Kronoymyth 50.0: CRITICAL MASK. The census in prog circles suggests the Elektric Band was winding down, though smooth fusion fans seem to get a charge out of this final disc from the original Elektric company. Spineless, shaven weasel that I am, I side somewhere in the middle, feigning toward the former’s phobia on the smoother cuts (“A Wave Goodbye” and “Free Step” are tasty but hardly chewy), leaning toward the latter’s enchantment with the impressive “Charged Particles” and “99 Flavors.” With John Patitucci and Dave Weckl cowriting most of the material, there’s no central theme at work on Beneath The Mask. The songs are short, lively, mostly smooth fusion numbers featuring lots of soprano sax and guitar solos. The core trio of Corea, Weckl and Patitucci are mostly in the background (Patitucci does get a cameo on “Jammin E. Cricket”) while Marienthal and Gambale are given the limelight. And so, under the sign of the staid emperor sit Chick and his chicklets, issuing smooth uniform slices of upbeat saxotarotimo songs and waiting for a strong third wind to guide them. Weckl and Patitucci sailed for new ports after this disc, making it something of a death mask (they looked so Alive not long ago), while Gambale and Marienthal stayed on board for the Emperor Elektrobath II. In my opinion, the next chapter (Paint The World) is far more interesting, so I have no trouble turning the page on Mask and moving on. Plus those RTF albums were made in the sweetly smoky analog air of the Seventies and not the airer-free digital clean rooms of the Nineties, with their soundbanks and triggers. If you enjoy the GRP smooth fusion sound, and a lot of people do (fusses all of them), Mask is a blast. If, however, the mere suggestion that a comparison could be made between Frank Gambale and Al DiMeola elicits a snortle (a mixture of snort and chortle), then this album might be beneath you after all.
1. Beneath The Mask (Chick Corea/John Patitucci/Dave Weckl) (3:31)
2. Little Things That Count (John Patitucci/Chick Corea) (3:47)
3. One of Us Is Over 40 (Chick Corea/John Patitucci/Dave Weckl) (4:55)
4. A Wave Goodbye (Chick Corea/Dave Weckl) (4:45)
5. Lifescape (Chick Corea) (5:10)
6. Jammin E. Cricket (John Patitucci/Dave Weckl/Chick Corea) (6:51)
7. Charged Particles (Chick Corea) (5:17)
8. Free Step (Chick Corea) (7:44)
9. 99 Flavors (Chick Corea) (3:52)
10. Illusions (Chick Corea/John Patitucci/Dave Weckl) (9:44)
Chick Corea (Yamaha: SY99, KX5, TX802, SY77; Kurzweil: Midi board, PX1000, RMX250, SX1000, HX1000; Synclavier; Midi Rhodes; E-MU: ProFormance, Proteus; Roland: Super Jupiter D-500; Mini Moog; Prophet VS; Korg Waveframe; percussion programming), Frank Gambale (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, guitar synth), Eric Marienthal (soprano sax, alto sax), John Patitucci (5 string bass, 6 string bass), Dave Weckl (drums, triggered Simmons, triggered slap bass). Engineered by Bernie Kirsh; mixed by Bernie Kirsh, Chick Corea and Dave Weckl. Executive album producer: Ron Moss. Executive producers: Dave Grusin & Larry Rosen.
Album cover concept by Chick Corea and Ron Moss. Cover design by Ron Moss and Mike Manoogian. Cover illustration by Barton Stabler. Graphic design and lettering by Mike Manoogian. Photography by Harrison Funk.
Released on compact disc and cassette on August 21, 1991 in Japan (GRP, MVCR-8) and on August 22, 1991 in the US (GRP, GRD/GRC-9649); reached #2 on the US Jazz charts.
- Re-released on super high material compact disc on March 8, 2017 in Japan (GRP, UCCR-3014).