about a cat, but with more jazz riffing. With the exception of the inclusion of ‘cameos’ of famous recordings, the material on this album is not found anywhere else (as far as I know) and it is exquisite early-70s soul jazz / funk. If this material had been released on individual albums attributed to the artists themselves, it would be better known and probably have made for successful titles in their catalogs — if nothing else, at least with the recognition and cult-status of a (at one time) rare record like Purdie’s soundtrack for “Leileh” released in 1974. As it stands, this soundtrack seems relatively uncelebrated by the rare-groove crowd.

The soundtrack to Heavy Traffic is also good listening but features mostly uncredited musicians (with Merle Saunders a big exception). It follows the same formula of instrumental grooves but with a few famous artists thrown in (Chuck Berry, Sergio Mendes). It’s solid but not as creative or inspired as the Fritz soundtrack, although the theme of “Scarburough Fair” running through the record is a nice touch. The storyline of this film is equally odd, if not more so, than Fritz, and a synopsis can be found at this link.

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