Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Brian Auger & Oblivion Express|
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Pop, Rock
A blistering slab of Hammond organ heavy prog with elements
Jeffrey J.Park | Massachusetts, USA | 08/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Apart from knowing only that Brian Auger played Hammond organ and had a peripheral link with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, I have not been able to dig up much information on him anywhere. In fact, it is too bad that he is overlooked - Brian is a fantastic musician and his band Oblivion Express is pretty good too. With respect to the Mahavishnu link, it may interest Mahavishnu Orchestra fans to know that Brian Auger jammed with both John McLaughlin and Rick Laird of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame before the release of this album. The album was recorded at Advision studios in November 1970 by prog friendly engineer Eddie Offord, who was working with groups such as ELP and Yes at the time. The album was released later in 1971.
The lineup at this point included virtuoso Hammond B3 wizard Brian Auger (lead vocals and acoustic piano too), Barry Dean (bass, backing vocals), Jim Mullen (electric guitar and backing vocals); and Robbie McIntosh (drums). In general, the musicians are all excellent, with Brian Auger and drummer Robbie McIntosh really standing out. Brian's Hammond work is simply outstanding, as is his jazzier work on the acoustic piano - he is an extremely accomplished musician. The guitarist appears to be obsessed with John McLaughlin and favors a harder edged sound, although he is also capable of a softer tone when indulging in jazzy "comping". Unfortunately, his playing does not convey the sheer ferocity and overwhelming virtuosity that characterized McLaughlin's playing around this time, although he does a decent enough job. Even though the bassist is probably capable of more, he seems to be restricted to simply laying down a rock solid ostinato over which Brian and the guitarist solo. The tone that he gets on his Fender Precision bass is as trebly as a Fender P-bass can get and way out in front of the mix (thank you Eddie Offord!). As far as Brian's vocals and the vocal harmonies go, I feel they are pretty good, though some folks find the vocal style "dated".
The music on this album is a heady, Hammond organ loaded mix of hard-edged and riff heavy prog rock, with elements of jazz and jazz rock, along with tiny smidges of the avant-garde and psychedelic rock. The six tracks on the album range in length from 4'20" to 11'27, with the longest track simply consisting of two pre-composed parts, between which a lengthy jam is sandwiched. The instrumental opening track Dragon Song is the best piece on the album and was written by none other than John McLaughlin himself. This is a blistering track that has McLaughlin all over it - in fact, the track itself turned up on his Devotion album (1970) and themes from this piece would turn up on the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra album Birds of Fire (1973). Drummer Robbie McIntosh even turns in his best interpretation of drummer extraordinaire Billy Cobham's style on this piece. Another instrumental, Total Eclipse is a lengthy jam that showcases Brian and the guitarist. As I have already complained about, the repeated figure on the bass guitar gets really dull after a while, although the soloing is pretty good. While I have problems with this track, it does not lessen the overall quality of this album for me. The vocal tracks are quite different and though this may be stretching things a bit, The Light would not sound out of place on an Egg album. This is a fantastic track by the way and was written by Brian Auger. On the Road has a similar feel, while The Sword is a thunderous and riff-heavy track. The closing track is simply amazing and features intricate ensemble work and killer soloing from Brian (his Hammond playing is unbelievable). There is a very psychedelic and avant-garde freak-out in the middle of this track that I just love - it reminds me of some of the freak-outs that Egg would use.
All in all, this is a blistering slab of Hammond organ heavy prog with elements of jazz and jazz rock mixed in. My general feeling is that Brian was just as excited by the emerging prog rock scene as the nascent jazz rock scene. As such, the slight nods to experimental English prog bands like Egg and Colosseum are nicely balanced by the Mahavishnu Orchestra references. My guess is that this album would appeal more to fans of prog bands like Colosseum and maybe Egg, although obsessive, completist Mahavishnu Orchestra fans might like it too. In that I like all three bands, this album works for me on a number of levels. Highly recommended."