2018 Japanese CD reissue.
This 1967 album recorded for Limelight finds Art Blakey without his Jazz Messengers, and in a variety of studio settings, in an attempt to record a commercially viable crossover jazz record. The results are mixed, though the playing on most of the album is quite fine. Arranged by Melba Liston and Tom McIntosh and produced by Luchi DeJesus (a pseudonym?), these 11 tracks feature Blakey playing the hits of the day, such as the Lovin' Spoonful's "Day Dream," P.F. Sloan's "Secret Agent Man," Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Workin'," John Phillips' "Monday, Monday," and even the theme from Mame.
In addition, there are a few bona fide jazz numbers such as John Hicks' "Slowly But Surely," Blakey's own "Sakeena," and Ramsey Lewis' "She Blew a Good Thing." All of these tracks are given the cheesy, souled-out boogaloo treatment. With players like Grant Green, Liston, Frank Mitchell, and Reggie Johnson, it is easy to see where the arrangements are going -- particularly in 1966. And though the tunes are funky, and some are schlocky and overly polished, the playing here is top-notch.
Blakey is as graceful and full of gusto as ever, often double-timing the band, and Liston's trombone solos are always tasteful and swing hard. But the entire production seems just a tiny bit stilted, as if the band were more concerned with getting the arrangements right than with playing the tunes. Ultimately, this is a very enjoyable if not mindblowing soul-jazz date that offers a very relaxed and subtle view of Blakey.
Thom Jurek ~ AllMusicGuide
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