You know that question that so often arises "Where should I start with.."?
Well with Jade Warrior, start here.
Way Of The Sun was the last of the four Island Records LPs, and oddly,
those who are intimate with Jade Warrior's music would never start here because
of what it isn't. Compared with the other 3 Island releases it wasn't new, it
didn't break any new ground, and it didn't even challenge the listener in the
same way as the first three did.
So why should newcomers start with Way Of The Sun? Because it neatly
summarizes their Island records period, which most critics agree represents the
pinnacle of the band's output. It's probably the most diverse of the four Island
LPs, arguably the most elegant, and unquestionably, a wonderful all-round listen
to both - some of progressive music's formative moments, and an early forerunner
of new age music.
Most sections are carried by Tony Duhig's wonderful guitar work and partner
Jon Field's flute, Japanese flute and percussion - but guest artists contribute
elements like sax, harp, Flugelhorn and congas. The result is graceful,
classically-oriented all-instrumental music that threads its way into your
consciousness with its wraithlike dynamics and rich, gentle textures. There are
occasional flares into jazzy or more energetic sections, but the overall tone is
soothing and laid back.
Jade Warrior was originally a four piece outfit, but there was a parting of
the ways and after the successful instigation of Steve Winwood, Tony Duhig and
Jon Field took a two-piece Jade Warrior to Island for what would become their
'ethereal period'. Duhig passed away in 1992, so sadly, there'll be no reunion
of that incarnation of the band.
Duhig and Field were students of oriental musical styles, and like most of
their albums, this one is deeply influenced by the Asian percussion style, the
emphasis on wind instruments (Field's flute), and the clean elegant sound that
borders on minimalism. So it's odd to know that despite that Far Eastern
influence Way Of The Sun is a concept piece about pre-conquistador
Central America. Besides the song titles, though, the only musical hints are in
the Latin rhythms of the title track which sounds like a laid-back Santana
piece, and particularly, the upbeat Latino-styled "Carnival". Most of the songs
run directly into one another allowing the album flow as a single, consolidated
body of work rather than the 9 songs indexed on the CD. "Heaven Stone" features
beautiful, mellow melodies by Field, and closing track "Death Of Ra" is probably
the standout piece on this too-short 41-minute record, and features some of the
softest, prettiest guitar solos of Duhig's career.
So start with Way Of The Sun, go through all four Island releases,
then stop - because you've covered the best Jade Warrior ever had to offer. And
it's no coincidence that those are the four albums that Eclectic chose to treat
to their renowned digital remastering, and to reissue with extensive liner
notes, slipcase packaging and wonderfully restored artwork.
This one's a gem.
1. Sun Ra
2. Sun Child
4. Heaven Stone
5. Way of the Sun
6. River Song
8. Dance of the Sun
9. Death of Ra