Recent listening, current

Sunday, May 31, 2015

202. Flying Island / Flying Island (1975)

The self-titled debut from the fruitful but short lived Connecticut group Flying Island has excellent music to offer and deserves wider recognition. Things begin with a sharply executed "Funky Duck," but the material takes interesting turns into weirder territory and more aggressive textures like on "Flying Island" and "I Love to Dance." The music proceeds across shifting time signatures in tradeoffs between Fred Fraioli's electric violin and keyboards by Jeff Bova. Fraioli speaks in squalling, anthemic strokes, sometimes smooth, sometimes menacing, bookended by his fiery runs and escalated, wailing solos. Also present are guitarist Ray Smith, bassist Thom Preli, and drummer Bill Bacon. Smith and Bacon emerge as superb players that make the album much heavier than your typical mid-70s fusion outing. After the violin-keyboard pyrotechnics are over, their work is often the force that distinguishes the band from dozens of similar acts. Flying Island and the follow-up Another Kind of Space should interest fans of higher profile names in '70s fusion like Jean-luc Ponty, Weather Report, or Mahavishnu Orchestra. The musicians are competent and talented, and the total package is professional and well rehearsed. Yet it is not without the spark needed to bring a studio take home for the listener. Highly recommended!

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