Now this is something special! Cuneiform has just hit the jackpot with this 2CD set of a previously unreleased concert from Bremen, Germany in 1971 by seminal British fusion band Nucleus. Featuring a line-up that would serve as the touring band that year and not one that would later make it to record an album, Ian Carr and the boys were in fine form on this date and delivered a devastating mix of fiery jazz rock.
Fans of the Soft Machine will be intrigued by the fact that none other than Karl Jenkins, Roy Babbington, and John Marshall are all on this recording. All three later left Nucleus to join Soft Machine and helped drive that band after the third line-up change in its history. Jenkins' tune that kicks off CD1, titled "Song for the Bearded Lady", actually later resurfaced with a slightly different arrangement on Soft Machine's Bundles album in a song called "Hazard Profile Part 1." Featuring a driving riff, the track allows multiple room for Carr's melodic trumpet solo's, as well as a raw rock break from guitarist Ray Russell. Russell's appearance here is quite unique, as he only filled in with the band on this tour, and never appeared with them again. If not for the release of this CD, his contribution to the band would forever be forgotten. While no McLaughlin, Coryell, DiMeola, or Holdsworth, Russell had an uncomprimising, unadulterated style that made up on raw emotion and feeling what he lacked in virtuoso technique. "By the Pool" is an extended metallic jazz piece, led by the frenzied flights of sax player Brian Smith and Jenkins' oboe, as both improvise with reckless abandon over Russell's meaty riffs. The 17-minute "Kookie and the Zoom Club" is a real feast, with Carr's smokey trumpet leading the band through the first section, before Russell starts creeping into the mix with huge rock riffs and fuzzy, distorted leads. Think Bitches Brew or Jack Johnson era Miles Davis and you get an idea of what is going on here. John Marshall also proves what an exceptional talent he is, as his furious drum fills accompany Russell's manic excursions perfectly. Smith's gorgeous flute is the highlight on the Jenkins penned "Torrid Zone", while "Zoom Out" is a more traditional jazz piece with a tinge of R&B, led by symphonic sax and trumpet.
CD2 doesn't let up either, in case you were wondering. Kicking it off is the 13-minute "Snakeships' Dream" a song written by Carr that first showed up on the Solar Plexus album. Karl Jenkins provides the initial fireworks with an inspired solo on the oboe (he's just as adept on oboe as he is on keyboards folks) before switching back to funky electric piano to let Russell wail on some lead guitar. "Oasis/Money Mad" is a medley of sorts, and offers up some dissonant improvisations that feature Smith's raging sax work flying over funky piano & guitar chords while Babbington and Marshall lay down some powerful grooves. "Dortmund Backtrack" pre-dates Miles Davis' On the Corner sessions, with funky electric piano, wah-wah guitars, squealing sax, and mind blowing trumpet. While it might sound strange that a bunch of English blokes could get down and funky like Miles, they actually pulled it off quite well. Russell actually shows off his best riffs here, as his rhythm and lead work sounds very much like Chicago's Terry Kath on this one-loud and monstrous! Carr's solo is the lead-in to "Bremen Dreams", a short , melodic piece that lets the leader show his somber side. His solo then segues into the wonderful "Elastic Rock" from the album of the same name. The Miles Davis comparisons are once again apparent, as Carr blasts some staccato lines while the rest of the band digs into a deep groove. Smith then comes back in for some stylish jaunts on the sax, and is perhaps Carr's answer to John Coltrane. The set ends with the amazing Marshall drum solo "A Bit for Vic" and the rousing full band finale of "Persephone's Jive."
This is an astounding release, and a must have for every fan of 70's fusion. The sound quality is very good, and the performances are excellent. Cuneiform did a great job on the booklet, with a full essay from Aymeric Leroy explaining the history and significance behind these long lost recordings. Highly recommended!