Billy Cobham: Flight Time
Billy Cobham (drums)
Flight Time Live (Inakustic Inak 8616)
Billy Cobham (drums),
Don Grolnick (keyboards), Barry Finnerty (guitar), Tim Landers (bass).
Composed by Billy Cobham.
Recorded: live in Europe, 1980
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Beginning in the late '70s and lasting a decade or so, Billy Cobham seemed somewhat adrift looking for the magic he had lost from his early fusion days. He got farther away from his killer groove of jazz and rock, and mined the funk and R&B veins. Occasionally you would discover a gold nugget among the material, but you had to be good with the pan to find it. It got to the point where you didn't know what you would get when you picked up a new Billy Cobham album. Were you going to hear vocals on this one? Say it ain't so, Joe.
Thankfully "Flight Time" has him in a straight fusion mode from his Spectrum days. This impressive quartet would only play together on the European tour from which the performances for this record were culled. A glorious Cobham fusillade opens the piece. The energetic vibe is so similar to the Spectrum band from 7 years earlier that you think you are going to hear a reprise from that rocking album. The vibe may be the same, but the tune ends up going in other melodic and sonic directions. Guitarist Finnerty sounds more like Larry Coryell than like Tommy Bolin. That's not a bad thing in any way, just different. The arrangement does allow for some texture during a slow interlude. But the no-nonsense power that was so much a part of Cobham's playbook back in the day had returned full force. The question after listening to this album, which was also strewn with funky numbers, was where would Cobham's music head next? Almost three decades later, we know the answer. Let's just say that the '80s would prove challenging to Cobham and to his fans.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky