[Review] Jean-Luc Ponty: Imaginary Voyage (1976)

Ponty’s most proggy adventure to date, featuring past/future members of Frank Zappa, Genesis and Jethro Tull.

Kronomyth 9.0: An imaginary garden with real toads of the short forest in it.

The prog connection to Jean-Luc Ponty has never been stronger than on “Imaginary Voyage,” which lives up to its name as a magical journey of mythic proportions. It has more than a little to do with Frank Zappa, what with a pair of past alums (Ponty, Fowler) and future FZ member Allan Zavod on keyboards, though Ponty generates a warmer, dreamier vibe than Zappa.

The first side of music features five shorter songs which showcase the talents of new guitarist Daryl Stuermer (soon to be written into the great book of Genesis). Daryl’s acoustic jazz guitar on “New Country” and “The Gardens of Babylon” is a side of Steurmer that Genesis fans didn’t see, and more what you’d expect from someone who cited Wes Montgomery as an influence. Of course, Jimi Hendrix was another influence, which is evident on his solo for the funktastic “Tarantula.” Ponty shares the spotlight with Stuermer on the first side, Zavod on the second side, and slips in a spacey solo with “Wandering on the Milky Way.”

At the moment, I can’t think of another Ponty album I enjoy so much as Imaginary Voyage. The violin becomes a protean voice, as filthy as a funk guitar and as free as a butterfly, classical and country and confoundingly elusive. Behind Ponty is a stellar fusion outfit with prog credibility from once and future members of Frank Zappa, Genesis and Jethro Tull. It’s a proggier, dreamier and more varied work than his first Atlantic album (Upon the Wings of Music), more likely to please fans who found Camel a pleasant ride. With time, the arpeggiated sequencer patterns and formulaic flights of fancy would grow dull, but here it’s all wonder and imagination.

Original elpee version

A1. New Country (3:07)
A2. The Gardens of Babylon (5:06)
A3. Wandering On The Milky Way (Violin Solo) (1:50)
A4. Once Upon A Dream (4:08)
A5. Tarantula (4:04)
B1. Imaginary Voyage, Part I (2:22)
B2. Imaginary Voyage, Part II (4:05)
B3. Imaginary Voyage, Part III (5:28)
B4. Imaginary Voyage, Part IV (8:00)

All compositions and arrangements by Jean-Luc Ponty.

The Players

Jean-Luc Ponty (electric and acoustic violins, organ and background synthesizers), Marc Craney (percussion), Tom Fowler (electric bass), Daryl Stuermer (electric and acoustic guitars), Allan Zavod (electric keyboards and acoustic piano). Produced by Jean-Luc Ponty; engineered by Larry Hirsch.

The Pictures

Cover photo by Peter D’Aprix. Concept & design by Bill Harvey.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in September 1976 in the US (Atlantic, SD/TP 18195), the UK (Atlantic, K 50317), Germany and the Netherlands (Atlantic, ATL 50317) and Japan (Atlantic, P-10323A). Also released on elpee in 1977 in Brazil (Atlantic, 30.024). Reached #67 on the US charts and #2 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in Argentina (Atlantic, 14401).
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS 19136).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Atlantic, 19136-2).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (AMCY-2093).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on January 16, 2009 in Japan (Warner, BELLE 081462).

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