Baker Gurvitz Army

The Baker Gurvitz Army

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Ginger Baker's mid-'70s profile took another unexpected turn following Cream's blues-rock blood and thunder and his Afro-beat matchups with Fela Kuti. He formed this straight-ahead power trio with the guitar- and bass-playing brother team of Adrian and Paul Gurvitz, who'd briefly lit up the '60s U.K. charts as Gun (of "Race With the Devil" fame). Such a step might have seemed subversively normal for Baker, but he and the brothers had an undeniable chemistry; not surprisingly, their debut album is a self-assured, aggressive affair. "Help Me" and "I Wanna Live Again" are punchy and succinct; so are the hard-driving instrumentals "Love Is" and its funkier cousin, "Phil 4." The band leavens their hard-hitting delivery with subtle orchestration and piano; the latter instrument works to haunting effect on the introspective "Memory Lane." There's some engaging humor, too; "Mad Jack"'s lyrics about a reckless outback race are silly, but kitschy fun. The only real clinker is "Since Beginning," which is bogged down from self-consciously "meaningful" lyrics and meandering delivery; its eight minutes could have benefited from judicious pruning. Naturally, no Ginger Baker album could pass without some drum solos, but they're tastefully done. He's very much a team player here, in contrast to infamous stick-bashing marathons like "Toad." That said, this album's a strong, decisive statement, and if hard rock's what you crave, you won't be disappointed.

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