3rd Force

Force of Nature

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Whatever happened to new age? You know, that transcendental, largely acoustic, post-hippie music you listened to while burning incense and increasing your awareness? Like every other category in instrumental music, its definitions have stretched to the bursting point, basically rendering the term's initial intentions moot. One of the labels responsible for the radical alteration of the image is Higher Octave, whose crazed sense of worldbeat, jazz, pop, and urban inventiveness has made most of its releases far too eclectic for the new age category come Grammy time. Grandest case in point so far is Force of Nature, the latest hard-to-peg offering by 3rd Force, a guitar-keyboards percussion trio whose mosaic of funk, blues, jazz, and Latin music defies any notion that pop instrumental music is just too simple. And that's just on the first track, which sets a tone for the flashy unpredictability of the disc. Though the band will never hit the R&B charts, much of the synth groovin' cooked up by William Aura and friends casts spells darker and more insightful than most rhythm and jazz releases. Most of the new agey elements -- nature sounds, bird calls -- come in the intros that then give way to memorable ocean drives and jungle melodies. Part of the crossover appeal is provided by all-star guests like Craig Chaquico, Chaquico, keyboardist Ozzie Ahlers, saxmen Gary Herbig and Boney James, and Peter White, whose acoustic guitar and accordion work on "Here Comes the Night" rivals his playing on his own albums.

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