Jennings' gruff baritone always commands respect: if he told you to eat an armadillo, you'd do it and like it. His band, too (though no longer billed as the Waylors), is still the best in country music, spurred by Richie Albright's drums and Ralph Mooney's steel guitar. Except for an unfortunate fling with a dudish Neil Diamond tune, Sweet Caroline, this album is at least the equal of any previous, which is Texas-sized praise.
Edmunds, a veteran English producer and guitarist, uses all his skills to evoke the classic rock and rockabilly voicings that shaped pop music two decades ago—Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, the Everly Brothers and, in Britain, Edmunds himself. The material, both old and new, and Edmunds' production—self-dubs on all vocal and guitar tracks-recall the immortals with clarity and protect the LP from lapses into trendy nostalgia.
Hancock's full range of electric and acoustic keyboard gifts is demonstrated over four live sides. More important, he is joined by 14 all-stars, some from the sextet he formed after he (and some of them) left Miles Davis: Wayne Shorter (saxes), Tony Williams (drums), Wah Wah Watson (guitar), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass) and Bennie Maupin (sax). There are silky '60s Hancock selections (Maiden Voyage) and, for more modern tastes, a full, funky side of electric jazz-rock.
More Americans saw La Bohème on TV recently—PBS estimates the audience at nearly five million—than in the 81-year history of Puccini's masterpiece. For those who wish to grieve on with Rodolfo, laugh with Musetta and cough with Mimi, a London recording of the opera has appeared on the classical charts. The only cast member who also sang on TV is Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo, but his splendor is matched by Mirella Freni as Mimi, Elizabeth Harwood as Musetta and Rolando Panerai, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Gianni Maffeo as the boys in the garret. Under Herbert von Karajan, they and the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra have produced a dramatic, exciting Bohème. It's hard now to remember that the opera was considered a failure at its debut.
This debut LP at least proves these six guys can sing and play the hell out of all the best rock clichés. There are clean Pocoesque harmonies, one lovely country-rocker (Play a Simple Song) and bolts of guitar flash. They have something of a pedigree: their manager, Peter Rudge, also handles the Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Ronnie Van Zant, brother of 38 Special lead singer Donnie, sings lead for Skynyrd.
This English group spans rock, pop and folk but has the good sense to synthesize it all with novel dynamics. There's almost no solo flash; in fact, the hottest licks come on the control board, where the group, self-producing, mixes up a crystalline sound quality. As their breakthrough LP, this, ironically, will revive interest in the band's finest album to date, last year's Crisis? What Crisis?