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Live Around the World: Where We Come from Tour 1998-1999

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A live album not to be missed, Live Around the World is a two-disc set full of funk, fusion, fiery fretwork, and just plain fun. It's obvious these guys are having the time of their lives, working and reworking material old and new. From the zydeco funkiness of "Swamp Stomp" to the Headhunters' era funk of "The Perfect Date," this music has a groove that won't let up. When Frank Gambale goes into the melody of Led Zeppelin's classic drum feature, "Moby Dick," it's over a Steve Smith swing/funk rhythm the likes of which John Bonham could never have imagined. A 15-minute "Mr P.C." resembles the Coltrane original only in the brief head before the band takes it to places previously unknown.

The group stretches out on most of the tracks here, and the foursome uses the time to shine individually and as a group. Gambale's fleet fingers are amazing, burning up the fretboard like Dimeola, Coryell, or McLaughlin, then delivering an extended slice of tasty Wes Montgomery smoothness that ought to get radio airplay on "First Thing This Morning." Tom Coster's Hammond B-3 is also in the front seat much of the time. He occasionally recalls Larry Young back in the Tony Williams Lifetime days, reminds listeners of his own great '70s work with Santana, and does a mean Jimmy Smith on "Listen Up" and "First Thing This Morning." For a change of pace, Coster turns the Santana classic "Europa" into an accordion love song out of a Paris bistro. On "It's a Jungle out There," bassman Baron Browne captures Black Market-era Jaco, while "Over and Out" is a hard driving jam à la Return to Forever. Steve Smith brought his personal fusion crusade out of the studio to eager crowds for the tour captured in this collection. Judging by the recorded results, it was a huge musical success.

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