Reissue, originally released on Vertigo in 1973. Labyrinth is dark, brooding, beat-heavy, melancholic mood music courtesy of Ian Carr and the Nucleus crew. A favorite of Madlib, it goes without saying that this is one magnificent record.
Originally released on Vertigo in 1973, Labyrinth was never re-pressed, and, of course, those original copies are now very tricky to score. Like all the Nucleus records, it's aged ridiculously well and this Be With reissue, remastered from the original analogue tapes, shows off just why this deserves to be back in press.
Genius trumpeter and visionary composer Ian Carr was one of the most respected British musicians of his era. In late 1969, following the demise of the Rendell-Carr quintet, and tiring of British jazz, Carr assembled the legendary Nucleus. Under bandleader Carr, Nucleus existed as a fluid lineup of inventive, skilled musicians. At this point Carr had parted ways with guitarist Alan Holdsworth and as a result the Nucleus sound found itself returning to the core elements of groove and melody. Carr had become bolder and more self-confident in his compositions and it shows in the sheer ambition of Labyrinth, composed by Carr and with lyrics written by his wife, Sandy.
Originally a live performance by an augmented Nucleus, some of the expanded cast were brought back for the recording sessions, including vocalist Norma Winstone. Labyrinth is presented as a suite, based on the ancient Greek legend of the Minotaur with musical instruments representing the various elements of the mythology.
According to the LP's original sleeve notes, the bass clarinet represents the tragic element, the trumpet represents the heroic element and the voice represents the human element. The rest of the musicians represent the two societies of Athens and Crete and their comments on the story as it unfolds.
The album opens with the experimental, sumptuously dissonant "Origins," teasing strands of atmospheric bass clarinet introduce the first theme before swiftly fading out with a startling blast of staccato fanfares and big drums. The album soon finds its rhythm as it alights on the spellbinding and groove-friendly "Bull Dance," with subtle trumpet melodies, compelling rhythms, a psych-rock vibe, and tight soloing. And of course, there's Norma Winstone's stunning wordless vocals, that also take the lead in the next track "Ariadne," a spacey jazz song with beautiful piano, flute, and clarinet. You might recognize a snatch of it being looped by Madlib on Quasimoto's "Astro Travellin."
The first part of the improvised "Arena" closes out the first side of the album, a short experimental piece with piano and horns. The powerful second part of "Arena" swiftly builds, with vocal melodies, piano, and horns. It comes on like an alternate take on "Bull Dance," noisier, with a looser rhythm. The triumphant, shuffling Latin-jam "Exultation" leans on more scintillating vocals from Winstone, and a chunky countermelody from the rhythm section. The haunting, twelve minute "Naxos" is an incredible way to close out this remarkable record.
Remastered from the original Vertigo master tapes. Mastered by Simon Francis. Cut by Pete Norman. Gatefold sleeve.
- Vinyl LP
- First Time on Vinyl since 1973
- Remastered from the Original Vertigo Master Tapes by Simon Francis
- Cut by Pete Norman
- Gatefold Sleeve
|Ian Carr||trumpet, flugelhorn|
|Dave MacRae||electric piano|
|Gordon Beck||electric piano|
|Tony Coe||tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet|
|Brian Smith||tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute|
|Kenny Wheeler||trumpet, flugelhorn|