Tony Williams Lifetime: Vuelta Abajo
Tony Williams Lifetime
Turn It Over (Verve 539118)
Composed by Tony Williams.
Recorded: New York, February 1970
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Even today, The Tony Williams Lifetime is an acquired taste. Heard live back in 1969 and '70, its music could be dangerous to your health. Herbie Hancock tells a story about seeing them live for the first time. The music was so new and compelling he stayed for the whole sets even though he knew he was damaging his hearing.
On the whole, Tony Williams Lifetime's second album was not as revelatory as its debut Emergency. They do say you can only be new once. But Turn it Over still had much to offer the fledgling fusion movement. It was Williams's hope that the addition of Jack Bruce from Cream would add to the commercial appeal of the band. That didn't happen. However, Bruce's bass did add a deeper bottom end that benefited the sound on several cuts, this track being a perfect example.
"Vuelta Abajo" is a propulsive dark anthem full of sinister innuendo and pointed excoriations. It plumbs the depths of heavy metal much farther than Black Sabbath ever did. Its throbbing beat justifies the direct assault of McLaughlin's blazing guitar and Bruce's heavy bass lead playing. Williams desperately flails away at his kit to be heard above the din. Larry Young plays notes only dogs can hear. It is a very structured piece that somehow utilizes volume, distortion and chaos as main ingredients. If it doesn't give you a headache or a desire to hear even more, it hasn't done its job.
BTW: Vuelta Abajo is a region in Cuba. Why would Tony be writing about Cuba? It turns out that that region is famous for a particular cigar tobacco that really turns on the aficionados. It took a little more research to discover that Tony was an ardent cigar man. In fact, according to www.cigarafficionado.com, Williams was a "Saint Luis Rey, Hoyo de Monterrey and Cohiba smoker."
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky