Les McCann

Music Lets Me Be

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With a shift of labels from Atlantic to ABC, McCann's recordings scored an uptick in musical quality, although the records didn't sell particularly well. The lion's share of time goes to instrumentals here, with McCann and his band riding the funk-jazz wave with a strong dose of rock, giving themselves a lot of room to work out. More than ever, the electric guitarists in McCann's band, Miroslaw Kudykowski and Steuart Leibig, play an important part in the sound, soloing with a rock edge and playing rhythm with phase shifters. The highlight of the record -- and one of the least-known flashes of true inspiration in McCann's output -- is a lovely samba-inflected instrumental called "Vallarta." (McCann plays the boisterous clown so often in real life that one forgets how sensitive he really can be. "Vallarta" brings it out -- and it kicks butt, too!) McCann's handful of vocals are resonant, but the material is not top-grade. Search this one out for the instrumentals.

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