Rocks, Pebbles And Sand (1980)


Stanley seems to be inching slowly toward mainstream R&B with each album. The man likes to sing, and has a decent voice, although he’s still a little too spread out stylistically to win over the fusion or funk camps entirely. Highlights this time include a space funk adventure with Chick Corea (“Underestimation”), the soulful “You/Me Together” featuring Marcy Levy (late of Eric Clapton’s employ) on vocals and the suite (if slightly indigestible) “The Story of A Man And A Woman.” Those last two tracks feature a substantial string section in tow, while Clarke calls in Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall-bangers for the rudimentary funk single, “We Supply.” Like Modern Man before it, Rocks, Pebbles And Sand is a mixed bag. I prefer the fusion and can do without the funk. As for the vocal songs, they work some of the time; the opening “Danger Street,” for example, reminded me of John Lennon and Frank Zappa, two artists I don’t readily associate with Stanley Clarke. I haven’t heard every one of his solo albums, so I couldn’t tell you where this fits in the scheme of things. School Days is a minor masterpiece, but beyond that I haven’t encountered any other compulsory purchases from Clarke. Modern Man and Rocks are two albums that do many things well, none of them exceptionally well. I can tell you that some of the subsequent straight-up R&B albums are pretty awful, although I think jazz in general collectively cringed in the 80s as fusion players pursued funk and disco as a way to cash in on their chops. This album at least rocks some of the time and continues to make a case that the words “singer/songwriter” belong somewhere after the title of world’s greatest bass guitarist.

The Songs

  1. Danger Street
  2. All Hell Broke Loose
  3. Rocks, Pebbles And Sand
  4. Underestimation
  5. You/Me Together
  6. We Supply (Stanley Clarke/Louis Johnson)
  7. The Story of A Man And A Woman
    1. Part 1: She Thought I Was Stanley Clarke
    2. Part 2: A Fool Again     (Stanley Clarke/Monica Francine Pege)
    3. Part 3: I Nearly Went Crazy (Until I Realized What Had Occurred)


All songs written by Stanley Clarke unless noted.


The Players

Stanley Clarke (various electric bass guitars, vocals, background vocals, strings and horns), Steve Bach (keyboards), Charles Johnson (various guitars), Simon Phillips (drums and percussion) with George Bohanon (trombone on 5 and 7), Mari Botnick (violin on 5 and 7), Denyse Buffum (viola on 5 and 7), Thomas Buffum (violin on 5 and 7), David Campbell (strings and horns), Ronald Cooper (cello on 5 and 7), Chick Corea (Moog 55, Moog 15, OB-X and Fender Rhodes on 4 and 7), Rollice Dale (cello on 5 and 7), Vincent DeRosa (French horn on 5 and 7), Bobby DuBow (violin on 5 and 7), David Duke (French horn on 5 and 7), Victor Feldman (vibraphone on 7), Jerry Hey (trumpet), Josie James (vocals on 6), Louis Johnson (electric bass, guitar and vocals on 6), Valerie Johnson (vocals on 6), Rory Kaplan (synthesizer programming on 4 and 7), Marcy Levy (vocals, background vocal), Dennis Mackay (introduction on 6), Lew McCreary (trombone on 5 and 7), Niles Oliver (cello on 5 and 7), Sid Page (violin on 5 and 7), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards on 6), Bill Reichenbach (horns on 6), John Robinson (drums on 6), Sheldon Sanov (violin on 5 and 7), Frederick Seykora (cello on 5 and 7), Carol Shive (violin on 5 and 7), Lya Stern (violin on 5 and 7), Ronald Strauss (viola on 5 and 7), John Thomas (trumpet on 5 and 7), Charles Veal (violin on 5 and 7), Helaine Wittenberg (viola on 5 and 7). Produced by Stanley Clarke; sound production by Dennis Mackay. Album coordination by Kathe Hoffman.


The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1980 in the US (Epic, JE-36506), UK (Epic, EPC-84342) and Japan (Epic, 25.3P-216); reached #95 on the US charts and #5 on the US Jazz charts. Repackaged with Let Me Know You and re-released on remastered CD on July 27, 2010 in the UK (Beat Goes On, BGOCD-924). Original design by Nancy Donald; illustration by Robert Giusti; photography by Henry Diltz; reprographics by CLE Print.


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