Sonny Sharrock: Venus / Upper Egypt


Venus / Upper Egypt


Sonny Sharrock (guitar)


Highlife (Enemy 119-2)

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Sonny Sharrock (guitar),

Dave Snider (Korg M1, Korg Wave Station), Charles Baldwin (bass), Abe Speller, Lance Carter (drums)


Composed by Pharoah Sanders


Recorded: Jersey City, NJ, October 1990


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Sonny Sharrock was one of the early avant-garde guitarists, along with the likes of Derek Bailey, Eugene Chadbourne and James "Blood" Ulmer. He and Ulmer both achieved some commercial success, but Sonny died of a heart attack in 1994 at perhaps the height of his popularity up to that time. Sharrock's playing was often fierce and violent in nature, as with the group Last Exit, and yet there was a lyrical side to him as well, which surfaced on such later recordings as Highlife.

It was fitting that Sharrock would record Pharoah Sanders's "Venus" and "Upper Egypt" (here as one continuous track), since during his two years with Sanders in the '60's he performed on the saxophonist's Tauhid album, which included these compositions. Snider's keyboards introduce "Venus" with a Far Eastern flavor, spiced up by the drummers' bustling cymbal accents. Sonny then enters with a rich, inviting tone to play the spiritual, affirmative theme, actually sounding much like another Sonny, the Canadian guitarist Sonny Greenwich. After a slight pause, the group segues into "Upper Egypt," which Sharrock also plays with a glowing, piercing tone. His improvisation approaches his more familiar sheets of sound, but steers clear of sonic chaos. Snider's solo keeps the peace as well, melodic and featuring pleasing angular runs. Sharrock returns for his most intense feedback-laden passages, but this track (and session) is a far cry from anything cutting edge. This is the other, more polished side of Sonny Sharrock equally valid and well worth hearing.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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