"This is an early example of one of the most innovative bands in existence. If you only like to listen to bands that you can categorize, skip this CD. These four amazing musicians combine the best from all genres to make the best music possible. This CD is all instrumental. Bela Fleck plays the banjo and electric banjo in ways you have only heard if you're familiar with this artist. He is amazing! Victor Wooten, in turn, plays bass in new and amazing ways. He will astound you. Howard Levy plays piano and harmonica (often at the same time) and gets an outrageous range of notes from a simple diatonic harmonica. You have to hear it to believe it. Finally. Roy Wooten (aka Future Man) provides percussion in a completely different way. He has built a synth-axe drumitar which he plays flawlessly. You'll believe you are listening to real drums, but it creates other effects as well. If you don't have this one yet, by all means don't hesitate! Buy it now!"
A Flight of Fleck Finery and a Flecktone Favorite
prewbee | 01/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How can I describe this genre bending CD. Five stars isn't enough, I can tell you that. Not a bad track on here at all.
Is this 'Funk-grass' or 'Jazz-grass' or 'New-Grass'????? Defies definition and therefore satisifies the longing for superb music.
Buy it you won't be disappointed. Wonderful rendition of the Beatles 'Michelle'... excellent re-tooling of our National Anthem ... super version of Star of the County Down...marvelous original compositions as well.
Why haven't you heard more of Fleck?
American Radio only seems to cater to the mediocre ... Fleck is not."
Another Great CD From The Flecktones
peter krampert | eharmonica.net | 02/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, that amazing quartet who gave us their 1990 self-titled album as well as their UFO TOFO CD, now gives us another masterpiece. The group consists of the Wooten Brothers on bass guitar and drum synthesiser, banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and Howard Levy on piano and harmonica.The presence of Fleck's banjo makes it difficult to disassociate their music from Bluegrass, but the music they play is much more complex. Jazz-Fusion is a catch-all phrase that is used as a blanket to cover almost anything modern in the Jazz world. this album would probably fall into that category. The music is other-worldly without being so out there as to be rendered unlistenable.Again, Howard Levy's magical approach to the humble diatonic harmonica is nothing short of miraculous. To non-harmonica playing listeners, it might seem that you are simply listening to a great harmonica player. But to those of us who know the instrument, Howard is playing notes that aren't even built into the instrument. using a technique known as "overblowing", Levy is able to coax out notes that don't even appear in a lot of western musics. Just on a technical level, this album is monumental.I strongly urge anyone to buy this CD for their collection."
spiral_mind | Pennsylvania | 11/16/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sometimes, just sometimes, an artist manages to come up with a title and album cover so perfectly suited to the music that it seems like destiny is at work. Flight of the Cosmic Hippo is one of those discs; it's a wacky, unnervingly addictive stew of musical playfulness like nothing else out there, and all the fun humor is only a bonus on top of the mind-bending virtuosity and stellar composition on offer. Just take four minutes to listen to the head-spinning "Blu-Bop" and you'll know what I mean; it flows as smoothly as the simplest three-chord rock ballad, yet the interweaving melodies make a kaleidoscopic spectrum of tones complex enough to induce a migraine if you try picking them apart. Bela had already established a reputation as an extraordinary banjoist before forming the group, and outside the bluegrass framework most of his solo work had occupied, his all-encompassing musical sensibility here just runs completely hog-wild. (Take cover!)The cover tunes here seem to run between the high and low ends of the spectrum, which is why I notch down a star. "Star of the County Down," propelled by Howard Levy's masterful harmonica, is beautifully reworked into a slow, bluesy country waltz. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is hardly recognizable at first, being embellished with furious banjo picking and a shuffling synth-drum beat more suited to a lively jazz performance. The track bears numerous repeat listenings and ends up surprisingly resistant to becoming a one-time novelty, but their reworking of the Beatles' "Michelle" never gets off the ground to me. I keep wishing they'd used that album space for another of Bela's own tunes instead. Every one of those is a dynamic, fascinating exercise in modern composition, from the oddly funky groove of "Flying Saucer Dudes" to the driving "Turtle Rock" to the strange odd time signatures of "Jekyll and Hyde (and Ted and Alice)." If you're a musician you'll be blown away by the sheer superhuman skill of everyone in the group.. if not, you'll still have to admit that it just sounds really awesome.Bela and his Tones embody the true spirit of fusion more than possibly anyone else - they take great delight in bending, ignoring or destroying any notions of style or genre we might have, making everything sound fresh, inventive and full of promise. Cosmic Hippo can't quite compare with the monumental Live Art as their most perfect album, but there's enough incredible stuff to make it well worth picking up. Just be prepared to spend more money on the others once you get hooked."