For a change, the late 1960s yielded up a supergroup that lived up to its hype and then some. Ginger Baker's Air Force was recorded live at Royal Albert Hall in January of 1970 -- in fact, this may be the best-sounding live album ever to come out of that notoriously difficult venue -- at a show that must have been a wonder to watch, as the ten-piece band blazed away in sheets of sound, projected delicate flute parts behind multi-layered African percussion, or built their songs up Bolero-like, out of rhythms from a single instrument into huge jazz-cum-R&B crescendos. Considering that this was only their second gig, the group sounds astonishingly tight, which greatly reduces the level of self-indulgence that one would expect to find on an album where five of the eight tracks run in excess of ten minutes. There aren't too many wasted notes or phrases in the 78 minutes of music included here, and Steve Winwood's organ, Baker, Phil Seamen, and Remi Kabaka's drums, and the sax playing by Chris Wood, Graham Bond (on alto), and Harold McNair, all stand out, especially the sax trio's interwoven playing on "Don't Care." Additionally, Denny Laine plays louder, flashier, more virtuoso-level guitar than he ever got to turn in with the Moody Blues, bending notes in exquisite fashion in the opening of Air Force's rendition of the Cream standard "Toad," crunching away on rhythm elsewhere, and indulging in some more introspective blues for "Man of Constant Sorrow." The original CD reissue, which sounded pretty good, was deleted in the early '90s, but this album has been remastered again and repackaged as part of the Ginger Baker retrospective Do What You Like on Polygram's Chronicles series. It's a must-own for jazz-rock, Afro-fusion, blues-rock, or percussion fans.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder