Monday, August 26, 2013

Caldera's first two albums back on CD today!!!

The first two albums recorded by the cult LA fusion band Caldera for the Capitol label -- "Caldera" (1976) and "Sky Islands" (1977) -- are being reissued today as a twofer CD in Europe by the UK label Cherry Red. Both had been previously reissued on CD ("Caldera" in 2004 in the USA and "Sky Islands" in 2011 only in Japan), but quickly became out-of-print.

Their debut self-titled LP, "Caldera," recorded in July 1976, was produced by Crusaders' founding member Wayne Henderson (a great trombonist, but who didn't play on the date) and engineered by Rik Pekkonen at Hollywood Sound Studios. At that time, Larkin Arnold was the A&R for the jazz division of Capitol Records, and tried to form a good cast of fusion artists, having also signed Brazil's top trombonist Raul de Souza and American keyboardist Bobby Lyle to the label.

Despite the kitsch cover art (with an horrible photo on the back cover), the album attracted a lot of attention due to its high level of musicianship and the incredible line-up: Jorge Strunz (from Costa Rica) on acoustic & electric guitars; Eduardo (aka Eddie) Del Barrio (from Argentina and working a lot for Earth, Wind & Fire, to which he composed the mega-hit "Fantasy" on the "All 'n' All" LP) on acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, synths and vocals; the much missed Cuban drummer Carlos Vega (who would later become a supersession sideman for Dave Grusin during the GRP heyday); the Brazilian percussionist Mike "Baiano" Azevedo (where are you now, Baiano?); and the only two North American members of the band, bassist Dean Cortez (from Florida) and reedman Steve Tavaglione (from California) who doubled on soprano sax and several kinds of flutes.

Not to mention three special guests: trombonist Raul de Souza (who would record his best-selling "Sweet Lucy" album for Capitol some months later, produced by the late George Duke), vocalist Carolyn Dennis, and another Brazilian guy, Robertinho Silva (who was touring with Airto at that time) on percussion.

The program includes only six tracks, most of them composed by Jorge Strunz and/or Eddie DelBarrio, and the best ones are the longer ones like "Guanacaste," "Exaltation," "Synesthesia" and "El Juguete."

Caldera's second album, "Sky Islands" is arguably the group masterpiece. Originally released in 1977, features the then-newcomer vocalist Dianne Reeves on the first two tracks (the radio-friendly title tune and the gorgeous "Ancient Source"), with the band line-up consisting of Eduardo del Barrio (acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Moog, Roland & Oberheim Polyphonic synths), Jorge Strunz (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, percussion), Steve Tavaglione (flutes & saxophones), Carlos Vega (drums), Dean Cortez (electric bass), Hector Andrade (timbales, congas, percussion), and Mike Azevedo (congas, percussion), who wrote the last track, "Pescador."

The list of special guests includes keyboardist Larry Dunn, drummers Chester Thompson and Ralph Humphrey, flugelhorn master Ralph Rickert, percussionist Ray Armando (a much-in-demmand musician in the mid-70s, when he recorded on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Urubu," Stan Getz/João Gilberto's "The Best of Two Worlds" and Michael Frank's "Sleeping Gypsy," to mention only three landmark albums, but later disappeared! where are you now, Ray?) and a string section masterfully arranged & conducted by Eduardo's brother George Del Barrio.

We hope to see the two other Caldera albums also being reissued on CD someday soon: "Time and Chance" (1978, with Gregg Lee replacing Dean Cortez on bass, drummers Alex Acuña and Robertinho Silva replacing Carlos Vega, plus Luis Conte guesting on timbales & congas on the track "Horizon's End"), and "Dreamer" (1979, when Dean Cortez returned as special guest in one song, and Flamenco guitarist Gino D'Auri played on "Brujerías.") Fusion at its best!

No comments: