Jan Hammer

Black Sheep/Hammer

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Wounded Bird reissued Jan Hammer's often beautiful Melodies, from 1977, during the tail-end of the '90s. Six years later, the label combined the two releases that followed it -- 1978's Black Sheep and 1979's Hammer -- into one double-disc package. These two albums belong together as much as any other pair, since they are the two credited to "Hammer" -- essentially a heavy jazz-rock group. On Black Sheep, keyboardist Hammer is assisted by Melodies holdovers Fernando Saunders (bass) and Tony Smith (drums), along with future Whitesnake associate Colin Hodgkinson (bass, vocals) and Bob Christianson (vocals). Here, there are traces of the soft rock and R&B of Melodies, offset with blitzing fusion and some scrunched-face blues moves better left to the Steve Miller Band. "Jet Stream" sets the tone, resembling a warp-speed version of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" with a streak of fusion running through it. For Hammer, Saunders and Smith departed, while drummer Gregg Geya Carter and vocalist/guitarist Glen Burtnick moved in. It's more streamlined than Black Sheep, and less rooted in jazz, falling roughly near the Foreigner/Toto axis. The two albums, both of which are fair at best, indicate Hammer's continued embrace of rock and technology. He went on to collaborate with Neal Schon, and then to his work for Miami Vice.

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