Ian Carr and Nucleus were one of the more popular of the early 70's British jazz-fusion pioneers. BGO Records has been re-releasing the back catalog of this fine band as 2CD sets, inluding extensive liner notes, photographs, and two full albums worth of music.
The aggressive trumpet of Carr leads the way on most of these jazzy yet rocking songs. Carr and Miles Davis seemed to blaze similar paths in the late 60's and into the 70's, utilizing a large band approach that included lots of spacey jams that evoked rock firepower, free form jazz, and psychedelic atmosphere. Solar Plexus has a very strong Chicago meets Return to Forever feel, as the horns are way upfront, with the keyboards, guitar, bass and drums providing a rock solid foundation. The playing is tight, and while not as complex as some of the other hot fusion bands of the same era like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Lifetime, Nucleus was able to inject virtuoso performances that reeked of class and poise, much like Weather Report, rather than blister you with notes. Highlights are "Elements I & II" , "Bedrock Deadlock", and the almost Canterbury feel of "Snakeship's Dream." Belladonna has a slightly different feel, as there is a larger keyboard presence, thanks to Gordon Beck and Dave Macrae, who add some wild electric piano playing. Macrae especially rips it up with an extended solo on "Summer Rain." The pieces here take on a darker tone, and will remind you a bit of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, or even the third album from the Soft Machine. The amazing guitarist Alan Holdsworth puts in an appearance on this album as well, adding a mercurial solo on the raging "Remadione" , nasty wah-wah licks on "Mayday", and an extended tour-de-force on the funky "Hector's House." Carr's jazzy horns permeate each track, ranging from tender melodies to wild staccato bursts.
This is great jazz-fusion, from a band that never seems to get mentioned much when the topic of influential 70's groups comes up. Highly recommended!