Zok 1995 / Gonzo 2013
Rare document of jazz-rock finest combo at their most unbridled – raw and wild.
They were a peculiar team, BRAND X: the band always seemed to avoid fusion of rock and jazz but rather interweave them in their own special way – never more so than on stage. A pity there’s only a few concert albums available officially, even though the ensemble used to record every show. This one, dating from September 1979, radically differs from 1977’s “Livestock” as it catches meaner, if not leaner, group having fun in America with Phil Collins, absent the previous year due to the GENESIS’ reconfiguration, back at the helm. Full of energy, the quintet masterfully build up the momentum to shift from “Disco Suicide” into “Algon” from their latest LP, “Product,” released only nine days before the “Roxy” performance, and resolve the tension one hour later with an elastic, if well-textured, “Nuclear Burn” from their debut, delivering a blistering set in between.
Not relying on the past but sticking mostly to the fresh material, the quintet – Peter Robinson joining Robin Lumley to reinforce the ivories department – have a vocal go at “Don’t Make Waves” – yet mostly have a field day outside the dance floor, on an improvisatory terrain. From the off, John Goodsall’s heavy riffs and Percy Jones’ bottom-end gymnastics are sprinkled with exquisite piano moves as if to test the opposite reaches of the collective’s dynamic range, before “Dance Of The Illegal Aliens” propels the rhythm section to the front. On the loose, bass and drums waltz from under the keyboards only to sway and swing together in quite a threatening manner where the guitar joins in to shred away, while “Malaga Virgen” provides a fertile ground for all to jam without ever losing the sight of the chameleon-like low-tone-led tune. But it’s the fantastic flow of another new composition, “…And So to F…”, that, together with Collins’ trademark jive, bares the band’s ultimate flexibility in terms of high melodic and rhythmic freedom.
It was quite possibly for the last time, as what would follow lay more in a fusion domain. So, for all its roughness, it’s a stunning aural snapshot of a stunning collective in their element.