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Garaj Mahal: Live Vol. 1 & 2

Garaj Mahal is obviously a band that needs to be experienced live (which I have yet to have the pleasure of) as evidenced by the rousing performances contained in these first two of a three volume set of live recordings from the talented fusion/jam band. While the studio recording Mondo Garaj is a pretty scorching affair, it pales in comparison to the red hot sounds contained on these two live platters.

Calling Garaj Mahal a "jam" band kind of does them a disservice. Yes, these guys can jam with the best of them, but there's no pointless noodling or wanking here. Vol. 1, recorded in San Francisco in 2002, is the more jazz-fusion sounding of the two sets. Influences like John McLaughlin & the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, and the Jeff Beck with Jan Hammer Group pop out at you all over the place on this CD. Tracks like "Gulam Sabri" and "Semos" have that early 70's fusion feel, as if the spirit of John Coltrane was seeping into the music. Guitarist Fareed Haque conjures up images of McLaughlin, Coryell, and Beck, combining searing rock licks with jazz technique, always melodic and daring in his attack. His counterpart on the keyboards, Eric Levy, is also a master soloist as well as tone creator, as he brings to mind such legends as Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, and Jan Hammer. "Celtic Indian" is a fiery piece featuring complex dual melody lines from Haque and Levin, as well as intense drum work from Alan Hertz. Fareed Haque lays down a scorching extended guitar solo on this one that simply melts the speakers with passion and emotion. On "Ivory Tower", bassist Kai Eckhardt really struts his stuff, as the band mixes funk, rap, reggae, and Tony Williams Lifetime fusion styles into an interesting and groovy cauldron.

Vol. 2, from a show in Chicago in 2002, is a much more funky and jazzy affair. Here, the rhythm tandem of bassist Kai Eckhardt and drummer Alan Hertz really dig deep and create some awesome grooves over which Haque and Levy can lay down some catchy melody lines, as on the funky jazz of "The Paladin" or the smooth guitar swing of "The Chicken". There's even some wild Frank Zappa inspired freak outs on the engaging "Poodle Vamp", where the whole band gets to have some fun with insane vocal workouts as well as virtuoso solo spots. "Make a Hippy Happy" is a great tribute to the guitar/organ jazz combo's of the 60's, with Haque's liquid guitar melodies soaring over the tasty organ tones from Levy. The band gets lean and mean on the hard driving funk of "Cosmic Elevator", a song that must surely get the audience tapping and grooving with its deep and funky rhythms, wah wah guitar licks, and electric piano vamps.

It's hard not to lavish such high praise on two very impressive live recordings. I'm sure Vol. 3 is just as hot as these two sets here, and anyone interested in checking out any of the bands available material can order direct from them via the link below.

Vol. 1
1) Gulam Sabri (17:37)
2) Semos (13:33)
3) Intro Jam (1:53)
4) Celtic Indian (12:36)
5) Ivory Tower (15:15)
6) Of a Simple Mind (7:31)

Vol. 2
1) Cosmic Elevator (11:22)
2) Poodle Vamp (12:40)
3) The Paladin (12:39)
4) The Chicken (8:28)
5) Make a Hippy Happy (11:44)
6) National Anthem (4:34)

Added: January 23rd 2005
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Garaj Mahal Website
Hits: 2743
Language: english

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