Gary Boyle – The Dancer & Electric Glide
In the second of this week’s “two-for-one” review slots, Esoteric graces us with two more reissues, set for release at the end of the month. This time around it’s Isotope guitarist and constant factor, Gary Boyle, with his two solo albums, The Dancer and Electric Glide, which first saw the light of day in 1977 and 1978 respectively.
Now, if you’d visited HFoS a year or so back, you would’ve found a place of seething hostility, so far as the the jazz-rock was concerned. It was a musical pariah, persecuted by the very same pen that writes these words now. A lot can happen in a year though, and whereas at one time, anything hitting the HFoS Towers’ doormat intent on jazz-fusion would’ve received short shrift and a thorough kicking on the car park, nowadays the sinewy grooves of bands such as Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra and the aforementioned Isotope have been welcomed into our collective bosom, nurtured and – dare I say it – thoroughly enjoyed.
The Dancer fits into this newfound appreciation of all things fusion, somewhat perfectly.
With the help of an assorted band of musicians, including Zoe Kronberger, who also appeared on the final Isotope album, Deep End, Gary Boyle delivers a sultry collection of sounds that, as Sid Smith notes in the accompanying booklet, could easily be a continuation of that record. Nice!
There’s a sense of urgency driving much of this album, whether in the nifty finger-work of Boyle, or the often frenetic, funk-fuelled basslines that bounce around the album like Smartie-dosed five year olds. There’s also some wonderful keyboard work, courtesy, in the main, of the aforementioned Kronberger, but with contributions also from ex-Zombie, Rod Argent; Brand X’s Robin Lumley and Nucleus’s Dave Macrae.
This ivory tinkling adds a richer dimension and lends a progressive feel throughout, with Mini Moogs, String Synthesisers, Clavinets and the wondrous electric piano (surely a Rhodes), being employed as liberally as Tory legislation to kill off the poor. The Fender Rhodes (if it truly be one of these ambrosial beasts – and it certainly sounds like one) gets a fine old workout on ‘Apple Crumble’, proving that this tasty wee treat is not only one of the kings of puddingdom, but also a delectable diversion in the jazz-rock canon.
And it’s not all finger-searing exigency on the The Dancer, with laidback, mood-pieces such as ‘Now That We’re Alone’ and ‘Pendle Mist’ lending a cinematic comedown, which allows for the painting of some exquisite textures, in contrast to tighter grooves fired off elsewhere.
Electric Glide, Boyle’s 1978 follow up to The Dancer also brings in an assortment of musicians to provide the canvas upon which the ex-Isotope man lays his assorted licks. Among these is Thin Lizzy and (at the time) Colosseum II guitarist, Gary Moore, whose contributions on two of the eight tracks provides a fiery exception to what is, otherwise, a weaker album than its predecessor.
Even so, this doesn’t write it off as a bad thing. Despite the minimal use of keyboards (provided on two tracks by blind jazz pianist, Pete Jacobson), there’s still the occasional pleasing groove for the world-weary to enjoy. Indeed, without the encumbrance of ancillary prog noodling, Boyle’s prowess with his weapon of choice is really allowed to shine through.
As such, Electric Glide follows a different path to both The Dancer and previous Isotope albums, in that it’s a more clinical exercise; stripped down and laid bare, possibly intended to pull in a larger audience than the British prog/jazz rock circles could provide. Nevertheless, the technique and many-fingered chord progressions should prove enough to satisfy those appreciative of Gary Boyle’s rightly deserved reverence in the fusion hierarchy.
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