Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Crusaders with B.B.King and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Royal Jam (1982)

Around this time in their heyday, the Crusaders were experimenting with orchestral/jazz fusions in concert -- and MCA thought enough of them to capture the music in London's Royal Festival Hall one fine summer. Crusader pianist/sparkplug Joe Sample evidently arranged and orchestrated all of the Royal Philharmonic's parts himself, not necessarily with the expertise of a full-time practitioner of the craft. Too often, the orchestrations are piled on with a shovel; the orchestral "Overture" is a particularly mawkish piece of work. But the Crusaders still had their signature rhythm section pumping away, with drummer Stix Hooper in a particularly propulsive mood all night -- and they carry the excess weight easily along in the funky groove. Things come to a peak when fellow MCA signee B.B. King slips on to the stage, first in a stomping "The Thrill Is Gone" and then in one of the most infectious tracks he or the Crusaders ever cut, "Better Not Look Down." It's a master class in economy, every guitar note landing squarely in Stix's pocket, Sample matching every brief lick with a funky comment on the electric piano, the King's command over the British audience complete. King also tries out the big Crusaders vocal hit "Street Life," but this time, guest singer Josie James has him beat -- and there are some evidently unplanned numbers for King and the Crusaders as encores. Elsewhere, guitarist David T. Walker is on-hand to provide economic, to-the-point commentary in his own style; James is also featured in an exuberant "Burnin' Up the Carnival." Apart from his reliable comping on electric piano. Sample also provides some elaborate elegance on solo acoustic piano on "Fly With Wings of Love," while tenor player Wilton Felder acts as the genial emcee. The original double-LP issue took in the second half of the programs in London -- about an hour of music, easily transferable to one CD -- and it's one of the band's most enjoyable albums of that period. -- AMG
01. Overture (I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today)
02. One Day I'll Fly Away
03. Fly With Wings of Love
04. Burnin' Up the Carnival
05. Last Call
06. Thrill Is Gone
07. Better Not Look Down
08. Hold On
09. Street Life
10. I Just Can't Leave Your Love Alone
11. Never Make a Move Too Soon
The Crusader-Royal Jam
Hotfile / Uploading @ 320K (Vinyl rip)