Screaming Headless Torsos: 1995 (2002)
This is the record that started it all. In 1995, the Screaming Headless Torsos burst out with their eponymous debut on Discovery. Guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski, who had been active as a sideman for other players, finally stepped into the limelight. His virtuosity and versatility perfectly suited the open-ended project, a quintet lineup with Dean Bowman on vocals. Alongside reworked versions of Bill Evans and Miles Davis tunes, the Torsos laid down ten originals spanning the range from dirty funk to shimmering metal. As they put it up front in "Vinnie," their sound resembles "jazz funk thrash rock." Indeed.
Now, six years later, Fiuczynski has reissued this record as 1995 on his Fuzelicious Morsels label. The newly remastered version adds a couple new tunes, including a twisted cover of Hendrix's "Little Wing" and the angular closer "Something." But it's essentially the same music, and an ideal introduction for new listeners curious about Fuze's iconoclastic style. Bowman's vocals pause for scattered moments of seriousness, including a lyrical requiem for Sarajevo, but more often speak brightly about the joys of life and the redeeming powers of music. For example, on "Free Man," Bowman declares:
For twenty long years, I had a secret: I could not read music. But now, thanks to Hooked On Funk, I'm a free man!
The Torsos profit from a solid lineup, including the wide-ranging Jojo Mayer on drums. Daniel Sadownick adds significant depth on percussion, texturing the music but never interfering with its forward thrust. But what marks this group is that they're completely together. Despite all the many detours into unknown territory, the Torsos operate as a group, not an ego vehicle for Fuze's monstrous musical powers or Bowman's vox populi.
Much of 1995 will grate on sensitive ears, and jazz purists would best be advised to keep a safe distance. But for listeners like me, who quickly tire of safety and conformity, the Screaming Headless Torsos remain a revelation of the highest order. Their first record deserves a careful listen and withstands hours (years!) of repeated play.
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Track Listing: Vinnie; Free Man; Cult of the Internal Sun; Little Wing; Word to Herb; Blue in Green; Chernobyl Firebirds; Graffiti Cemetery; Smile in a Wave (Theme from Jack Johnson); Wedding in Sarajevo; Hope; Kermes Macabre; Another Sucka; Something.
Personnel: Dean Bowman: vocals; David "Fuze" Fiuczynski: guitars; Jojo Mayer: drums; Daniel Sadownick: percussion; Fima Ephron: bass.