[Review] Stanley Clarke: School Days (1976)

This is a lesson in how musicians should approach making a solo album: mix it up and give 110% on every track.

Kronomyth 4.0: Bass class is in session.

Stanley Clarke went from whiz kid to wizard in five short years. On School Days, he steps out of the shadow of Return To Forever to show us what he’s learned. Suffice to say that fusion fans took note(s). School Days is set up to showcase the many sides of Stanley: fusion, funk, smooth, classical, acoustic, R&B. For progressive fusion fans (i.e., the kind of people who only get jazzed about RTF, Frank Zappa, Brand X, etc.), School Days scores an A+ on the merit of the opening title track alone.

“School Days” is basically six feet of genius crammed into eight minutes of music. I walked away from that song thinking that Clarke had found a way to match the best progressive fusion artists of the day and make it look easy. “Quiet Afternoon” explores the romantic/smooth jazz side of Stanley Clarke, though it’s not as painful as you’d think. “The Dance” follows exotic fusion, “Desert Song” journeys into the arid world of acoustic jazz , “Hot Fun” is a crazy funk song that lives up to its name, and “Life Is Just A Game” brings out all the stops in a big fusion finale, including vocals.

Earlier albums showcased many of the same skills, but were partly weighed down by extended suites and occasionally weak arrangements. School Days is different, as Stanley Clarke scores extra credit with one great number after another. Is it his best record? Well, given what I’ve heard so far, that would be an educated guess.

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Original LP Version

A1. School Days (7:50)
A2. Quiet Afternoon (5:05)
A3. The Dance (5:23)
B1. Desert Song (6:53)
B2. Hot Fun (2:50)
B3. Life Is Just A Game (9:00)

All compositions composed, arranged and conducted by Stanley Clarke.

The Players

Stanley Clarke (electric bass guitar, piccolo bass guitar, acoustic bass, acoustic piano, vocals, handbells, gong, chimes), Raymond Gomez (electic guitar), David Sancious (keyboards, mini-moog synthesizer, organ, electric guitar) with Gerry Brown (drums and handbells on tracks 1 & 3), Billy Cobham (drums and moog 1500 on track 6), George Duke (all keyboards on track 6), Steve Gadd (drums on tracks 2 & 5), Milton Holland (percussion on tracks 3 & 4), Icarus Johnson (electric & acoustic guitar on track 6), John McLaughlin (acoustic guitar on track 4). Produced by Stanley Clarke and Ken Scott.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on October 8, 1976 in the US (Nemperor, NE/TP 439), the UK (Atlantic, K50296) and Japan (Atlantic, P-10239A); reached #34 on the US charts and #2 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in the US (Epic, PC 36975).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on January 25, 1999 in the US (Epic, EK 36975).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Epic, ESCA-5234).
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee on May 24, 2011 in the US (Friday Music, FRM 439) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on November 24, 2016 in Japan (Epic, SICJ-188).

1 thought on “[Review] Stanley Clarke: School Days (1976)

  1. 1976 was for me full of great music. My best friend Jeff ( trumpet player ) turned me onto School Days in the fall of that year. We played that album many times and it was and still is awesome. Latter I saw Stanley play at the Queen Mary ( Playboy Jazz Festival ) in Long Beach, Ca. What a liminal work and one that still brings me joy to hear.

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