Nucleus

We'll Talk About It Later

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Although Nucleus made an acclaimed performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970, the U.K. proto-fusionists never became particularly popular in the States, with much of their recorded output only available as import releases. In fact, in certain quarters Nucleus is known primarily as a source of musicians who joined the latter-day Soft Machine, itself a group that never moved too far beyond cult status. Composer/keyboardist/reedman Karl Jenkins, drummer John Marshall, bassist Roy Babbington, and guitarist Allan Holdsworth all played with Nucleus at one time or another, and all had moved over to the Soft Machine lineup by the time the Softs (with Mike Ratledge the only original remaining member of the band) issued Bundles in 1975. Nucleus' second album, 1970's We'll Talk About It Later, might be of particular interest to fans of Bundles-era Soft Machine given the presence of "Song for the Bearded Lady," a Jenkins composition that later appeared in altered form on Bundles as "Hazard Profile," a vehicle for one of Holdsworth's most stunningly fleet-fingered solos on record. "Song for the Bearded Lady" kicks off We'll Talk About It Later with a fanfare and funky unison and counterpoint riffing that segue into a spacious groove and Ian Carr trumpet solo echoing the influence of electric Miles from the same time period. Chris Spedding was the band's guitarist here, and one shouldn't expect Holdsworth-style pyrotechnics from him; Spedding was a blues-rocker more than a jazzer and generally took a back seat to the soloing skills of Carr, Jenkins, and New Zealand saxophonist Brian Smith (whose duet with drummer Marshall at the conclusion of "Easter 1916" -- inspired by the Yeats poem about the Irish nationalist uprising in Dublin -- approaches the wildness of some of the era's most incendiary free jazz).

The band is at its best when firing on all cylinders (the title track, for example), but the album's mood changes are for the most part effective; "Lullaby for a Lonely Child" is a lovely down-tempo ballad (who would've guessed from that title?) with an understated horn/sax line from Carr and Smith and atmospheric bouzouki from Spedding imparting a Mediterranean flavor. New millennial listeners might wish for a time machine to go back and tell this band to lose the occasional vocals, however. The uncredited singing in "Ballad of Joe Pimp" might seem laughably polite during the age of gangsta rap; this Joe Pimp sounds about as streetwise as Gilbert O'Sullivan of "Alone Again (Naturally)" fame. Still, the song seems prescient -- its tempo and instrumentation are akin to Pink Floyd's "Money," which appeared on the scene several years later. Given Carr's long trumpet and fl├╝gelhorn lines, Jenkins' probing oboe and funk-filled electric keyboards, Spedding's rockish wah-wah guitar, Smith's freewheeling sax work, and the powerful rhythmic foundation of drummer Marshall and bassist Jeff Clyne, this version of Nucleus should appeal to any fan of late-'60s/early-'70s fusion -- either the Soft Machine-esque Brit variety or the stateside explorations of the Miles Davis school. But We'll Talk About It Later shouldn't be viewed merely through the prism of other artists; Nucleus was an original band that deserves considerably more attention than it got for pioneering a form of jazz-rock that has, for the most part, aged quite well, and We'll Talk About It Later is a noteworthy release from a strong Nucleus incarnation. [In 1995, BGO Records re-released We'll Talk About It Later in a two-CD package that also included Nucleus' first album, Elastic Rock.]

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