Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spyro Gyra - Access All Areas (1984)


Recorded in Gainesville, St. Petersburg, and Orlando, Florida, November 17-19, 1983.

Note: this release was originally purchased as a double LP, later replaced by a CD.

Unlike some rock/pop bands, jazz groups are usually just as good (or better) live than on record. That is certainly the case on this release. This 7 piece touring edition of Spyro Gyra consists of top notch musicians. Keyboardist Tom Schuman is technically brilliant at his instrument, but he can get too flashy. In the words of Emperor Joseph II in the play/movie Amadeus: "There are simply too many notes, that's all." However, as a long time fan of the band, I've come to accept his playing style and it doesn't bother me near as much now as it used to. My real beef about this CD is that it is incomplete. In their words: "In our effort to bring you the original albums for the cost of a single CD, one selection has been omitted." I guess I can understand that, but why remove one of the better pieces AND the album opener at that?!? The track Old San Juan originally opened the album and that's what they decide to omit. Next time, guys, check with me first, wouldya?  (Update: the band offered an mp3 file of the missing track Old San Juan on their website in October 2012)

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #59
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #41
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #79  

Tracks: This band has two "hits", Shaker Song and Morning Dance. They must have played them thousands of times apiece. If they ever get tired of performing them, you'd never know it from listening here. Also good are the ballad Harbor Nights and Islands In The Sky. Heliopolis turns into an eleven minute extended jam session that is little too extended for my tastes. Schuman plays a great blues boogie piece, called Schu's Blues. It's one of the few times you actually hear dynamic contrast on a recording. Fun stuff. The disc ends with two original tracks that don't appear on any studio recordings.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: With about 8 of my friends, I saw the group mere weeks before this album was recorded. Also, when I was a freshman in college, there was a time when I was playing this album on my turntable(!) and someone (not me) opened up all the windows and turned it up full blast. The strange thing is that all of us were really enjoying the music. Looking back, it seems surreal. This a strange choice for 18-year-olds to be jamming to, for sure. I wonder what the other residents of Berry Hall (below) thought of us.

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