Friday, December 12, 2014

Stomu Yamashta: Go

Steve Winwood was relatively quiet in the years following the end of Traffic, before gearing up for the solo career that would ultimately bring him a higher love. His first real project was a rather adventurous one, and one that still dwells in relative obscurity today.
A truly odd gathering of musicians, Go was billed as a collaboration between Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta, Winwood and Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, in that order. As if that wasn’t enough, their eponymous album also included contributions from Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze on synthesizers, Pat Thrall and Al DiMeola on lead guitars, Junior Marvin from Bob Marley’s Wailers on rhythm, Traffic’s Rosko Gee on bass, backing vocals by Thunderthighs, and string arrangements from none other than Paul Buckmaster. Taken all together, Go melds jazz fusion, synth prog, and even, given the year, disco for an end result that should fail horribly, but doesn’t.
Like all concept albums, good or bad, there’s a story, which isn’t easy to follow considering that it begins on side two. Lyrics for all tracks save one are credited to Michael Quartermain, if that is his real name. And even once you get the story (travel through space and time, good vs. evil, what is the nature of man, how can you mend a broken heart and so forth) you don’t really care; it’s the music that matters.
A suitably spacey intro brings in “Solitude”, which turns into “Nature” in time for Winwood’s first, tentative vocal. Similarly, “Air Over” is a setup for “Crossing The Line”, a more straightforward rock song. “Man Of Leo” is pretty dated funk, but some typical tasty Hammond organ work, melding to DiMeola’s solo workout for “Stellar”, punctuated by seemingly random clanging that will inspire fans of Blazing Saddles to exclaim “The sheriff is near!” The story presumably ends with the extended extraterrestrial effects of “Space Theme”.
Lots more space sounds dominate side two, through “Carnival” which is meant to evoke Stravinsky, but might be better appreciated with “Atom Heart Mother” or “Saucerful Of Secrets” as a point of reference. Winwood returns halfway through the side with some truly mushmouthed vocals on “Ghost Machine”, a brisk number that ends almost as quickly. “Surf Spin” floats around to set up “Time Is Here”, an aimless jam for a “seize the day” message, while “Winner/Loser”, credited solely to Winwood, has a contemporary Elton John vibe, but also sounds the most like the natural follow-up to the last Traffic album.
Most of the participants would go on to perform and release the suite (in its correct order, with extended solos) for the self-explanatory Go — Live From Paris, and most save Winwood would return on Go Too. The albums have appeared on CD, sometimes combined into a complete set, but the original LP, with its wonky sequence and booklet, is still preferred.

Stomu Yamashta/Steve Winwood/Michael Shrieve Go (1976)—3

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