Originally released in 1970 on the swirling Vertigo Records label, Bob Downes Electric City is like a blaring red flaming fire that just won’t burn out as it keeps the burning energy growing until the end of time. Bob Downes is one of the most often overlooked figures in the history of Jazz Rock. He plays Alto and Tenor Sax, Flute, and Woodwind instruments followed by an eruptive Brass-Rock section including people from Herbie Flowers, Ian Carr, Chris Spedding, and Dave Brooks to name a few.
It’s the who’s who on the album that you might want to take notice. Bob is a poet, free jazz musician, powerful, poet, and mind-blowing vocalist. He takes his instruments wherever he goes and by the time you put on Electric City which Esoteric Recordings reissued back in 2010, you are on a journey that is out of this world and almost feeling the earthquake happening when you turn this up to maximum volume. At times, there are moments that represent bands like; Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Mogul Thrash, and Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three.
Now I remember hearing some of Bob Downes’ music on both the 3-CD compilation released 11 years ago entitled Time Machine: A Vertigo Retrospective and Andy Votel’s sample tribute to the swirling label when I was in Houston Community College back in 2008 when I was studying on my degree in Jazz Studies and hearing the sample with Vertigo Mixed. At that time, I almost forgot about him. But cut to this year, I’ve finally picked it up. And the album is worth checking out.
Not just Jazz and Brass-Rock, but World Music, Samba, Funk, and Blues Rock that comes into the fold. West II will make you close your eyes and imagine yourself dancing to the sounds of Bossa-Nova and Brazilian Jazz as Bob Downes leads down into the path with the palm trees following his lead. The 12-bar Blues-Soul R&B shuffling groove thanks to the bass melodies following Downes vocals for a heavy rockin’ sound as we Don’t Let Tomorrow Get You Down.
Go Find Time sees Bob Downes heading into a film score for one of the Blaxploitation films of the golden-era of the 1970s. The brass section followed by shuffling guitars and bass create a mysterious film-noir roar in the styles between Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones while the catchy melodies erupt with an explosion to driven proportions with his sax flying with insane improvisations by Walking On.
The motorcycling free-jazz improvisation driven punch thanks to the funky ‘60s heavy guitar licks with the brasses and shrieking saxes go into overdrive that will have momentum jaw-dropping to go through the Crush Hour before mellowing down with the flute of who we are as strangers and consciousness to a new horizon with In Your Eyes as the essence of the homage of the late great Terry Kath comes to mind brings the tour de force with a sonic ascending touch.
Then in the end we head towards the light for an amazing party into the sunset. Both Piccadilly Circles and Gonna Take a Journey, sees Bob and the team head into a mind-boggling and eruptive yet explosive finale. The 8-page booklet contains liner notes by both Sid Smith and Bob Downes himself as they talk about the making of the album and Bob describing how long it took time to make and record the album.