Brand X

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Timeline Review

by Michael G. Nastos

The last and reformed editions of Brand X, all sans Phil Collins, are heard on this double CD set of live performances in Chicago and New York City, respectively. Founding members John Goodsall (electric guitar) and Percy Jones (electric bass guitar) lead the band through classic fusion territory familiar to fans of the band; most of their best material is heard at sometime or another on this two hour excursion. For the Chi-town dates, drummer Kenwood Dennard, percussionist Morris Pert, and keyboardist Robin Lumley comprise perhaps the best overall talent of the many incarnations of Brand X. Highlights include the galloping guitar and klip-klop percussion that inform"Disco Suicide" with a frequently repeated second melody. "Access to Data" uses multi-melodies, a 10/8 figure, and furious guitar coda. Stepping up to 11/8 then 7/4 during "Nuclear Burn," Goodsall uses one of many direct references to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a repeated line sparking Lumley's screaming synth. The final three tracks are muddy, not as audible or well recorded. A 6/8 head, bridge, and tail for "Euthanasia Waltz" sounds flat, "Malaga Virgin" is a ten-minute Jones-led 4/4 jam, and "Deadly Nightshade" uses a pretty bell-like sweetness to a leaden or quick funk and chiming, repeated synth lines for guitar, truly a great tune. For the second CD in N.Y.C., it's just Jones and Goodsall with drummer Frank Katz, and this stripped-down edition is naturally not as potent, but good nonetheless. The free symphonic electric guitar/synth three-minute egg "Guitar Concerto" is followed by the 6/4 stair step Mahavishnu-type funk of "Thalidomide Squid," while "Strangeness" is simply a workout for Jones and Katz.Katz does a rock slow and fleet, wild "Drum Solo," and "Church of Hype" is a straight 4/4 rock number. The final two selections are in the Mahavishnu bag too; "Healing Dream" is an acoustic guitar solo with John McLaughlin's signature repetition, while "Macrocosm" uses similar changes only in 7/8 with Goodsall's stinging and poignant electric six string. Brand X has always been an expert at using the improvisation of jazz melted over the base loudness of rock or R&B rhythms. They were hardly the off brand, more like the real thing in the fusion-oriented '70s, and this disc proves the idea was still viable beyond its time.

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