In 1971, the Jazz Crusaders reinvented themselves for the first time. First they dropped the word "jazz" from their moniker, and secondly they wholeheartedly embraced electric bass and guitars in their mix. Their new "debut" is a wonder of jazz-funk as a natural evolution out of hard bop and soul-jazz. While the wonderful horn interplay between saxophonist Wilton Felder and trombonist Wayne Henderson is still everywhere evident, the badass, beat-driven rhythm section has Joe Sample playing funky Rhodes piano against Chuck Rainey's basslines and an orgy of guitars – led by Larry Carlton's brilliant lead work. These are all anchored by Stix Hooper's never out-of-the-pocket, popping kit work. Certainly other acts had used the same instrumentation, but the sheer sophistication in the Crusaders compositions and charts combined with their dedication to grooved-out accessibility – and Stewart Levine's magnificent production – made them a singular entity even in the up-and-coming jazz-rock fusion scene.
Although the Crusaders could not have known it at the time, their recording of "Street Life" (which features a memorable vocal by Randy Crawford) was a last hurrah for the 20-year old group. Their recordings of the next few years would decline in interest until the band gradually faded away in the '80s. However this particular set is well worth picking up for the 11-minute title cut and there is good playing by the three original members (Wilton Felder on tenor, soprano and electric bass, keyboardist Joe Sample and drummer Stix Hooper) along with guitarist Barry Finnerty; horn and string sections, plus additional guitarists are utilized on Sample's commercial but listenable arrangements.
One of the tastiest concoctions of the mid-'70s jazz-fusion era, Chain Reaction finds the Crusaders at the top of their form. The compositions are both accessible and memorable, and the playing is uniformly excellent. Guitarist Larry Carlton delivers some of his finest licks and funkified rhythm work. Wayne Henderson shows there is a place in fusion for the trombone. Wilton Felder does double duty, delivering smoking saxophone lines and funky bass riffs. Joe Sample's Fender Rhodes piano provides a solid chordal foundation and great solos. And the stickman, Stix Hooper, keeps the groove solid. The band employs a variety of rhythms and tempos, and gives the members plenty of room to strut their individual and collective stuff. In fact, "collective" may be the key word here, for this is the sound of a band, not just a group of guys thrown together for a recording session. Chain Reaction was one of the albums that helped lure young, rock and soul-oriented listeners over to check out the jazz side, and should not be missed by those interested in the more accessible, funky side of fusion.
There's a terrific reason why the triple-CD Crusaders retrospective The Golden Years included six of Free as the Wind's eight tracks – the material. Indeed, side one of the LP version may be the strongest single side of original tunes that the band ever put together. It opens with Joe Sample's driving, tense title cut, and flows flawlessly through Stix Hooper's subtly funky "I Felt the Love," Pops Popswell's infectiously finger-popping "The Way We Was" (a high point in the Crusaders' groove collection), and Larry Carlton's steamy vehicle for Wilton Felder, "Nite Crawler."
The Crusaders' follow-up to Street Life did not result in any additional hits (does anyone remember Bill Withers' vocal on "Soul Shadows?") and found the group's R&Bish music sounding closer to a formula. Each of the three remaining original Crusaders (Wilton Felder on tenor, soprano, alto and electric bass, keyboardist Joe Sample and drummer Stix Hooper), who are joined by an expanded rhythm setion, contribute at least one original apiece but the group's concept was starting to sound a bit tired.
Back in 1978 when this set was recorded, fusion (the mixture of jazz improvisation with rock rhythms) was declining. Keyboardist Joe Sample, best-known for his work with the Crusaders, was in the process of being one of the founders of "contemporary jazz," an idiom that has since solidified into smooth jazz. Sample emphasized catchy melodies, light funk rhythms, appealing chord changes and a pop sensibility. For this accessible release, Sample is joined by the late legendary guitarist Billy Rogers, bassist Pops Popwell, his old Crusaders drummer Stix Hooper, a horn section and several guest guitarists. All eight tunes (which include "Fly with the Wings of Love" and "Islands in the Rain" ) are by the leader, who is heard throughout in melodic form, setting up a variety of light grooves that serve as superior background music.
2008 reissue of this Folk classic, originally released in 1970. Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper of the Strawbs were invited in 1969 to produce an LP for Shrewsbury band Paper Bubble. Terry Brake, Brian Crane and Neil Mitchell provide most of the sounds, except for a guesting Rick Wakeman, who was helping Cousins and Hooper on sessions just prior to joining the Strawbs proper in 1970. Brake and Crane's harmony vocals underpin the atmosphere of the record, and it is an infectious Folk Pop mix with the Strawbs influence starting to come through. RPM.
Freed from the Sugarcubes' confines, Björk takes her voice and creativity to new heights on Debut, her first work after the group's breakup. With producer Nellee Hooper's help, she moves in an elegantly playful, dance-inspired direction, crafting highly individual, emotional electronic pop songs like the shivery, idealistic "One Day" and the bittersweet "Violently Happy."…