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Pioneering fusion guitarist Larry Coryell has dabbled in many styles: straight-ahead jazz, psychedelic jazz-rock, classical, gentle acoustic music, Indian music, Brazilian jazz and pop-jazz. Coryell's embrace of disparate styles has resulted in several inferior albums, but I'm happy to report that Cause and Effect is not one of them. This is an impressive return to the guitarist's fusion roots, and his playing is incredible throughout.
Coryell cranks up the decibels to heavy-metal range and rocks out with authority here. Keyboardist Tom Coster and drummer Steve Smith, both of Vital Information, help to boost the energy level. Coster plays electric keys and B-3 organ, while Smith's drumming is muscular and indefatigable. With three great CDs under his belt this summer, Smith has secured a spot in my personal pantheon of fusion rhythm gods. Bass players Victor Wooten and Bennie Reitveld appear on a few tracks, and Coster uses the B-3 to play the bass parts on the rest.
All 11 tracks are loud and rhythmically intense. Coryell's use of wah-wah pedal and distortion on some cuts brings to mind Jimi Hendrix. Steve Smith's hard-rocking intro to the bluesy "Plankton" recalls Mitch Mitchell, and when Coryell kicks into high gear with some thunderous chords, you can't help but think of Hendrix. "Wes and Jimi" is an overt tribute Wes Montgomery and Hendrix, and you'll swear that both guitarists arose from the dead to jam. "Wrong Is Right" is a heavy-metal bop excursion with some nice organ work by Coster and some spectacular soloing from Coryell. "Bubba" is a loud funk number, while "Night Visitors" seques from spooky synth to menacing groove. "Miss Guided Missile" is an extended bluesy jam, and it's followed by "First Things First," a swing workout for jazz-organ trio.
If you like your jazz loud and electric, you'll really dig Cause and Effect. This is one of the top fusion releases of 1998.