JJ 02/69: Bob Thiele – Light My Fire

First published Jazz Journal, February 1969


Another bogus jumbling of pop and jazz, realizing the worst of both.

A not undistinguished studio gathering plod shamelessly through colourless charts full of snippy Alpertian brass figures, elephantine instrumentation (piano, 3 guitars, sitar, Fender-bass), and confused multiple solos, dragging behind all a rhythm section with about as much imagination and variety as Chinese water torturists. A sad spectacle. The pieces thus mercilessly mutilated were deservedly successful originals by the Byrds, the Doors, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan. Particularly galling was the starched-collar chorus crooning disinfected Dylan on Rainy. Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower was monsooned by fanfares heralding nothing, and ensemble soup.

A couple of passable Szabo solos save the gig from total disaster, though he sounds understandably swamped at times; Scott’s petulant tenor never rises from the Tartarean depths. Bob Thiele, an A&R man with impresario presumptions, had the ‘chutzpah’ to give himself top billing (plus sleeve photo) while supplying the ill-conceived date with nothing more than its gimmicky scheme. No real synthesis of musical forms can be effected in such an ignobly unconscientious situation where, to begin with, hasty capitalization of moneymaking hits takes no account of their inherent unsuitability to adaptation. Hothouse flowers like Rainy and Fire, basically blues overlaid with sophisticated personal touches, transplant badly, particularly into an instrumental setting. Hardier shoots from the Beatles, the Cream, Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Simon, and others might fare better, with decent arrangements.
Fred Bouchard

(a) Forest Flower; (b) Rainy Day Woman No. 12 & 35; (b) Krishna (18 min) – (a) Light My Fire; (b) Fakin’ It; (b) Eight Miles High; (b) Sophisticated Wheels (18 min)
(a) Gabor Szabo, Dennis Budimer, Louis Morell (gtr); Bill Plummer (sitar); Bud Shank, Buddy Collette, Bob Hardaway, Tom Scott (reeds); Lew McCreary, Mike Barone (tbn); Oliver Mitchell, Ray Triscari, Jimmy Zito (tpt); Lincoln Mayorge (pno/bs); Max Bennett (Fender-bs); Howard Johnson (tuba); Jimmy Gordon (dm); Gary Coleman (perc). 11/8/67.
(b) Gabor Szabo, Dennis Budimer, Louis Morell (gtr); Bill Plummer (sitar); Dick Leith, Lew McCreary (tbn); Oliver Mitchell, Gary Barone, Bud Brisbois (tpt); Tom Scott (ten); Mike Melvoin (pno/org/hps); Carol Kaye (Fender-bs); John Guerin (dm); Emile Richards (perc). 14/9/67. Vocal group on ‘Rainy Day’: California Dreamers. Arrangements: Sid Feller.
(Impulse IMLP / SIPL 511 37s 8d)