[Review] Weather Report (1982)

More or less a Zawinul solo album, featuring lots of synthesizers and their most popular lineup for one last fling.

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Beginning with Mr. Gone, the machines took over as Joe Zawinul’s arsenal of synthesizers became the dominant musical element. For all intents and purposes, Weather Report is a solo Zawinul album. It’s brilliant in spots, particularly when Z happens upon a really interesting combination of rhythm and sound, but it’s also a terrible waste of talent considering how little Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius contribute to the final product.

The opening Volcano for Hire is a promising start, combining Z’s postmodern arrangements with one of those timeless Weather Report melodies that seemed to flow so effortlessly on albums like Heavy Weather and Black Market. Current Affairs unpacks another winning melody, handled deftly by Shorter, who increasingly served as the soul in Z’s machine. The thee-part N.Y.C. begins with a noisy cityscape, introduces another of its deranged toybox rhythms and swings in the middle, though the impression is again of a solo Zawinul record rather than a group effort.

Dara Factor One features another memorable mecca-rhythm and (unthinkable!) synth bass. Maybe someone should have reminded Z that the greatest bass player in the world was in the room. Speechless is the album’s perfunctory ballad. What It Was Now turns the tables by pushing Z’s synthesizers into the background as Shorter delivers his own edgy vision of the future. Dara Factor Two is arguably the most balanced song on the album, giving everyone an equal share in the mix while still using the modern machine rhythms that serve as the album’s calling card.

Weather Report is the last album to feature Jaco, although his absence is already felt here. In fact, the whole band seems to have one foot out the door, with the other foot following before the release of their next album, Procession. Viewed as a Zawinul solo album, Weather Report is a step forward in his increasingly synthetic fusion of jazz and machine. With the rest of the band a step behind him, there was little doubt who was leading the band at this point.

Original elpee version

A1. Volcano for Hire (5:24)
A2. Current Affairs (5:52)
A3. N.Y.C. (10:08)
Part One: 41st Parallel
Part Two: The Dance
Part Three: Crazy About Jazz
B1. Dara Factor One (5:24)
B2. When It Was Now (Wayne Shorter) (4:45)
B3. Speechless (5:56)
B4. Dara Factor Two (Zawinul/Wayne Shorter/Jaco Pastorius/Peter Erskine/Robert Thomas Jr.) (4:27)

The Players

Peter Erskine (drums, drum computer, claves), Jaco Pastorius (bass guitar, percussion, voice), Wayne Shorter (tenor and soprano saxophones), Robert Thomas, Jr. (hand drums, tambourines), Zawinul (electric keyboards, percussion). Produced by Zawinul; assistant producers: Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter; engineering by Brian Risner; mixing by Brian Risner, Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius.

The Pictures

Cover concept by Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Starwind Design Group. Art direction by Richie Powell, Joseph Futterer and Starwind Design Group. (To paraphrase Churchill, never has so little owed so much to so many.) Photography by Starwind Design Group. Lettering by Chris Dellorco, Todd Waite, Dick Bernot. (One to hold the paper, one to hold the pencil and one to move the hand of the guy holding the pencil.) Sky by Don Dixon/Creative Associates. Back cover concept by Michael Olsen.

The Product

Released on elpee in January 1982 in the US (ARC Columbia, FC 37616), the UK (CBS, 85326), Brazil (CBS, 138527), Canada (Columbia, BL 37616) and New Zealand (CBS, SBP 237679) with picture innersleeve; reached #68 on the US charts and #5 on the US Jazz charts. Also released on half-speed master elpee in 1982 in the US (ARC Columbia, HC 47616).

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc and cassette in 1991 in the US (Columbia, CK/CT-37616).

2 thoughts on “[Review] Weather Report (1982)

    1. Miles, you’ll be happy to know I’m re-purposing that for The Jaco Years compilation. 🙂 Hope you had a nice Christmas.

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