Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Roy Ayers' Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976 - 1981

It's a dilemma well stated by Jack Black in High Fidelity: what are you supposed to make of a music god that's released pure shite in the more recent past?

'Course, ol' Jack Black was talkin' about Stevie Wonder, who's committed more musical crimes in the past two decades than Roy Ayers has throughout his career (though a man who can write a song like "As" can do whatever the hell he pleases), but Ayers has been equally guilty. The first of the two Virgin Ubiquity comps, featuring unreleased recordings from Ayers' vaults from the late 70s through to the 80s, contains tracks that largely could've stayed in the vault, with little worry that anybody would've broken in to steal them.

Next to Ayers' amazing output during 75 - 77 (Mystic Voyage to Everybody Loves the Sunshine), it's little wonder that these tracks just didn't fit anywhere amongst those albums. Virgin Ubiquity is generally comprised of filler material schlock, late 70s soul-funk that would find itself appropriate to the more B-grade blaxploitation films of the day than anything else. Most of the tracks are completely rendered useless by the overwrought vocals of Carla Vaughn and Merry Clayton, who are reminiscent of those contestants on American Idol seeking to impress by straining their vocal cords. Word has it that both the Masters at Work and Gilles Peterson had passed on releasing the material themselves, with Ayers finally finding output on BBE - it's little wonder why.

There's the odd standout track from the compilation - the instrumental "Green and Gold" and the stomper "I Am Your Mind" (the latter reminiscent to "Running Away" or "Sweet Tears") - but it's hard to tell if they're quality on their own or if they just seem that way next to the other tracks on the comp. Do either equal "Everyone Loves the Sunshine" or "We Live in Brooklyn"? It's close, but just too hard to say (though "I Am Your Mind" does remind one of Ayers' genius). They're a pleasure to listen to, to be sure, but perhaps little equity to balance out the rest of the crimes committed with the rest of the compilation. It might not be the atrocity of "I Just Called to Say I Love You," but being boring - which Virgin Ubiquity is - might be just as bad.

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