When Andy Bey's 1996 album, 'Blues Ballads and Bey' appeared on the scene, the first impression was of a genius, cut from whole cloth. Like Kaspar Hauser, he appeared as if from nowhere, fully formed. But Andy Bey was no newcomer. He had a recording and performing history that stretched back almost 40 years. He recorded as a child prodigy, then with his sisters in Salome and Geraldine, and after they parted ways in the mid-60's he recorded with Duke Pearson, Gary Bartz, Horace Silver. His first solo album as an adult (and last before 'Blue Ballads and Bey') was 1974's 'Experience and Judgement' for Atlantic. Now, the good people at Koch have reissued this forgotten gem.
Those that became fans of Andy Bey through 'BB&B' and last years 'Shades of Bey' may be shocked by the sounds on 'Experience and Judgement'. The sublime interpreter of the great American song is gone, and in his place is a creature, part Jon Hendrix, part Jimi Hendrix, preaching the virtues of meditation and other paths to the inner light in a powerful window to his earlier career. This is not to say that if a listener is prepared (and open minded enough) for the funky side of Bey, that they won't be pleased, for 'Experience and Judgement' is a very satisfying disc.
In the same spirit as some of his work with Horace Silver, 'Experience and Judgement' illustrates a point in Bey's vocal evolution distant yet not disconnected from his current sound. It's almost as if someone had taken his 1999 voice, and compacted it's power, delivery and endowed it with a youthful excitement (or lack of maturity depending on your point of view). The degree to which the listener will appreciate 'Experience and Judgement' will have a lot to do with your appreciation for 70's funk jazz and a willingness (if mystical self-realization is not, how do they say 'your bag') to look past the lyrics at the totality of the performance.
This writer found 'Experience and Judgement' brimming with excitement, and found the muscularity and enthusiasm of the younger Bey well worth repeated listens.