Weather Report: Sweetnighter (1973)

[Kronomyth 3.0]
Sweet Night, Good Prince, and Flights of Angels.

Sweetnighter is where the relationship with Eric Gravatt and Miroslav Vitous soured. Wayne Shorter and Z had decided to explore funkier terrain on this album, which left the jazz-inclined Gravatt and Vitous out in the cold. Oddly, Weather Report didn’t replace them; instead, they invited another bassist (Andrew White) and drummer (Herschel Dwellingham) to join them, apparently hoping that the extant rhythm section would take the hint. All of which makes Sweetnighter an unusual, transitional album, as it has the new rhythm section superimposed on top of the old. It causes some confusion on the two extended funk workouts, “Boogie Woogie Waltz” and “125th Congress Street.” A clearer vision of the band’s funk future emerges on the closing “Non-Stop Home,” which features only Dwellingham on drums and White on electric bass. This song, a study in contrasts between the sweeter Shorter and the revolutionary Z, is their most succinct track to date. Of the three funk experiments, “Boogie Woogie Waltz” is the best, filled with the kind of musical revelations found on earlier Weather Report albums. The remaining three tracks are similar to the still-life paintings of their first two albums. On “Adios” and “Will” especially, you can almost imagine a transfixed Eno listening to these songs and making notes for Another Green World. Despite its share of great music, Sweetnighter isn’t a personal favorite of mine. Two of the six tracks, “Manolete” and “125th Street Congress,” just don’t do it for me musically, and that’s a third of the album. The decision to open both sides of the album with extended funk workouts must have had a polarizing effect on fans up to this point. In retrospect, we can see that Weather Report would weather the storm and come out stronger on the other end, but at the time it must have seemed as though they were abandoning their experimental jazz roots and growing into some unmanageable monster. All totaled, Sweetnighter is two-thirds of a classic Weather Report album, which makes it required listening for fans of their first phase.

Original LP Version
A1. Boogie Woogie Waltz (Josef Zawinul) (13:03)
A2. Manolete (Wayne Shorter) (5:55)
A3. Adios (Josef Zawinul) (2:59)
B1. 125th Street Congress (Josef Zawinul) (12:13)
B2. Will (Miroslav Vitous) (6:20)
B3. Non-Stop Home (Wayne Shorter) (3:52)

The Players
Herschel Dwellingham (drums on tracks 1, 2, 3 & 6), Eric Gravatt (drums on tracks 2, 4 & 6), Muruga (Moroccan clay drums, tympani, splash cymbal, roller toy, Israeli jar drum), Wayne Shorter (soprano and tenor saxophones), Dom Um Romao (bell, tambourine, chucalho, pandeiro, cuica, tamanco, gong, cowbell, cachichi, wood block, percussion, vaibis-stone, Chinese tom-tom, cymbal, castanhola, caxixi, wood flute), Miroslav Vitous (acoustic and electric bass), Andrew White (electric bass on tracks 1, 4 & 6, English horn on tracks 3 and 5), Josef Zawinul (synthesizer, electric and acoustic pianos). Produced by Shoviza Productions; engineered by Phil Giambalvo. 1996 reissue produced by Bob Belden.

The Plastic
Originally recorded on February 3-7, 1973 and released on elpee on April 27, 1973 in the US (Columbia, KC 32210), in the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, S 65532) and Japan (CBS/Sony, SOPL-189); reached #85 on the US charts, #41 on the US R&B charts and #2 on the US Jazz charts. Re-released on elpee and cassette in 1977 in the US (Columbia, PC/PCT-32210). Re-released on budget-priced CD in the 1990s in the US (SBME Special Markets, 748823). Re-released on CD in 1995 in Japan (Sony, SRCS-7176), on August 27, 1996 in the US (Columbia, CK 64976), in 1996 in Europe (Sony, 485102), and on DSD master CD in 2007 in Japan (Sony, SICP-1242). Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee on May 7, 2012 in the Netherlands (Music On Vinyl, MOVLP-515). Original cover design by John Berg; cover art by Dick Hess; photography by Columbia Records Photo Studio. For the 1996 US reissue: art direction and design by Paula Wood; liner notes by John Ephland.

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