Hal Russell / NRG Ensemble

The Finnish/Swiss Tour

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Most of the time, music critics like to pretend they know everything, are hip to every artist, on top of every trend -- what bull. I knew jack about Hal Russell until I heard Kevin Whitehead rave about this recording (and Russell in general) on NPR. Sufficiently impressed, I bought the disc the same day. It turned out to be one of the smartest things I've ever done and began what has been a love for the music of Hal Russell and a sadness that he's no longer around to make more. Whitehead was spot-on: This is an extraordinary record, full of fire, reckless abandon, and thrilling playing from Russell, obviously, but also from his great band, especially reed player (and one-time Psychedelic Fur) Mars Williams. Amazingly, this was Russell's first European tour (a total of six gigs), a fact made even more amazing upon realizing that Russell at the time of this recording was 64. Better late than never, I guess. All in all, a must-purchase, if only for "Linda's Rock Vamp" (which sounds like mid-'70s Miles Davis), the ebullient "Hal the Weenie," and the blistering "Monica's Having a Baby." This is jazz-rock with a healthy dollop of brain-frying free blowing that will knock you on your ass leaving you saying, "Thank you Hal, may I have another."

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