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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Steps, England

Steps - s/t. 1977 EMI C 068-60190.

Steps seems to be a popular word in the jazz fusion world. We just recently featured an album called "Steps" by Sangi. There's the Japanese fusion group Side Steps, and of course John Coltrane's jazz classic "Giant Steps". And then there's the Australian fusion group Stepps (of "Waltz for Tiger Joe" fame).

This is a big time rarity sent in by The Alaskan Connection. As with the last two entries, I had not even heard of this album until he brought it up. He states "Even though they were British, this album was only released in France... Perhaps that accounts for its near total obscurity. In fact, the only piece of info I've ever seen is actually buried way in the back of the "La Discographie du Rock Francais", in the "foreign artists released in France" section." So I pulled out my dogeared first edition copy of said book, and sure enough, there it is! Never even noticed it before. So that's why I added the catalog number (taken from the book) at the top, as I cannot find one piece of info on the Internet about this, including a cover photo or scan (the ones here are provided by the AC - as he always does).

"La Discographie du Rock Francais" describes the album as "This English trio (keyboards, sax, drums), helped along by a bassist on this album, plays a solely instrumental music in the same vein as SOFT MACHINE on "Fourth". This record reveals a brilliant, united and gifted line up, made up of individuals full of talent such as drummer Roy DODDS with his fine and nuanced style, saxophonist Steve MULLIGAN and keyboardist Steve FRANKLIN. All of them are greatly inspired during their interventions or in the construction and development of the themes. This album is essential for those who love "Fourth" and that kind of cold, and at the same time inflamed, jazz rock which was played by RATLEDGE, DEAN and others."

The AC says "One interesting thing is that Hanny Rowe of Gong plays bass on about half of the tracks. Also, it comes in a really cool gatefold sleeve with very weird artwork. Musically, I'd say they were heavily influence by mid-70s Soft Machine. The second side features some slightly more original ideas, with a couple of moody synth-driven pieces." I agree, this one had a bit of an edge, moving closer to my personal target zone. And where that angst shows up most is in the drumming, which is very active and drives the music forward in an exciting way. Make no mistake, this is late 70's fusion - the ever present lead soprano sax guarantees that. But it's a good example of the style, and I think the fusion heads out there would go nuts over this one.

Priority: none

More info from the AC:

Steve Franklin - Keyboards
Steve Mulligan - Saxophones
Roy Dodds - Drums & Percussion
Hanny Rowe (courtesy of Gong) - Bass (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8)
John Woolard - Bass (tracks 3, 6, 7)

Side 1:

1 - Same But Different
2 - Slow Lane
3 - Wolves
4 - Thankyar

Side 2:

5 - Connundrum
6 - Swimming Pool
7 - Serpents, Coiled And Plumed
8 - Sortawater


nnknsh said...

Steve Franklin have worked with Phil Miller (with In Cahoots) and Hugh Hopper (with Conglomerate).

The Steps LP is mentioned on his discography here.


Tom said...

Thanks Nobuhisa!