I’ve always have this idea of a telescope of searching for more unsung treasure that has been overlooked and underrated whilst never getting some recognition they deserve. Back in May of this year, I wrote a review for one of the most mind-blowing albums that Esoteric Recordings put out six years ago as a reissue of Bob Downes’ Electric City. And I championed it and spoke of my admiration about the album.
One of the albums that is out there and filled with improvisation, poetry, and field recordings that were done outside of the studio and done in underground trains and on London Buses, was Bob’s third release on EMI’s offshoot label, Music For Pleasure (MFP) and reissued by Esoteric back in 2013. His third album entitled, Deep Down Heavy is very much like you as a listener, can close your eyes and following Downes and travelling to the streets of London in 1970 as if he is your guide along with his bandmates and being in awe of where they would head to next.
I can imagine Bob and his crew doing a line dance on the sidewalk to follow a marching beat from the bass riff, drums, and rhythm guitar as he sings his heart out and playing the Flute to keep the tempo going on Poplar Cheam in the night as you can hear cars driving the avenue and always to make sure to look both ways carefully and walk across the street.
The essence of the sound of ‘70s Soul/Funk/Blues 12-bar shuffle can get you into some twists and turns a-la James Brown touches to the mix, but with the essence of the ‘70s Blaxploitation score with a funky punch for Don’t Let Tomorrow Get You Down. But you can hear the streets as Bob travels to the parts of London.
Including riding on The Wrong Bus as he felt that the Bus was taking to Holborn, but it wasn’t and dropping a few quid for an amazing mandolin improvisation in the underground at Oxford Circus for a session fee on Jasmine. Robert Cockburn’s poetry on Hollow Moment starts off with a silence as Cockburn adds the tale before the heartbeat effect increases before ending it an abrupt silence.
Then you have Bob’s softer side. He goes into the ballad and tiny bits of a bossa-nova groove with some spellbinding flute exercises delving We All Enter In as Circus Rising closes the album is Downes himself singing round and round through as Laurie Allen’s drumming is almost watching Bob’s every move as he both sings and plays his sax and flute towards the end as if he saying goodbye to the listener as he heads down towards the underground station.
I have to admit for the first listen, I didn’t catch me. But it wasn’t until the second and third listen, I started to understand why it remains of an oddity of its release on a budget label. I’ll admit, it’s not an easy album to listen, but Bob himself is a visionary of both Jazz, Jazz Rock, and Free-Jazz. He can take the listener wherever he takes him.
The 12-page booklet contains an interview with Bob Downes by Sid Smith, promos of the album, pictures of both Bob and Robert Cockburn in Downes’ flat in 1970. Esoteric know their reissues very well and for me, I had an amazing journey listening to the field recording and hypnotic essence of Jazz-Soul-Avant-Funk Rock of Bob Downes’ music. Just be prepared to go into the stations, the streets of London, and the Buses for Deep Down Heavy.