Tony Williams Lifetime
Emergency!


5.0
classic

Review

by SgtPepper STAFF
September 3rd, 2012 | 28 replies


Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Occasionally overlooked, but undeniably one of the most significant efforts that helped take Jazz music to the next level.

Is it Jazz or is it Rock" This was undoubtedly the question on the mind of every listener when first venturing into the content of Emergency!. The music is centered around the soloistic spontaneity of Jazz music, but features absolutely no wind instruments which were once considered essential instruments of the genre. In fact, during the time of its release, the album was virtually a pariah. The Jazz community completely repudiated The Tony Williams Lifetime altogether, as no one considered the group was doing anything revolutionary. But the album's heretical nature served to be a catalyst that would inspire the musical styles of several future Jazz Fusion acts.

As we descend into "Emergency", Tony Williams erupts out of silence and deploys a bombastic and eccentrically complex drumming style. Larry Young and John McLaughlin then ornament his atypical percussive rhythms with their respective organ and guitar arrangements. John McLaughlin soon asserts the spotlight as he indulges into his own exploratory solos, while the other instruments provide a rambunctious backing section for his performances. This being highly unorthodox at the time as electric guitars were never featured as dominant instruments in Jazz, but there lies the charismatic allure of the album. It is the electrifying synergy of John McLaughlin and Tony Williams that makes Emergency! such an impetuous release of adrenaline. Exhibiting the energetic musicianship that would later be defined as the inveterate nature of Jazz Fusion. "Something Special" and "Via The Spectrum Road" show the group embracing the conventions of rock music so intimately, that it is arguable as to whether the Jazz influences are even present. For example, "Via The Spectrum Road", displays a variety of musical characteristics that are synonymous with rock music. There is a coalescence of electric and acoustic guitar playing that express a very subtle blues tone. The song, as well as several others in the album, even feature prominent singing. The orchestral arrangements of "Via The Spectrum Road" are also furnished to compliment Tony Williams' singing, while almost completely ignoring the instrumental vitality and improvised spontaneity that is the core essence of Jazz.

The nature of Emergency! is merely a reflection of its time. Rock music was dominating the sound of the late 1960's, and artists were expanding the conventions of traditional musical orchestration and exploring new dimensions as Psychedelia grew in prominence. Segregation had long been abolished in the United States, while promoting equality between racial classes. New ideologies were flowing throughout the western world, as hedonistic lifestyles and eastern philosophies were replacing the Christian fundamentals that once embodied the social norms and morals of society. In other words, it was a time to experiment and leave old traditions behind. An attitude that would influence artists to direct their music into more abstract routes. "Where" alludes the embrace of new philosophies, and serves as a prime example of the group's innovative style. It posses many different compositional movements, from exuding psychedelic ambiences to explosive musicianship. John McLaughlin and Larry Young also deploy some elaborate effects on their respective instruments that add a sense of cosmic dissonance to the music. This is one of the first Jazz albums to incorporate electrical atmospheric textures, along with Miles Davis' In A Silent Way which was released earlier that year.

But Emergency! tends to shine its brightest when the group devises a frantic style of playing, and that is what makes "Vashkar" and "Spectrum" such impeccable performances. From Tony Williams' dynamic and sensuously bombarding percussive rhythms to John McLaughlin's exhilarating solos. both songs are moments of suspense filled with convoluted and utterly maniacal instrumentation. This is the album that turned the Jazz world upside down, and established a whole new approach to the genre. Emergency! is the template that all future Jazz Fusion acts would soon follow, mirroring its hyperactive and assiduous display of musicianship. This album is perhaps the most free we will see John McLaughlin perform until his work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Because of the album's prominent rock leanings, his guitar playing is much more spirited and aggressive, providing a truly captivating performance on his part. I cannot express how truly ingenious this album is. It is a performance that no mere words can even begin to do it justice, it has to be experienced to honestly fathom its imaginative and deranged brilliance.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 3rd 2012


4501 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This a must hear for all Mahavishnu Orchestra fans, this album is just fucking relentless craziness. And some of John McLaughlin's most frantic guitar playing.

Chrisjon89
September 3rd 2012


3833 Comments


I'll add it to the list. Good review man.

JamieTwort
September 3rd 2012


26988 Comments


I need to hear this. I love John Mclaughlin and jazz fusion in general so I'm sure this will be right up my alley.

Great job on the review as always, pos'd.

Piglet
September 3rd 2012


7766 Comments


looks genius

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 3rd 2012


4501 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Chris

Thanks, man. Hope you like it.



@Jamie

Yeah, I highly recommend it for you. You'll definitely feel right at home.

scissorlocked
September 3rd 2012


3528 Comments


good one Paper!

may need your opinion when I decide to explore such territories

ZedO
September 3rd 2012


1096 Comments


"This a must hear for all Mahavishnu Orchestra fans, this album is just fucking relentless craziness. And some of John McLaughlin's most frantic guitar playing."


will check this soon, good job man...

YoYoMancuso
September 3rd 2012


12742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

well it's about time you reviewed something



anyway this was a great review, and if McLaughlin's on here I gotta get this ASAP. Pos'd

menawati
September 3rd 2012


16587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Will check out for sure, nice review, pos'd

GiaNXGX
September 3rd 2012


4865 Comments


Oh my god man, I thought you dissapeared from "writing reviews" since you used to publish at least 4 reviews a week. I agree with the rating my friend. Tony Williams is arguably one of the most underrated and overlooked jazz musicians, ironically; I was listening to his album "Life Time" yesterday (my favorite of his), one of my favorite jazz albums of all time.. Have you heard "Life Time", it is dark and obscure but at the same time beautiful and interesting.. It is one of those "hard" Jazz albums that take some time to fully digest but when you get used to it, it becomes the masterpiece it truly is. "Dimensions & Extensions," "Complete Communion" & Cannoball's "Something Else" are excellent jazz albums you should check (if you haven't) I would like to start rambling about jazz with a guy as awesome as you :]

GiaNXGX
September 3rd 2012


4865 Comments


Do you know what "Pos'd" stands for... I'm not sure but I don't think it refers to "Paragraphs of
shit" [: btw pos'd

Gyromania
September 3rd 2012


25902 Comments


most useless feature of the site

Gyromania
September 3rd 2012


25902 Comments


oh and great work on the review man! i'll have to check this out.

porch
September 3rd 2012


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

don't capitalize genres

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 3rd 2012


4501 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks everyone, for the kind words and feedback.



@Gian

Yeah I've heard 'Life Time', and it is a pretty heavy Bop album. Good taste man, Sam Rivers' Dimensions & Extensions and Somethin' Else are excellent, I havent heard Complete Communion yet but I'll look into it since you're recommending it.





@Captain

You'd really like this, its heavy as shit. and a man with your tastes would really enjoy this.

GiaNXGX
September 3rd 2012


4865 Comments


Oh... Positive & Negative :::: Haha, thanks. Yeah Paperback, look for it; Complete Communion is
compromised of 2 long free-jazz suites. You will like it, I'm pretty sure. Don Cherry was an amazing
composer, back in the days when he released that LP many free jazz albums were more about experimental
solos and saxophone or drumming virtuosos, Complete Communion is a very innovative piece; though it
contains certain compositional elements that can be considered avant-garde, both of its tracks remain
as very natural non-forced flowing pieces. Don was a big friend of Coleman and Coltranne and this work
shares a similar aesthetic with "Ascension". The rhythm section is insane, Grimes & Blackwell rule
hard. I can see you digging it if you enjoy anything else by Blue Note records from their 1500 series
hard sector (4000 until the 80's)

Manic_
September 4th 2012


447 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice review, easily one of my favorite drummers. keep up the jazz reviews man.

liledman
September 4th 2012


3828 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice, this album is usually brushed past in favour of Mahavishnu stuff, though in a lot of ways I prefer this.

menawati
November 24th 2012


16587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

brilliant

menawati
November 24th 2012


16587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wonder why 'Believe It' isnt on sputnik thats great too



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