“Moody Jr.” —J unior Walker and the All Stars – Tamla Motown STML 11211
“Bump City” – Tower of Power — Warner Bros. K46167
“MF Horn 2” – Maynard Ferguson – CBS 65027

05-197208xx-8The last month has seen the release of three albums whose basic ingredient, although used in different pop/musical contexts, is the use of horns, in the form of both trumpets and saxophones.

The first of the three is Moody Jr. by Junior Walker. Released last year in the States, Motown have finally acknowledged the small but ardent following Junior Walker has in this country. It is bound to please some, but I found it lacking in the ‘guts’ and ‘funk’ that has made his past albums so enjoyable. Gone apparently have the days of Junior Walker’s exciting ‘dirty’ sounding sax solos, that made albums like Road Runner such a success and which still remain immensely enjoyable despite the amount of time they have been available.

Jr’s latest offering is comparatively tame, with an over-indulgence in the use of strings and girly-group backings. Once in a while Jr’s unique blues/soul playing comes through unhampered by the excesses of over-production. This is more an album for late-night listening, unlike his hits from the past, such as Shake and Fingerpop or How Sweet It Is, which are still some of the most irresistibly danceable records Motown have ever produced. Moody Jr. is worth a listen if you have liked his last couple of albums. Standout tracks are Way Back Home and Don’t Blame The Children.

The second horn dominated album I’ve been listening to is Bump City by an American band known as Tower of Power. The band has a following in the States but is virtually unknown over here. This is their first release to be issued here, apart from a track or two on the Last Days of The Fillmore triple album set.

Tower of Power unfortunately don’t live up to their name though. The playing is good, as is the production, but it is all without anything original to distinguish them from the many bands into brass backed rock. Blood Sweat & Tears have done all of this before, and that particular band, by the time they had finished their first two albums, had run out of anything musically interesting to say. And why does every American band of this kind have a vocalist whose singing is so embarrassingly similar to that of B.S. & T’s or Chicago’s vocalist? (as it is the last two mentioned groups singers have always sounded extremely alike to me.)

Tower of Power’s music is a mixture of rock/soul/jazz, just like all the other bands working in this popular musical area. Give this a miss and wait for Chicago’s new album or try and get a listen to an import copy of one of the sadly under-rated Sons of Champlin records.

The trumpet playing of Maynard Ferguson is the main ingredient of MF Horn 2. This is not strictly a rock album, for the music is of the big band jazz variety. But much of the material Ferguson is working with here has been successful in the pop world. Numbers like Hey Jude, Lennon’s Mother. B.S.& T’s Spinning Wheel and an outrageous version of Theme from “Shaft” are included on the album. I’m not a big band devotee, but I found the record had a consistency in it’s inventive arrangements and the production is faultless. My only complaint is that after hearing the album through a few times, one track tended to sound much the same as another; possibly because I’m not into jazz enough to appreciate the finer points of Maynard Ferguson’s playing.