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Smith, Steve, & Vital Information: Vitalive!

Drum Legacy Records has resurrected the out of print live album Vitalive from Steve Smith's long running jazz-fusion outfit Vital Information, recorded on tour back in 1989 and now reissued and remastered with a bonus track. Vital Information were a fusion combo put together in the early 80's by legendary rock and jazz drummer Smith (Journey, Jean Luc Ponty) that were one of the few acts in the genre to make a lot of noise during that time period, alongside the Chick Corea Elektric Band and the Pat Metheny Group. On Vitalive, the line-up featured Smith on drums, Frank Gambale on guitar (who also was a full time member of Corea's band), longtime Santana keyboard player Tom Coster, sax player Larry Schneider, and Larry Grenadier on acoustic bass.

There's a good variety of uptempo 'smooth jazz' and burning fusion to be found on Vitalive. Schneider's soaring sax melodies steal the show on opener "One Flight Up", a song that might remind some of the later works of The Rippingtons, while the more rock & funk tinged "Looks Bad, Feels Good" sees Smith getting down & dirty with some funky beats while Schneider's sax sizzles alongside some snarling solos from Gambale the 'sweep picking monster'. On "Jave and Nail", the band goes for a more swinging tempo, featuring some great walking bass lines, light keyboard tones, and soul searching sax explorations. Coster's piano work on this one is just gorgeous. It's Coster again on the romantic "(What Lies) Beyond", his stunning piano melodies teaming up with Schneider for some tantalizing hamonies, while Grenadier's nimble acoustic bass solo in the middle section is a jaw dropper. A real throwback to the classic jazz sounds of the 40's & 50's can be heard on "I Should Care", as the team of Coster, Grenadier, and Smith do their 'piano trio' thing, which is followed by the Smith eruption on the hot "Mac Attack", where the drummer lets loose with a torrent of tricky fills and beats alongside the frenzied sax wailings from Schneider. Gambale returns for the swinging sounds of "Johnny Cat", a fiery mix of lite-jazz, reggeae, and fusion that sees the guitarist unleash a monstrous solo that is sheer proof of why he was considered one of the brightest up-and-coming guitar players in the late 80's. The full band goes for some complex fusion on the energetic "Perfect Date" (Smith's drum work on this one is nothing short of phenomenal), catchy jazz-pop on "Island Holiday", and finish out the regular set with a sultry, sexy version of the Santana/Coster classic "Europa (Earth Cry -- Heaven's Smile)", complete with wonderful solos from Schneider and Gambale. As a bonus, Smith has included an alternate version of "Mac Attack" for your listening pleasure. Smith and Schneider totally rip on this one!

If you are new to the jazz-fusion sounds of Steve Smith & Vital Information, Vitalive is certainly a great place to start. This one has been out of print for quite a while (I think I still have my old cassette copy somewhere that I bought back in 1989), so loyal fans of the band should immediately go seek this out. Smith himself adds a nice essay about the band and the album in the booklet which is a fun read and nice addition to this set.


Track Listing
1. One Flight Up
2. Looks Bad, Feels Good
3. Jove and a Nail
4. (What Lies) Beyond
5. I Should Care
6. Mac Attack
7. Johnny Cat
8. Perfect Date
9. Island Holiday
10. Europa (Earth Cry -- Heaven's Smile)
11. Mac Attack-bonus track

Added: October 31st 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 669
Language: english

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