Q - 1/03, p.1424 stars out of 5
- "...These two CDs are their first truly essential album..."
Uncut - 12/02, p.1624 stars out of 5
- "...Exciting and imaginative, this album guarantees its place in the Weather Report canon..."
The Wire - 12/02, p.68
"...The best here is some of the best there is..."
Personnel includes: Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Alphonso Johnson, Victor Bailey, Chester Thompson, Omar Hakim, Peter Erskine, Alex Acuna, Manolo Badrena, Jose Rossy, Acuna.
Producers: Josef Zawinuland and Wayne Shorter.
Compilation producer: Josef Zawinuland, Ivan Zawinul, Bob Belden.
Recorded between 1975 & 1983. Includes liner notes by Alan Leeds.
All tracks have been digitally remastered.
To date, Weather Report has been documented accurately exactly once in a live setting, and that was on a Japanese import called Live in Tokyo in 1972. All of their U.S.-released product, including their double-live set 8:30, was truncated, though it did capture some of the excitement the band was capable of producing at their most effectively intent and focused. Unfortunately, Live and Unreleased goes no further in demystifying the truly mysterious that elemental process that allowed them to move from one idea to the next no matter how far distant, with no apparent bridges in between. Being a collection of tracks from various live dates from 1975-1983, with wildly varying personnel, that cannot be expected. That said, what does transpire here showcases what an intense -- and accessible -- listening experience Weather Report could provide in a concert hall at a moment's notice. One of the more confusing aspects of Live and Unreleased is its sequencing. In trying to showcase the band in as many settings as possible, some continuity is lost. When you begin with a a performance of Wayne Shorter's "Freezing Fire," recorded in 1975, with Alphonso Johnson on bass, Alex Acuna on percussion, and Chester Thompson on drums, then move directly to Shorter's "Plaza Real," recorded in 1983 at a much bigger hall (same city, though, London), with Victor Bailey on bass and Omar Hakim on drums, and then jump back again to Joe Zawinul's "Fast City" from 1980, with Jaco Pastorius on bass and Peter Erskine on drums, you have traveled a long way in the band's evolutionary process without the regard of context. While Zawinul and Shorter were constants and regarded as the band's leaders, no one can question Pastorius' role as a dominating influence as both a player and as a composer -- not to mention his and Zawinul's competitive/conflicting energy. That's missing here. Some moments are more smooth than others, as on disc two's transition from "In a Silent Way/Waterfall," both by Zawinul and recorded in 1978, to the title track from Night Passage, recorded with virtually the same band -- Pastorius and Erskine in the rhythm section -- in 1980 and then on to Shorter's "Port of Entry" from the same date. Here, glimpses are cast into the shadows of the real lightning that could (and often would) strike when the band was -- as most often they were -- on their mettle. And while Live and Unreleased is perhaps true but misleading in the sense of presenting the band at their live best, there is some wonderful and challenging music here, such as Pastorius engaging both Shorter and Zawinul on "Black Market"; the double-timed "Teen Town," with Manolo Badrena acting as a wizard of small percussion; "River People," with Erskine triple timing the beat to get Shorter's solo out from under the bank of Zawinul's keyboards and Pastorius supporting him, the sheer arpeggiattic flights of fancy Zawinul was capable of in mode such as on "In a Silent Way/Waterfall." All of these are wonderful moments in a collection of tracks that has nothing whatsoever to apologize for and is a more than worthy addition to any fan's library. Ultimately, this still leaves room for Legacy to come up with a live Weather Report Box, perhaps documenting the Jaco years. Here's to hoping. ~ Thom Jurek