Formed in 1974, Light Year were what seems to be a short lived fusion band operating out of the Bay Area of San Francisco. After support slots with the likes of The Tubes, the band's attempts to secure a record contract culminated in a showcase gig that had "....record executives exiting the club en masse with their hands over their ears" according to their biog.
From what I've heard they certainly did not deserve such treatment, as they serve up a potent stew of jazz fusion music that fair belts along. A highly competent ensemble featuring the diverse talents of Cornelius Williams (piano), Zak McGrath (drums), Randy Sellgren (guitars), John Yu (bass), Doug Johnson (percussion, marimba, vibes, etc) and the soaring vocals of Sharon Pucci.
This album, a posthumous collection of recordings finally seeing the light of day some 36 years after the event, kicks off with a crash and Giant Babies sees some furious guitar work from Randy and is an indication that if, like me, jazz fusion ticks all your right boxes, we're in for a treat. Sharon's melancholy lines in this song based around the refrain "Don't forget my love" do not prepare you for the outpourings of her soaring larynx on the next song, Zada. Some of you may be familiar with the renowned UK jazz singer Cleo Laine, and Sharon's voice, possibly starting from a higher point, puts me in mind of the British chanteuse. Probably the best vehicle for Sharon on the album is the poignant penultimate song The World, a lovely piece of work. She also gets to do some reasonable scat singing, especially on Buggy Cadavers (Nirvana would have killed for a song title like that!).
The rest of the band certainly get to show their chops, which are up there with the best fusion bands of the 70s. Think Return To Forever meets Zappa at his jazziest, with a bit of Etheridge era Soft Machine thrown in for good measure. Buggy Cadavers features Doug Johnson, who gets to hit all manner of vibes and similar instruments. The Nocturnal Avenger Of Human Potential (another great title) might have been what Black Sabbath would have sounded like if their formative influences were jazz rather than blues. It rocks!
The last song, the 20 minute Aura/Open Any Windows is a tour de force of jazz rock stylings and has a distinctly Black Napkins feel to it in the first 10 minutes or so, no bad thing indeed! The second half of this epic features mucho percussion and some nice scatting by Sharon, before leading into a keyboard led improv.
Before I reviewed this album I had never heard of this band, and I can well see myself returning to the album again and again. If you're a fan of 70s jazz fusion, buy this and you won't be disappointed.
If you're in Europe buy it here..
Or if you're in the USA buy it here...
3.5 out of 5
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