Group 87, the trio of trumpeter Mark Isham, guitarist Peter Maunu, and bass player Patrick O'Hearn, plays excellent rock-based electrified instrumental music that is both intriguing to listen to and difficult to classify. Jazz-rock fusion is perhaps the necessary catchall into which it must be placed, but there is precious little identifiable jazz being played, while the music is too complicated for rock. By 1980, the term "new age" was gaining primacy to describe a wide variety of styles of instrumental music, and that works too, as also does "ambient," at least here and there. Musicians notoriously reject musical categorization, as you might expect, since it isn't their problem but rather a question for reviewers and record store clerks who want to give potential customers a sense of what they're in for. The potential customer for Group 87's self-titled album is in for some interesting, if at times difficult listening, as the three musicians and a couple of guests construct alternately stirring and contemplative musical structures without regard to pleasing anyone but themselves and listeners who want something unusual. It's surprising that a major label undertook such a release, and less surprising that Columbia Records cut the band loose after one album, though EMI America later took a flier for a second disc. (According to annotator Robert Silverstein in the 2000 One Way reissue, this was all down to the same A&R man, former Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby, during tenures at each label.) But that's good news for anyone with a taste for the adventurous.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann