Tony Williams

Once in a Lifetime

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Tony Williams Lifetime, a powerful trio that the drummer formed with guitarist John McLaughlin (who was still a relative unknown at the time) and organist Larry Young, was one of the top fusion groups of 1969-1970. This double-LP has all of the music from the band's first (and best) record, Emergency!, plus five of the nine selections from Turn It Over, a quartet session that adds bassist Jack Bruce to one of the numbers. The recording quality is purposely primitive, with plenty of feedback and overmodulations that often make the ensembles sound a bit distorted. The music is quite exciting and often ferocious, a far cry from the watered-down pop fuzak of the 1990s. These explosive performances are rock-oriented but contain the sophistication of jazz improvisations. Although Lifetime did not catch on, its music still communicates and shows off the potential of fusion.