Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

The Best of Brian Auger's Oblivion Express [Polygram]

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Keyboard player Brian Auger's various Oblivion Express lineups between 1971 and 1975 produced timely music reminiscent of such other progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion performers of the time as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and (especially when tenor Alex Ligertwood was singing) Traffic, among others. (Sometimes, the straight jazz influences are overt, as when 1973's "Whenever You're Ready" ends with the main riff of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme.") For a long time after, such groove-oriented music, with Auger's bluesy organ and piano improvisations as its instrumental signature, seemed distinctly dated. But more than two decades later, the group's prowess as a jam band impresses anew on this two-disc, nearly two-and-a-half-hour, 24-track compilation. Featuring such players as drummers Robbie McIntosh and Steve Ferrone (both later of the Average White Band), the Express plays extended funky arrangements of originals and covers by John McLaughlin, Marvin Gaye, and Wes Montgomery, as most tracks run on five minutes or more. Auger maintains a rhythmic drive that reins in the solos and gives the band a strong R&B base, but beyond that the players explore the tunes fully. The set concludes with two post-Express Auger tracks, the later of which, "Sundown," recorded in 1987, has a more pop/rock sound than the other selections.

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