John Stevens

A Luta Continua

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The title is a bit misleading in that there isn't one orchestra on this set by drummer John Stevens, but a number of groups who recorded with him between 1977 and 1981. They range from an orchestra of 16 players to a septet. The music always borders on rock, as one would expect given Stevens' deep roots in the Canterbury Scene, and the players who offer their services on these nine tracks include everyone from vocalists such as John Martyn and Pepi Lemer to Hawkwind saxman Robert Calvert, Paul Rutherford, Jon Corbett, Trevor Watts, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill, Paul Rogers, Alan Tomlinson, and many others. Most of these players make repeat performances across the four sessions over these three years. This is progressive rock tinged with jazz and free improv in the same way some of Julie Tippett's early work with Keith Tippet's Ovary Lodge was, but Stevens is more strident, employing sometimes three guitar players at one time, as well as a horn section for maximum dynamic and dramatic effect. The most notable cuts on the disc are the first four -- "Daffodils," "Some People," "Home," and "Birds" -- with the 126-piece band that includes the two vocalists and the last three with a tentet that includes the title track, "Different Strokes," and "Hue and Cry." The main reason, of course, is that these make up seven of the nine selections and give the proper impression of a session at work, whereas the others feel like one-offs. No matter, though, this record smokes, the perfect balance between the trinity of the three elements that have ruled Stevens' music from his earliest days on the scene.

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