One of the greatest albums ever recorded by pianist Hal Galper – and that's saying a lot, given his huge legacy of records! This set has Hal working in a strongly electric mode – using an electric piano with the same sort of spacious qualities he could bring to acoustic – never jamming as hard as some of his more dynamic 70s contemporaries, but in a really great way that creates a special energy on the record – not just for Galper, but also for the groupmates, who really seem to bring out their best. The lineup includes Randy Brecker on trumpet and Michael Brecker on tenor and soprano sax – both playing in the darker edges of their sound – and the record also features guitar, bass, and drums. Some moments are funky, but the real stand out tracks have an even more special electric vibe – and titles include "This Moment", "Whatever", "Wild Bird", and "Change Up".
A silly title, but a funky little record – one of the only ones we've ever seen from guitarist Jay Berliner, and one of the best cookers from the early 70s Mainstream Records years! The sound here is almost soundtrack funk at points – lots of up-front lines from Berliner on guitar – riffing away over backings that include organ and keyboards from Paul Griffin, congas from Ray Barretto, drums from Jimmy Johnson, and additional rhythm guitar from Cornell Dupree. Wade Marcus arranged, and the sound is tight without being slick – a great sort of Kudu Records-styled groove – and an especially nice setting for Jay's guitar.
Even though Master of Puppets didn't take as gigantic a leap forward as Ride the Lightning, it was the band's greatest achievement, hailed as a masterpiece by critics far outside heavy metal's core audience. It was also a substantial hit, reaching the Top 30 and selling three million copies despite absolutely nonexistent airplay. Instead of a radical reinvention, Master of Puppets is a refinement of past innovations. In fact, it's possible to compare Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets song for song and note striking similarities between corresponding track positions on each record (although Lightning's closing instrumental has been bumped up to next-to-last in Master's running order). That hint of conservatism is really the only conceivable flaw here.
Although an earlier CD added five previously unissued tracks to the original LP Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster, this Verve Master Edition two-CD set adds just about everything else recorded during the two sessions that produced the original record, and also features 20-bit sound. Even though Gerry Mulligan was outspoken against issuing material omitted from his original recordings, it is a treat to hear how the songs evolved in the studio. Webster and Mulligan seem mutually inspired throughout the sessions, and strong performances by pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Mel Lewis are of considerable help.