Spirit Traveler

Playing the Hits from the Motor City

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Spirit Traveler was a 1993 project that brought together several session players who had been in high demand in the 1960s and/or 1970s: drummer James Gadson and guitarists Phil Upchurch, Wah Wah Watson, David T. Walker, and Eric Gale. All of them had played on numerous R&B and/or pop sessions, and some of them had jazz credentials as well -- especially Gale, who led the '70s soul-jazz/crossover band Stuff, and Upchurch. Sadly, Spirit Traveler would be among Gale's last activities -- he died the following year at the age of 55. Far from remarkable but fairly decent, this CD contains mostly soul-jazz versions of '60s Motown classics, including major hits associated with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles ("The Track of My Tears," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"), Stevie Wonder ("Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours") and Diana Ross & the Supremes ("You Keep Me Hangin' On"). Though it would have been nice if the players had stretched out and improvised more, at least they do some interpreting instead of offering nothing but note-for-note covers. "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," for example, becomes a surprisingly bluesy vehicle for Gale. Given the level of talent on board, this album should have been a lot stronger -- nonetheless, it has its moments.

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