Weather Report: (untitled) (1982)

Kronomyth 11.0: JACO HISTORIUS. This is the last of the Jaco albums, although it sounds like he’d already checked out. Zawinul was clearly the driving force behind the band in its later years, and here he steers the discussion toward modern-sounding songs that feature computers, synthesizers and fractured arrangements. Wayne Shorter again contributes only one song, the likeable “When It Was Now,” and Pastorius contributes none. The closing “Dara Factor Two,” credited to the band, is really just an improvisational piece that employs the same interesting musical pattern introduced in “Dara Factor One.” While the band’s untitled 1982 effort is not one of their best, it may be a more approachable effort for rock fans as it leans toward that side of the fusion equation. You can digest the songs in smaller pieces, isolate the bass, drums, keyboards and sax in your head, hear the effect they have pitted against one another, and see the whole thing as finely meshed gears in a big machine. Having grown fat on previous feasts, the entries from this Weather Report are only appetizing for an instant to me. The startling range of albums past is missed, replaced with a by-the-numbers mathematical quirkiness that produces some eye-opening moments (the introductory drums on “Volcano For Hire,” the simulated strings at the end of “When It Was Now,” the intoxicating pattern of “Dara Factor One”) but little of lasting beauty. Highlights would have to include the three-part “N.Y.C.” and the ballad “Current Affairs,” which comes surprisingly close to sounding like a Vangelis song. The returning rhythm section of Peter Erskine and Robert Thomas, Jr. is expectedly solid, although they could have been brought up higher in the mix. As for Jaco, his bass is often filtered through effects and rarely provides a strong creative counterpoint. Shorter at this point is the Banquo’s Ghost in the band, entering the dialog to deliver something of weight and then disappearing again. Zawinul is too intelligent to be boring, too talented to be ignored, yet this album is least representative of what made the Z/S/P lineup so exciting.

Original LP Version
A1. Volcano For Hire (Zawinul) (5:24)
A2. Current Affairs (Zawinul) (5:52)
A3. N.Y.C. (Zawinul): Part One: 41st Parallel / Part Two: The Dance / Part Three: Crazy About Jazz (10:08)
B1. Dara Factor One (Zawinul) (5:24)
B2. When It Was Now (Wayne Shorter) (4:45)
B3. Speechless (Zawinul) (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; production assistance by Jaco Pastorius and Wayne Shorter; engineered by Brian Risner; mixed by Brian Risner and Zawinul.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1982 in the US (ARC/Columbia, FC-37616 and on audiophile elpee: ARC/Columbia, HC-47616), the UK (CBS, 85326), Brazil (CBS, 138527), Canada (Columbia, BL-37616), Japan (CBS/Sony, 25AP-2211 and on audiophile elpee: CBS Mastersound, 30AP-2291) and New Zealand (CBS, SBP-237679); reached #68 on the US charts and #5 on the US Jazz charts. Regional elpee versions feature a picture innersleeve. To file under the never-have-so-many-given-so-little file: original cover concept by Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Starwind Design Group; art direction by Richie Powell, Joseph Futterer and Starwind Design Group; photography by Starwind Design Group; lettering by Chris Dellorco, Todd Waite and Dick Bernot; sky by Don Dixon/Creative Associates; back cover concept by Michael Olsen. In 1982, the American Recording Company (ARC) label, now run by EWF’s Maurice White and distributed by Columbia, folded for a second time. Re-released on CD and cassette in the US (Columbia, CK/CT-37616). Re-released on remastered CD in 2007 in Japan (Sony, SICP-1251) and in 2009 in Japan (Sony, SICP-20125).

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