[Review] Stanley Clarke: Modern Man (1978)

The followup to School Days continues to explore a variety of different styles including rock, funk, fusion and a few songs with vocals.

Kronomyth 5.0: A bass odyssey.

Your average Scientologist, it would seem, has some pretty strange ideas about both God and what constitutes good science fiction. Modern Man begins with Stanley Clarke’s vision of science-fiction fusion (“Opening/He Lives On”), plus a couple of funk exercises and a handful of tantalizing Interludes. It feels harsh to say that Stanley has dumbed down the formula since his last record; maybe it’s just that he’s singing more. While it’s not the dazzling display of School Days, Modern Man is no slouch. It features a great rock instrumental with Jeff Beck on “Rock ‘N’ Roll Jelly” and pushes some personal conceptual envelopes with its Interludes and opening/closing statements.

Between the spacemen and the synthesizers, Modern Man belongs to an earlier time, but there are a lot of us still living in that past, so maybe you won’t mind at all. The real differences between this album and his last are the amount of singing that Stanley does (a lot, though not poorly) and the difference in styles between Michael Garson (who doesn’t seem to have changed much since his days with David Bowie) and David Sancious. Beginning with Modern Man, Clarke began to evolve from a fusion artist to an R&B/funk artist, although I’m pretty sure “evolve” isn’t the right word. Here, he’s still inhabiting that middle world between jazz and pop/R&B; “He Lives On,” featuring Jeff Baxter on guitar, could pass for a Steely Dan song, and “Got To Find My Own Place” is no more of a sellout than Chick Corea’s songs. Of course, fusion fans may not be so interested in hearing Stanley Clarke sing or play pedestrian funk, while R&B fans probably don’t think of themselves as space warriors.

Modern Man isn’t the tour de force that School Days was, though not for a lack of trying different things. There are definitely some standout tracks here, and the album’s hopping between styles does strangely grow on you over time, so you may want to stay after School to hear what the world’s greatest bass guitarist has to say and play.

Original LP Version

A1. Opening (Statement) (4:22)
A2. He Lives On (Story About The Last Journey of a Warrior) (Michael Maurer/Stanley Clarke) (4:24)
A3. More Hot Fun (4:31)
A4. Slow Dance (3:16)
A5. Interlude: A Serious Occasion (0:21)
A6. Got To Find My Own Place (Stanley Clarke/Michael Garson/Raymond Gomez/Gerry Brown) (3:17)
B1. Dayride (4:06)
B2. Interlude: It’s What She Didn’t Say (1:24)
B3. Modern Man (3:31)
B4. Interlude: A Relaxed Occasion (1:24)
B5. Rock ‘N’ Roll Jelly (5:07)
B6. Closing (Statement) (2:37)

All songs written by Stanley Clarke unless noted

The Players

Stanley Clarke (Alembic bass, acoustic bass, narration, acoustic piano, piccolo bass, vocals, conductor, arrangements), Gerry Brown (drums & percussion), Dale Devoe (trombone), Michael Garson (Oberheim synthesizer, Moog synthesizer, organ, acoustic piano), Raymond Gomez (guitar), Al Harrison (b-flat and piccolo trumpets, flugelhorn), Bobby Malach (tenor sax, flute), James Tinsley (b-flat and piccolo trumpets, flugelhorn), Alfie Williams (soprano sax, baritone sax, flute) with Carmine Appice (drums on track 11), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, guitar synthesizer), Jeff Beck (guitar on track 11), Dee Dee Bridgewater (vocals), Steve Gadd (cymbals), James Fiducia (44-magnum gun on track 12), Jeff Porcaro (drums & percussion), Julia Waters (vocals), Maxine Waters (vocals), Edward Walsh (Oberheim programming) and strings (Charles Veal Jr.: concertmaster). Produced by Stanley Clarke; sound production and engineering by Ed E. Thacker.

The Pictures

Cover photography by Norman Seeff. Cover design by Ed Lee.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in May 1978 in the US (Nemperor, JZ/JZA 35303), UK (Epic, EPC-32108), Australia (CBS, SBP-237158), Canada (Nemperor, PZ-35303), Japan (Nemperor, 25AP-1051) and the Netherlands and Spain (Epic, EPC-82674); reached #57 on the US charts and #4 on the US Jazz charts. Regional elpee versions feature a lyrics innersleeve.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in Europe (Epic, CDEPC 82674).
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1991 (Columbia Jazz, EPC 468220 2).
  3. Repackaged with I Wanna Play For You on remastered 2-for-1 2CD on October 5, 2010 in the UK (Beat Goes On, BGOCD-923).
  4. Repackaged with I Wanna Play For You on remastered 2-for-1 2CD on November 21, 2018 in Japan (Ultra-Vybe, OTLCD-7872).

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