Drummer Steve Smith (Journey, Stanley Clarke) founded Vital Information in the early 80s. With Frank Gambale on guitar (Jean-Luc Ponty, Chick Corea), Tom Coster on organ (Billy Cobham, Santana), and Jeff Andrews on bass, Vital Information returned to the style of their 60s and 70s fusion and instrumental rock influences like Miles Davis, and The Meters, on their 1996 CD Where We Come From
. This effort also marked a change in sonic direction, focusing on Coster's Hammond B3 organ, supported by Gambale's traditional hollow-body guitar and Smith's stripped down drum kit.
The double CD Live Around the World: The 'Where We Come From' Tour 1998-1999 extends this retro exploration with live energy and the funk influence of new bassist Baron Browne (Billy Cobham, Jean-Luc Ponty). The set list primarily includes songs from Where We Come From, with a few covers including Zeppelin's "Moby Dick." The live tracks, culled mostly from shows in Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada, follow in regular set order so the two CDs chronologically represent a full show. Each CD also includes one new studio track.
The music snaps along with a jazz influenced, jam band feel, particularly the energetic first set, with Smith injecting furious polyrhythms into a bridge section of "Cranial Jam." The second set drags a bit, with a drum solo and an extended synth piece, but the set closes with the raucous Coltrane number "Mr. PC."
The organ quartet sound ranges from slightly subdued to boisterous roar. Steve Smith pounds the drums, sometimes more bombastic than suits the music. Gambale plays smooth chording and lines, with occasional bursts of his trademark fast sweep picking to match Smith's drum flurries. Coster's B3 dominates the sound with a languid, 70s style jam band feel reminiscent of groups like the Allman Brothers.
Smith and Vital Information don't break any new ground with their retrospective focus, but their originals in this style are entertaining and fun. According to their website at www.vitalinformation.com, Vital Information recently completed a new studio record with Brown, Show 'Em Where You Live, scheduled for release in early 2001. This record promises to further extend the retro blended with funk development of this most recent incarnation of the band.
Lineup: Steve Smith, drums Frank Gambale, guitar Tom Coster, Hammond B3 organ, accordion Baron Browne, bass
CD One: Dr. Demento Moby Dick Swamp Stomp Cranial Jam Happy House Fortaleza First Thing This Morning The Perfect Date It's A Jungle Out There
CD Two: The Drum Also Waltzes Take Eight Listen Up! Europa Do You Read Me? Over And Out! Mr. PC Soulful Drums