Music On Vinyl – (Vinyl)
By Paul Rigby
It’s easy, when reviewing a newly released reissue, to fall back on old standard phrases and words like ‘seminal’. Such over-used words smack of laziness and lack of effort on the writer’s part. However, you can search through your thesaurus all day, if you like, when trying to find an epithet that will fit this particular release but that same word keeps bobbing back to the top. In A Silent Way, released in 1969, was original in its concept and production and so influential to jazz fans and artists who followed that ‘seminal’, I’m afraid, is the only term that will do.
Some might describe it as a quiet, low key production but its more than that. It’s a dark piece that reflected the time, the increasing world violence seen in politics and on the streets and the dichotomy between the love exuded by Woodstock and the horrors of the Manson family. Think of it as Miles bringing Kind of Blue, kicking and screaming, into a fusion world.
To say that this album was star-studded is not to flatter the personnel but to state a stark fact. Listen to this lot: Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea on the electric piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Dave Holland on bass, Joe Zawinul on electric piano and organ, John McLaughlin on guitar and Tony Williams on drums. Blimey, the media blabbered on about Cream, Blind Faith and ELP but this was a supergroup.
Like no other release, this album is all about tone, space, feel and texture. You’ll be kept busy if you decide to look for a melody, although there are plenty of grooves to be getting on with as well as interactions between different artists and solos that connect one with another. For example, McLaughlin threads his way around the entire album and, in doing so, creates space. That space is then filled by a Wayne Shorter soprano sax piece until McLaughlin moves onwards creating another space into which Tony Williams enters with shimmering cymbals. There are no roots to this album except possibly for Dave Holland and his bass which does anchor the whole album.
A production of true innovation, the record landed on the cusp of many changing styles and, so, In A Silent Way keyed into the past, the then present and future, producing a blend that was both exciting and ageless.
In A Silent Way/It’s All About Time
Stand-out track: In A Silent Way/It’s All About Time
It’s rather difficult to select a stand-out track on this album because of the sheer length of each ‘track’: well, there are two on the album. However, side two, if I can put it that way, has so much space and breadth that any hi-fi which is lacking in dynamics is going to be quickly found out. Valves will love the featured sounds, especially, but any hi-fi that can portray inky blackness will assist the swathes of atmosphere produced by this album.