Last Exit

From the Board

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Different titles for different formats: the CD release From the Board contains exactly the same Last Exit soundboard tapes as Cassette Recordings '87, drawing from three different shows (though the liners make it hard to tell, and also don't seem to realize that Shannon Jackson isn't the drummer's full name). Whatever it's called, it's more fine work from free jazz's answer to heavy metal. This one opens with a 20-minute free improvisation titled "Line of Fire," which naturally becomes the album's focal point; it finds the group running through their entire bag of tricks, from bluesy rock grooves and tense, frantic, hyperspeed group passages to slow, minimal sound explorations and gradual buildups that showcase the group's effortless communication. The ending section is especially terrific: Peter Brotzmann's tenor wails drunken-sounding laments over a slow, sludgy wall of noise. As for the rest of the album, Jackson's growling, demented blues vocals are showcased on a one-minute "Big Boss Man" and "Ma Rainey," though the latter soon shifts into an unrecognizable free improv. "Sore Titties" and "My Balls/Your Chin" are pretty good indicators of the group's opinion of decorum, not to mention pretty accurate descriptions of what those tracks sound like. "Sore Titties" is especially far out; Brotzmann rumbles away on bass saxophone while Bill Laswell plays around with two-handed tapping effects, and Sonny Sharrock explores sounds completely off the fretboard of his guitar. Last Exit albums are pretty much of a piece: if you like their sound, most of what's out there is pretty high-quality, and From the Board is no exception.

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