Energy, Sheer Musical Force Drive Williams’ ‘Spectrum’

*** 1/2


The Tony Williams Lifetime “Spectrum: The Anthology”



It is an odd and poignant coincidence that this two-CD set of recordings by Tony William’s jazz-rock fusion band, Lifetime, was released two days after the death of the imaginative drummer. The two discs include the four albums Williams made for Polydor in the late 1960s and early ‘70s: “Emergency!,” “Turn It Over,” “Ego” and “The Old Bum’s Rush.”

Nearly three decades later, this is still difficult, attention-demanding music. Williams had been listening to performers like Jimi Hendrix and groups like Cream and MC-5. But the synthesis of jazz and rock that he came up with--powerfully aided by guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young (Khalid Yasin)--was its own entity. Each player was at the peak of his skill, and the energy and sheer musical force, especially on the first CD (“Emergency!” and “Turn It Over”) is awesome.

The second CD’s albums, recorded after McLaughlin and Young had left, fail to reach the same high level of creative achievement. But Williams is always worth hearing. With his departure, this timely release becomes an invaluable addition to the jazz catalog.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).