Miroslav Vitous

Magical Shepherd

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Magical Shepherd was Weather Report bassist Miroslav Vitous' fourth effort as a leader, released after he left the band. It's a deep, raw, funky fusion record that features -- besides one of the most hideously stupid covers imaginable -- appearances by Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, drummer James Gadson, and percussionist Airto. Vocalists Cheryl Grainger and Onike contribute as well, making this as much a basement-party and groove record as a jazz one. Vitous played as much synth as Hancock on this set and took it to the limit on "Basic Laws," a nearly 12-minute excursion into space funk with all the grease attached. The nine-and-a-half-minute "New York City" was vying to be produced by Giorgio Moroder as a disco slab, while the completely gone singing on the title track made it a precursor to Sun Ra's Lanquidity album a few years later. (Imagine Star Trek doing the "Space Is the Place" episode brought to you by T.J. Swan or Boogie Down Wine.) While this album is very much a product of it's time, that doesn't make it bad -- not by a long shot. Magical Shepherd is one of the better, darker, and weirder fuzak albums of the time. There is no soul-jazz here -- this is pedal-to-the-metal, booty-grindin' R&B crossed with edgy monitors bleeding into the red-jamming and dark-angel vocals, sending the whole thing off into the stratosphere. This Wounded Bird reissue on CD sounds fantastic and, while there are no extra tracks, you don't need them. For anyone interested in the wilder, woolier music of the mid-'70s, Magical Shepherd holds up exceedingly well.

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