The Brecker Brothers – The Brecker Bros. (1975)

BreckerBros_14 out of 5 Stars!

Randy Brecker’s time with the original line-up of Blood, Sweat & Tears proved short-lived unfortunately, and I heard nothing more significant from this talented trumpeter until he joined up with brother Michael (sax) in another fleeting group called Dreams (which also included ace drummer Billy Cobham).

Eventually, however, the siblings found a more permanent gig for themselves by forming The Brecker Brothers, which released its first album back in ’75.

Certainly initial comparisons to Blood, Sweat & Tears are understandable, but instead of sticking to strictly Jazz-Rock, the band also injected a healthy dose of Funk into its overall style. Heck, the vigorous and buoyant opening track is called “Some Skunk Funk”—which lives up to its name, by the way—and other flamboyant ditties such as “Twilight,” “Rocks,” “A Creature of Many Faces,” and “Sneakin’ Up Behind You” occasionally toss more Funk influences into the sophisticated song arrangements, although often blended with Jazz, Soul, and even Progressive Rock due to their general complexity. Thus, the debut album by The Brecker Brothers becomes almost a melding of Blood, Sweat & Tears with Tower of Power, only a mostly instrumental version of such.

Regardless, this debut, featuring—as one would expect—an impressive blaring-and-blazing horn section (the brothers along with the legendary David Sanborn on alto sax), plus a stunning array of Jazz-oriented backing musicians, is a thoroughly energetic and enjoyable affair, not only for “brass enthusiasts” like myself, but also for those who delight in often-intricate Jazz-Fusion material.

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Blood, Sweat & Tears – New Blood (1972)

BST_NewBlood4.5 out of 5 Stars!

After David Clayton-Thomas abandoned his post as lead vocalist, Blood, Sweat & Tears thankfully ventured onward, recruiting new vocalist Jerry Fisher (with his whiskey-soaked raspy voice) and several additional musicians (bringing the band to a ten-piece), including fantastic players such as Swedish guitarist Georg Wadenius, keyboardist Larry Willis, and sax player Lou Marini (destined for The Blues Brothers and “Saturday Night Live” band fame).

The album’s title, New Blood, says it all, with the band injecting some stunningly fresh energy and even more Jazz-Rock/Prog-Rock inspirations into its overall sound. Although the album included no blockbuster singles, tracks such as “Down in the Flood,” “Alone,” “Over The Hill,” along with the minor hits “So Long Dixie” and “I Can’t Move No Mountains,” simply blazed with BS&T’s signature horns and brimmed with jazzy rhythms, while the band’s rollicking version of Gerry Goffin/Carole King’s “Snow Queen” merged with Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” with Georg Wadenius delivering one of his unique “dual guitar/vocal” solos, proved to be a savory marriage of Jazz-Rock-Prog at its best.

Although changes in band personnel would quickly follow (it did after each new BS&T album, truth be told), this album also began one of the group’s most exciting and creative periods when it came to its outstanding brass arrangements, both its own songwriting and selection of cover tunes, and the merging of Jazz, Prog, and Hard Rock influences, with the next platter, No Sweat, being more of the same experimental concoction, but even jazzier.

Just as a quick aside…in 1973, when in eighth grade, one of my classmates and I gleefully dove into the Blood, Sweat & Tears back catalogue during our endless quest for more music to absorb. Learning of this, my teacher and his wife, also extremely fond of this group, invited both my friend and I to see the band perform at their former college in Chicago. We attended the concert (part of the tour for the next album, No Sweat)—my very first concert by a “professional band”—and of course, I was enamored. After the show, while walking past the side “alleyway” of the auditorium, I happened to notice the band actually leaving the building to get on their bus—and with no other fans in sight. Well, being bold (and a rabid music-lover), I raced down the alleyway to meet them, much to the confusion and shock of my friend, our teacher, and his wife. But I ignored their frantic calls for me to return to them and proceeded to meet the band, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I also recall which band members joyfully shook the hand of a thirteen-year-old budding musician & music enthusiastic and talked to me, and I also recall which band members did not.  Anyway, it was a special moment in my life (imprinted in my brain), so “Thank You” all these many decades later to vocalist Jerry Fisher, guitarist Georg Wadenius, trombonist Dave Bargeron, drummer Bobby Colomby, and bassist Jim Fielder, who spent several minutes happily answering my eager questions and making this particular fan feel special. Oh, and “Thanks But No Thanks” to the other band members who turned up their noses and gave me the stink eye.  🙂

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