[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(64:31 / Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Numero D'Vol 9:21 2. On the Spot 8:51 3. Earwigs Enter 4:15 4. Free Bee 6:00 5. Get That Tap 5:55 6. Bootz 3:13 7. Shovelfeet 4:57 8. Bees Knees Man 7:37 9. Straight Away 6:24 10. Twilight 4:49 11. Some Other Time 2:37 LINEUP: Hugh Hopper - bass Simon Picard - saxophone Steve Franklin - keyboards Charles Hayward - drums
Besides Soft Machine Legacy, my personal knowledge of HUGH HOPPER as a musician only embraces his early period of activity or, speaking more precisely, the seventies. Apart from Soft Machine (which should be known to anybody), the legendary English bassist played with Robert Wyatt's Wild Flowers, Gary Boyle's Isotope and Alan Gowen's Gilgamesh during the decade, and also released four solo albums, "1984", "Cruel But Pair", "Hoppertunity Box" and "Two Rainbows Dally". I can't tell you which in number is Hugh's last solo effort, "Numero D'Vol". You won't find his ultimate discography anywhere on the Internet, but there is one that seems to be most complete and can be explored by clicking
Analysis. "Numero D'Vol" is another proof that the veteran bassist feels very at home in various progressive rock settings. By saying so I don't mean Hopper betrays his favorite Jazz-Fusion on this recording, but nevertheless nobody needs to be a rocket scientist to find out that improvisations play only a secondary role here, and although a jazz component is present, it isn't strong, used mainly to bring an element of contrast into the music (whose author's design strikes me with its braveness and originality). The disc's eleven instrumental compositions, while greatly varying in length, are all equally strong, marked by inspired, passionate playing. What especially impresses is how each of them showcases the music as a whole, but not the bass in particular. Mr. Hopper could have easily placed the emphasis on self-indulgent bass leads and technical demonstration, but he is certainly not the one to follow the path of so-called guitar heroes. Instead, the album is a set of compositions whose very nature seems to secure a genuine ensemble sound, and while there's potentially more than enough room for each from the quartet to express themselves individually, in the majority of cases the musicians give preference to collective playing. Simon Picard appears to be the sole provider of impromptus, and it's just due to his approach that his saxophone may leave the impression of being the primary soloing force in this action, a matter that only a neophyte could be mislead by. It also must be mentioned that the music is composed in such a way that it gainsays any conventional improvisations. I never propagandized pure Jazz, and all I want now is to bring this recording's essence to you, open-minded progressive listeners, to convince you that you'll meet nothing here that would contradict your tastes. As for details, abide with me, and I won't delay in presenting those to you - though not too much to say in that field, unless you expect that I'd start on listing which particular solo is followed by which particular theme and so on. It would be completely pointless in this particular case to follow that way, regardless of the fact that such an approach conflicts with my personal vision of things. I only can tell you that the soloing is excellent everywhere, but keep in mind that it bears a fan-shaped character. The ensemble playing is at once very dense and intricate, so the solos are usually pushed into different directions. The album is quite uniform in style, a (really unique) fusion of eclecticism and psychedelia being the key aspect of each of the tracks present, be it the title number and Straight Away, the only two relatively transparent compositions whose groove-based arrangements may resemble elements of The Alan Parsons Project, or On the Spot, Get That Tap and Bootz, where the imaginative listener may at times be reminded of Genesis's The Waiting Room and / or "Out & Intake" by Hawkwind, or the remaining six pieces, Earwigs Enter, Free Bee, Shovelfeet, Bees Knees Man, Some Other Time and Twilight, all of which stand out for their more than frequently shifting time signatures and where the musicians seem to be tireless in showing their skill to subtly accelerate and / or slacken their pace, none arousing associations even on the subconscious.
Conclusion. This is an intelligent, soulful and imaginative music, touched by the wing of magic, a really original release, a masterwork that should have a broad appeal and response. A must is the word.
VM: November 20, 2007
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]