[Review] Lenny White: Venusian Summer (1975)

Who knew that Lenny White was a science-fiction freak? Add some funk, and you’ve got one of the best solo RTF albums.

Kronomyth 1.0: Venus trap flight.

Out of all the RTF solo albums, this is the one that surprised me the most. Venusian Summer is a fantastic fusion of funk and prog, featuring a top-flight band of familiar faces (Doug Rauch, Doug Rodrigues, Larry Young, Larry Coryell, David Sancious, Raymond Gomez, Al Di Meola). Although I enjoyed Lenny’s compositional contributions to RTF so far (“The Shadow of Lo,” “Sofistifunk”), they didn’t prepare me for the far-out and amazing journey of Venusian Summer. The album also turned me on to Doug Rauch, an incredibly talented bass player who died too soon.

Given the fact that it took Stanley Clarke a few albums to get it all together, I expected that White’s first solo album would be more tentative or derivative. It’s neither of those things. Instead, it’s a confident vision of fusion presented through the conceptual lens of science fiction and fantasy, which for me was always the best part of RTF. Although the album is uniformly excellent, highlights include the 10-minute title suite and the two closing tracks, “Mating Drive” and “Prince of the Sea,” which showcase the superlative soloing of Raymond Gomez and Al Di Meola, respectively. The first two tracks, “Chicken Fried Steak” and “Away Go Troubles Down The Drain,” are funkier entries where Rauch nearly steals the spotlight.

In my opinion, Venusian Summer concedes nothing to the RTF albums from this period. Prog fans with fusion inclinations should sign on for this and the even spacier Adventures of Astral Pirates. It’s a shame White didn’t stick with the science fiction format longer, but at least he left us two minor classics in the sci-fi/fusion canon.

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Original LP Version

A1. Chicken Fried Steak (Doug Rauch/Doug Rodrigues) (4:36)
A2. Away Go Troubles Down The Drain (Lenny White/Doug Rauch/Doug Rodrigues) (3:33)
A3. The Venusian Summer Suite: Part 1. Sirenes / Part 2. Venusian Summer (Lenny White) (10:15)
B1. Prelude To Rainbow Delta (Patrick Gleeson) (1:13)
B2. Mating Drive (Lenny White) (7:44)
B3. Prince of The Sea (Lenny White) (11:39)

The Players

Lenny White (drums, tympani, snare drum, roto-toms, wood block, triangle gong, marimba, suspended cymbal, gong, wandering clavinet, minimoog, Eu synthesizer, ARP 2600, acoustic piano), Onaje Allan Gumbs (electric piano, clavinet, mellotron, acoustic piano, organ), Doug Rauch (bass), Doug Rodrigues (rhythm & lead guitar) with Larry Coryell (electric guitar on track 6), Al Di Meola (electric guitar on track 6), Patrick Gleeson (Brooklyn Syntharmonic Orchestra, Inner-mission choir orchestra realizations, Eu synthesizer, minimoog, ARP 2500/2600, Oberheim, digital sequencer on tracks 3 and 4), Raymond Gomez (rhythm guitar on track 1, lead guitar on track 5), Tom Harrell (minimoog & orchestration on track 3, flugelhorn on track 6), Weldon Irvine (organ on track 2), Peter Robinson (Eu synthesizer, ARP 2600), David Sancious (Minimoog, organ on tracks 2 and 4), Jimmy Smith (organ on track 1), Larry Young (Khalid Yasin) (organ on track 5). Produced by Lenny White; engineered and re-mixed by Dennis Mackay (+ backwards gong on track 4). Orchestra sequences recorded by John Viera and Dane Butcher.

The Pictures

Illustration by Larry Kresek. Design by Abie Sussman. Liner photo by Dennis Chalkin.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in December 1975 in the US (Nemperor, NE/TP-435) and France (Atlantic, 50.213); reached #177 on the US charts and #25 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on December 14, 1999 in the US (Wounded Bird, 435).

2 thoughts on “[Review] Lenny White: Venusian Summer (1975)

  1. Thanks for touting this amazing album filled with numerous INCREDIBLE individual performances—many of which you cited above. I, too, think this album means so much to me because it is Doug Rauch’s finest hour–not far from his exit point–and it is one of the most extraordinary displays of bass dexterity and confidence you are likely to hear, ever!
    Then there is the simply astonishing blending of electronica and multi-keyboard layers within and over such flawless funked up rhythms. And I haven’t even begun to address those individual moments of shine: Alan Gumbs, Larry Young, Patrick Gleeson, RAY GOMEZ!, David Sancious, not to mention that truly epic Coryell and DiMeola duel as well as all of Lenny’s contributions to the sound that don’t include drums/percussion! Truly, truly one of the finest Jazz-Rock Fusion albums ever made!

  2. White’s VENUSIAN SUMMER is truly one of a kind!
    Imagine witnessing the bed-track sessions?
    “Mating Drive” – off the floor? Historic –
    Thank you Lenny White and company!

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