Stanley Clarke (1974)

As a man grows older, he grows brittle. The magic seeps from his bones, and he makes a dry, creaking sound as he moves about the world, a kind of interminable tsk that secretly guards what little youth he has left by assessing everything around him as unoriginal, automatic, another tooth in the grinding gears of time. Critics discover this internal defect earlier, I suspect, as new works elicit the same old words. I point this out as a forward apology, since I don’t expect to say anything new about Stanley Clarke’s second album and, honestly, it deserves new language. Unlike his first album, which patterned itself after the early voyages of RTF (and even brought Captain Corea along for the ride), the self-titled second album is a true solo journey. Clarke assembled an all-star crew—Mahavishnu’s Jan Hammer, Tony Williams, Bill Connors—arranged the material himself and put his bass front and center in the music. The pieces are decidedly more funky this time and often use a funk riff of bass and drums to move the music along, which suggests that Clarke still needed to grow as an arranger, but the bass playing itself is unimpeachably smart. Highlights include the joyful “Lopsy Lu” (which segues nicely from the album’s only vocal piece, “Yesterday Princess”) and the two extended pieces on side two, “Spanish Phases” (featuring the acoustic bass) and the RTF-like “Life Suite.” Normally, I’d be writing a paragraph just about Tony Williams (my favorite drummer), but he’s merely excellent (versus, say, supernatural) on this session. Jan Hammer, on the other hand, really impresses me here with his Moog work which, although a bit dated (not his fault), is the album’s second main ingredient. Most of the time, Bill Connors isn’t any more audible here than on Hymn, so it must be a stylistic thing, although he does light it up for “Power” and the closing of “Life Suite.” In comparing this with his first record, I would tell you that Stanley Clarke is the better bass showcase, Children the better bet to please RTF fans. The second album also sets a template for future works, which would highlight Clarke’s bass in various settings of funk, fusion and classical jazz.

Original LP Version
A1. Vulcan Princess (4:00)
A2. Yesterday Princess (lyrics by Stanley & Carolyn Clarke) (1:41)
A3. Lopsy Lu (7:03)
A4. Power (7:20)
B1. Spanish Phases For Strings & Brass (Michael Gibbs) (6:26)
B2. Life Suite: Part I (1:51), Part II (4:12), Part III (1:03), Part IV (6:41)

All selections composed and arranged by Stanley Clarke unless noted.

The Players
Stanley Clarke (electric bass, acoustic bass, acoustic piano on A2, vocals, fuzz phaser), Bill Connors (electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Jan Hammer (Moog synthesizer, electric piano, organ, acoustic piano), Tony Williams (drums) with Airto (percussion on B2), brass section (Peter Gordon, David Taylor, Jon Faddis, James Buffington, Lewis M. Soloff, Garnett Brown), Michael Gibbs (string & brass orchestration on B1/B2), string section (David Nadien, Charles P. McCracken, Jesse Levy, Carol Buck, Beverly Lauridsen, Harry Cykman, Harold Kohon, Paul Gershman, Harry Lookofsky, Emmanuel Green). Produced by Stanley Clarke; associate producer: Ken Scott; engineered by Ken Scott.

The Pictures
Art direction by Bob Defrin.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in December 1974 in the US (Nemperor, NE 431), the UK (Atlantic, K50101) and Australia (Nemperor/Atlantic, NE 431); reached #59 on the US charts and #4 on the US Jazz charts. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Epic, EPC 32042). Re-issued on CD in the US (Epic, EK 36973). Repackaged w. Journey To LoveSchool DaysModern Man and The Clarke/Duke Project as Original Album Classics on 5CD in 2007 in the UK (Sony/BMG Jazz, 14546).

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