Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giants (1978)

Released: 1978 (L.A. International Records)
Produced by: Greg Errico
Peak on the US Billboard 200: Did not chart

Side One Side Two
They Change It
Kilimanjaro: The Village
Kilimanjaro: The Summit
Pancho Villa
Fried Neckbones and Home Fries
In Your Heart

Back in September, I started the process of putting together a list of albums that placed on the Billboard Jazz LP charts in the years 1976-85.  As you can imagine, such an undertaking is rather time-consuming so I haven't completed that document, but you can check on its progress by clicking here.

As I was working my way through the 1980 jazz charts, I found this Giants album listed near the bottom of the chart (in 1980, the weekly chart listed the top 50 albums).  The album was only on the jazz charts for 8 weeks in January and February 1980, peaking at #40.  Billboard listed the album as being recorded by "Various Artists" so I had a bear of a time trying to find any information about the album or the group.  I finally found the album in question at, where I found enough information to order my own copy of the LP ($8.00 on eBay, free shipping ).  In the meantime, I found a little more information over at Willard's Wormholes. Finally, a comment on that Wormholes post led me to the 2004 book Voices of Latin Rock by Jim McCarthy.  Here's what I found on page 220 of that book:
In 1978, Greg Errico, Sly Stone's first great drummer finally got Mike Carabello's 1971-72 Attitude sessions released under the title Giants through War's LA International label.  Errico finished off the vocal tracks on the album and it stands as a curio, a sense of what Santana could have sounded like, 1971 vintage, with a heavy Sly Stone influence.  There's a version of "Fried Neckbones" in which Carlos and Neal Schon burn in Santana 3 style.  Die-hards can spot the place where Neal takes over the guitar solo from Carlos on "In Your Heart," a great example of their telepathic interplay.  "Attitude," the title track [sic], is a raw, burning funk-out with Dougie Rauch's excellent bass and Errico's drums pushing the track upward.  The most fascinating piece is a drum-led instrumental called "Kilimanjaro," in which Carabello, Pantoja, Reyes, Chepito, and Errico, all riffing under a velvety coat of harmonica melodies dropped down by Lee Oskar of War.
Attitude was the name of a short-lived band formed in 1971 by Carabello and Errico that failed for two reasons: 1) the band couldn't find a recording contract, and 2) as Errico puts it, "It was party time then and not very focused."  Rumor has it that the album was released in Japan under the title San Francisco Giants.  Here's a look at the musicians on the album, taken from the album's back cover:

Quite an all-star line up, I must say. Unfortunately, while the album has its high points, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

To recap, this album was recorded in 1971, released in 1978, and charted in 1980.  Talk about a long, strange trip.  And I know that you're thinking "that description doesn't sound much like jazz; what's it doing on the jazz chart?"  Believe me when I tell you I've found a little bit of everything on those jazz charts: pop, rock, classical, blues, New Age, disco, R&B, etc.  All comers were welcome, apparently, but that just adds to the fun.

While the album didn't make the Billboard album chart, it did spend 8 weeks on the Cash Box album charts starting on December 22, 1979, peaking at #166.

  • Attitude: the above-mentioned book got it right - this is "a raw, burning funk-out" that reminds me a lot of a Tower of Power groove (less the horns, although that would have been awesome).  Sweet guitar solo work throughout.  A high-energy album opener that's over too soon.
  • They Change It: this slow funk starts off promising with a dirty feel, but quickly becomes redundant because of the lack of any form.  Basically a one chord jam.
  • Kilimanjaro: side one closes with a two movement suite with a great Latin percussion/bass groove.  The first half of the song, "The Village" is an extended drum solo under an occassional flute riff.  The second half, "The Summit," is a lengthy harmonica solo.  Good stuff.  It's a long way from the album opener, but enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Pancho Villa: if the first two tracks are representative of Sly Stone's influence, these next tracks show Santana's influence.  This slow-building track starts with some noodling over a percussion and minor key strings base then the percussionists kick it up a notch about half-way through.  No real melody to speak of, the song just kind of lays there.
  • Fried Neckbones and Home Fries:  this sounds like a straight up Santana piece. In fact, Santana had played this Willie Bobo chart live since the late '60s and it appears on several Santana compilations.  A great instrumental piece showcasing Carlos Santana's guitar skills but the real highlight for me is the vibraphone solo by Mike Garcia.
  • In Your Heart: and now we're back to some funky pop stylings.  It tries hard to get going, but ends up sounding like an unfinished demo jam.  But, as noted above, there's some tasty guitar work from Carlos Santana and Neil Schon.

  1. Attitude
  2. Fried Neckbones and Home Fries
  3. Kilimanjaro
  4. In Your Heart
  5. Pancho Villa
  6. They Change It

1 comment :

  1. Great album with great musicians.I have it in vinyl.