James Blood Ulmer

Org Music, 2019


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


The Org label unearths another legendary record, and this time it's James Blood Ulmer's 1984 masterpiece, Odyssey. Blood, accompanied by only Charles Burnham on violin and Warren Benbow on drums, takes the minimalist route here. His unparalleled guitar skill shines bright as Burnham manipulates his strings in inventive ways, while Benbow both wails and shows restraint behind the drum kit. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Church” gets the album off to a complicated start as the guitar and drums dance around each other with a hypnotic and feral approach where there's no shortage of grooves, and “Little Red House” follows with husky vocals and strong violin prowess in the blues setting. This creativity then continues to the calculated and Eastern ideas of  “Love Dance,” one of the album highlights, though there's truly never a dull moment to be found.

The second half of the listen brings us the quick paced “Election,” the soaring title track, and the raw “Please Tell Her,” where vocals are again in attendance on a ballad like delivery. “Swing & Things” then ends the listen in a busy display of controlled chaos, as improvised jazz sensibilities line up nicely alongside a boogie aesthetic that few could replicate.

Ulmer has had an incredible career that amazingly has spread out over five decades, though Odyssey, with its ingenious approach to violin tone and avant-garde exploration, has long been considered his best work and it's easy to see why. Even after 37 years, the album holds up well, sounding incredibly modern as Blood covers both bass parts as well as guitar leads with his boundless talent.

This updated version of Odyssey comes on a double LP at 45RPM and is mastered from the original analog tapes by Bernie Grundman and pressed on 180gram vinyl. It's also highly limited – a mere 2000 copies – and it's pretty likely those will go pretty quick.

Rating: A-

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