1. Opening (Statement)
2. He Lives On (Story About The Last Journey Of A Warrior)
3. More Hot Fun
4. Slow Dance
5. Interlude: A Serious Occasion
6. Got To Find My Own Place
8. Interlude: It’s What She Didn’t Say
9. Modern Man
10. Interlude: A Relaxed Occasion
11. Rock ‘N’ Roll Jelly
12. Closing (Statement)
Format: 192kbps MP3
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Following School Days and the final Return To Forever album, 1977’s Musicmagic, Stanley seemed to be on a different sort of musical journey. He had begun to take a few steps away from the “fusion” sound that had gained him fame, and closer to pop/rock, and R&B styling. This album? “Middle of the road” doesn’t begin to describe it.
This album has a bit of pomp and a bit of prog about it, especially in the lyrics of songs such as “He Lives On”. Stanley embraces his double bass and the cello rather than his infamous Alembic bass more here than he had on other albums (excluding, perhaps his 1974 self-titled album). Stanley also does more singing here than he had done on other albums up until this point, and at times (“Got To Find My Own Place”), it might jar the ears of the uninitiated without a counter voice like George Duke’s (or on the RTF albums, Gayle Moran) to complement him.
Don’t let the “weirdness” of this album discourage you, because Stan does take a break from the British horns to get funky on this one — namely, on my favorite track, “Slow Dance”, which is a treat not only because of the funky, R&B style of the song, but also because it is one of two tracks (the other, being “Dayride”) highlighting the other reason I sought this album out — the drumming of the late, great Jeff Porcaro. If you don’t know who Jeff is, he’s generally known as the drummer for the pop/rock outfit Toto, but mostly known as a killer session drummer, the most famous of his drumming dates being Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Jeff had some of the most perfect timing of any drummer, dead or alive, from an era preceding drum machines, and thus, careful listeners could easily pick him out of a lineup. “Slow Dance” also has another Easter egg about it, that being that the rarely exposed Porcaro beat at the beginning is a well-known hip-hop break (particularly in 1990s rap records). Knowing that the break had come from a Stanley Clarke record featuring Jeff Porcaro on drums was probably one of those things where the stars of my record geekery aligned perfectly.
While this album isn’t quite the burner that the next three or four solo albums Stanley released were, it’s a respectable bridge in his career, and a pretty interesting composition exercise. Something about the timbre of “He Lives On” recalls a scene off New York State Route 394 from my youth; I can’t quite seem to place it.