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Stanley Clarke

The Definitive Collection

Review by Gary Hill

I haven't followed the career of Stanley Clarke like I should have. I had his self-titled album on vinyl when I was in my teens. I am a bass player, so when you have a bass player as talented as Clarke, you really can't argue with it. Now, this new compilation captures a lot of different modes and configurations of Clarke's musical output. The majority of it is fusion (and we generally land fusion under prog at Music Street Journal), but it wanders into rock and soul territories at various times. All in all, this makes a great way to sample Clarke's impressive rock in an accessible package.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1

            
Journey to Love

This is almost by definition progressive rock. There is a funky, soulful texture to it, though.  It's obvious, but the bass work is just so good. The thing is, the guitar soloing is top-notch and the whole space music turned funky fusion atmosphere is near perfection. A quick blast of powered up jamming takes it into more rocking territory before it drops back to more fusion stuff.

Concerto for Jazz / Rock Orchestra, Part I
As you might gather from the title, this is a very classically based kind of piece. It comes in mellow and works through a number of changes as it grows outward. Again, I love the bass work on it.
Concerto for Jazz / Rock Orchestra, Part II

Now, this is completely different. It's a powerhouse jam that's very much like something Frank Zappa would have done. It's a fusion romp that has some great shifts and changes. It has some non-lyrical vocals that  add to that fusion thing. I love the guitar soloing on the later parts of this killer cut.

Silly Putty

The bass opens this in a rather funky way. Horns and other elements join as the piece moves forward. This is the third instrumental in a row. It's fusion, but has plenty of funk in the mix.

School Days

The bass is at the forefront as this starts. The cut works to another smoking hot fusion jam. It gets pretty intense as things continue. As amazing as the bass work has been to this point, some of the playing on this one even surpasses that. This has some non-lyrical vocals at the end.

The Dancer

If you dig smoking hot fusion in the vein of Pat Metheny, you will like this number. It has a great energy and some killer melodies.

Hot Fun

The title for this is just about perfect. This fusion track is both hot and fun. It has a bit more rock than some of the other pieces do.

More Hot Fun

The horns and female vocals add something intriguing to this cut. The fusion on this has a lot of funk built into it. The mid-track jam is exceptional. Given the competition, that says a lot.

Modern Man

This tune has a lot of soul built into it. That's particularly true of the vocals. Still, they manage to throw in some killer jazz jamming. Clarke gets to show off his stunning bass skills, too.

Rock 'N' Roll Jelly
There is definitely a lot of rock music here. Of course, that makes sense given the title. This is a cool bit of variety, but not as interesting as some of the other stuff here. That said, there is some pretty awesome jamming later.
I Wanna Play for You

With some talk box vocals, this is an unusual cut. It's another that makes me think of Frank Zappa to some degree. The female vocals on this lend some soulful contrast to the synthetic talk box vocal. This is intriguing stuff, left of center and yet a cool groove. There is a space oriented jam mid-track before they bring out into an even funkier reprise of the earlier parts to continue.

Together Again

I love the bass work on this, but the cut isn't as strong as some of the rest. It's more generic smooth jazz. Then again, perhaps it's basically meant to serve as a basis allowing the bass to jam. If that's the case, it works.

Jamaican Boy

For some reason this makes me think of a more jazzy Little Feat. It has a playful rock element to it.

Danger Street

While this is definitely a straight-ahead hard rocker, right down to the vocals, the bass brings more fusion and funk to the proceedings.

All Hell Broke Loose

Prog rock and fusion combine nicely on this smoking hot jam.

Rocks, Pebbles and Sand

 A proggier piece, the bass shines like crazy here.

CD 2
            

We Supply

Loaded with funk, the bass brings this thing in with style. There are some fills that feel like Zappa. There is a mostly spoken vocal bit at the beginning. As the cut continues it feels like Parliament goes Zappa to me. There are a lot of different types of vocals throughout this cut. It's a fun number.

Grand Prix

Recorded with Fuse One, this is a killer fusion number. It is packed full of energy and style.

Never Judge a Cover By It's Book

This one comes from the Clarke / Duke Project.  The piece is more of a traditional jazz sounding number. It's slow moving and oozes cool. It's less than two minutes in length.

Wild Dog

Another from the Clarke / Duke Project, this one has more energy and fire. It's more fusion related.

Sweet Baby

The vocals and general song structure lend a classic jazzy pop vibe to this number. It's another from The Clarke / Duke Project. While this isn't the meatiest thing here, it's effective and classy stuff.

Straight to the Top

A soulful, playful groove, this has a lot of energy. It's not really fusion, but it is a solid tune.

Heroes
We're back to The Clarke / Duke Project here. This is an energetic number that has a great groove. It's definitely fusion and really works well.
Heaven Sent You

Recorded by Stanley Clarke and Howard Hewett, this is less fusion and more soul music. It's fairly electronic. It's a solid tune, but not a standout.

Time Exposure

Wow, the fast paced funky bass playing this is great. The whole cut is a killer slab of energized fusion.

What If I Should Fall in Love

Now we get one from The Stanley Clarke Band. There is a cool groove to this fusion number. It's got a lot of funk going for it, too. I dig the vocal performance on this. It's part rock and part soul.

Find Out

Another from the Stanley Clarke Band, the cool fusion meets soul and pop music groove on this works great.

Hideaway

This time we get a tune from Stanley Clarke and Herbie Hancock. It's a mellower fusion cut that's quite classy.

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

This comes in dramatic and a bit mysterious. As it works out from there it remains somewhat subdued. It's very much a fusion number, and it works really well.

I Want to Play for Ya

I dig this killer soulful fusion jam. It has processed vocals (at least some via talk box).  It's a variant on the earlier song with a similar title.

Mothership Connection
We get one more from The Clarke / Duke Project here.  This is a cover of the classic Parliament tune. The original is a funky party rocker, and this captures that nicely. I love the vocal arrangement, but there's nothing here that doesn't work extremely well.
Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)

The closing number is another fusion jam that's very classy.

 
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