25 September 2015
Gabor Szabo - 1971 - High Contrast
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5
So a jazz-funk offering from a Hungarian guitarist isn't really a shoo-in for the psychedelic genre, you can pick up on that as he judges you with his eyes on the cover - but follow on through with my logic. Play this set by a group of crack musicians including the headlining guitarist along with Bobby Womack (of "Across 110th Street" fame) and some of his cronies, and we're entering the waters of oddball 60's studio team endeavours such as Elektra Records "Zodiac" or the Electric Prunes religion-themed albums. Factor in polyrhythmic percussion and lava lamp guitar lines to reach some vibrations only a step or two removed from the Grateful Dead in full-on concert flight. That one or two steps reflects on the fact that these fellers are jazz masters at their respective instruments, which the Dead could never really claim. Look under the hood and I think this record has some psychedelic power.
Szabo's name is on the cover, and he throws in some great playing along with three strong writing contributions, but Womack is the name that we tend to consider when this album comes up. The original recording of Womack's "Breezin'" is present, which George Benson would record a few years later to kickstart smooth jazz for better or for worse. The last three tracks are also Womack's, and interesting to hear as he would recycle some of the music for some of his R&B epics later in the decade. Of course the devil is in the details and the jazz vibe paints the tunes very different colours.
If you are a psychedelic soul who grooves on the sounds of David Axelrod or the jazzier moments of the Dead or the Allman Brothers, this is actually something you want to hear. It's all in the marketing. You look at the cover, run a basic scan on the history, and you're looking at early fusion/smooth jazz romp. But take the sounds themselves, and you're on a magic carpet, wafting through the L.A. haze with the Dude alongside.