Roy Ayers

Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981

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That an item like this -- 13 completely unreleased recordings from Roy Ayers' vintage Polydor period (1976-'81) -- even exists is a strange and wonderful thing. That it is merely the first volley in a slew of issues is a kind of pop culture miracle. BBE has compiled 134 absolutely fantastic tracks form the Ayers vault. Keep in mind that, though none of these sides ever appeared on an album (the version of "Mystic Voyage" here is an alternate), it's not because they were in any way substandard. Ayers merely documented everything he wrote from the period and recorded, mixed, and mastered it all, whether or not it ever made it to LP. Here, Ayers and friends -- who include bassist and longtime collaborator William Allen, and three different lead vocalists in Merry Clayton, Carla Vaughn, and Sylvia Cox -- work out funk, mellow soul, and smooth jazz grooves that are as fine as anything he issued during this prolific period. The music is daring, accessible, saturated in dancefloor rhythms and the kind of lush, spot-on production that has become Ayers' trademark. While there are a pair of tracks that have been issued as 12" A-sides by BBE, the label does a great job of keeping the selections fresh for those punters seeking not to spend their hard-earned dollars on compilations that overlap. Standouts include "Mystery of Love," and "I Really Love You" with Clayton, "Sugar" with Vaughn, the funky vibes-drenched instrumental "Green and Gold," with Bobby Lyle playing tough counterpoint to Ayers on electric piano, the alternate "Mystic Voyage," and the amazing "I Just Wanna Give It Up," and "I Am Your Mind," with the dirtiest bassline on the package. This is necessary for all Ayers fans. For Ayers collectors, this is the Holy Grail, but stay tuned, there's more coming.

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