Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a CD.
The group's debut album. They hadn't quite found their sound yet, so this is a fairly uneven affair. Then again, the late '70s were an odd time in music history, so I'll give them a break. We're treated to not only the smooth jazz sound that would define the band's later releases, the group also gives us a healthy dose of fusion in the style of Weather Report. There are a couple of tunes that never seem to get where they're going. Still, this is a fairly good listen, not just for completists.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #99
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #14
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #48
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #89
Tracks: The highlight here is the lead track which has become a signature piece for the group, Shaker Song (legend has it the song got its name from the drummer, who had used a shaker in his right hand while playing the drums at the same time). Also good are Opus D'opus, Cascade, and Mead. The more experimental pieces, Pygmy Funk, Leticia, are skippable. The most successful fusion track is Paula/Paw Prints.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I picked up this album about 1983. It certainly wasn't what most of my friends were listening to and it wasn't like most of the music I was listening to it. However, at age 16, I thought Spyro Gyra and Chuck Mangione was what ALL jazz music sounded like. Boy, was I wrong.
My CD booklet is autographed by saxophonist/band leader Jay Beckenstein:
Previously revisited for the blog: