In September of 1996, the Screaming Headless Torsos went live for the mikes at the Knitting Factory in New York. For any critics who claimed their prior studio effort was staged or polished, Live! set the record straight: the Torsos wield just as much raw energy and electicism on stage as they do in the studio. The original document of this adventure first appeared on the Japanese Videoarts label; but now guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski has claimed it for his own, putting out a remastered version on Fuzelicious Morsels.
The Screaming Headless Torsos offer a tossed salad of styles, generally edging around the interface between funk, jazz, and energy music. For example, on "Smile in a Wave," they quote a rapid, stuttering theme from Miles Davis's Jack Johnson before tearing off into pounding thrash funk. Fuze's guitar work here is spectacularit's the kind of virtuosity that serves a higher purpose far beyond the masturbatory self-congratulation of so many fusion guitarists. Whether working in the background or the foreground, Fuze is pure diesel fuel. The Torsos engine also owes much to the precision and cohesion of its other four members. Daniel Sadownick in particular shines on percussion, employing a wide-ranging palette of colors and sticking close to drummer Gene Lake's precise hits.
For the most part, the tunes on this record remain faithful to originals on the Torsos' debut. Launching into Blood Ulmer's "Jazz is the Teacher" on track three, the Torsos concoct a hybrid of jazz and funk that burns furiously forward. This is energy music. But one tune later, they retire to lighter, more lyrical territory on "Blue In Green." Not much predictability on Live! (A Darryl Dawkins tribute, for example... ???) But the band remains solid. These performances tend to aim more for thrash than funk, resuulting in regular explosive outbursts. Dean Bowman's hoarse screaming does get a bit annoying after a while, but that's a minor blemish on an otherwise fine record. The Screaming Headless Torsos opened a new chapter for fusion in the mid-'90s, and they continue to expand their vision as we speak. "Live!" is a revealing document of a project in progress.