The Lonely Bears

Pelican Sound Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The album Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop did more than re-introduce a guitar legend to a new generation of fans. It started a musical partnership between former Frank Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio and Beck's keyboardist Tony Hymas that became one of progressive rock's most influential -- and surprisingly unheralded -- groups, The Lonely Bears. With guitarist Hugh Burns and saxophonist Tony Coe, the group produced three albums that have taken the lessons artists like Miles Davis wrote and taken them to the next step. As a result, many groups in the instrumental prog-rock genre -- perhaps unconsciously -- have somewhat based their sound on this group.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yet their second album, Injustice, suggests that veering off the highway onto your own road can occasionally cause some jolts to the musical vehicle. And while the project is overall quite enjoyable, it has its moments where you can't help but wonder just what this quartet is doing -- and, in a way, maybe that's the sign that they've got a good jazz vibe going.

At times, taking the road less traveled proves to be dangerous, as tracks like "Quannah Parker" (despite subtle respecful bows paid to the late Charlie Parker) leave the listener confused, wondering just what is going on for six minutes. When things do finally tie together, I fear it sometimes might be too late to reel the listener back into the fold.

Yet there are even Zappa references in the musical phrasing, as evidenced in the opening of "Kill King Rat," a song that no doubt pleased Bozzio's musical mentor, even if the drum work occasionally slipped into standard 4/4 pounding. Anyone familiar with Bozzio's work should find a good comfort level in material like this.

But Injustice is not all about exploring unfamiliar musical avenues. Tracks such as "Jennifer" and "Entre Le Tigre Et L'Euphrate..." all create a mood that fits the musical scene quite well, and allows the listener a chance to get intimately acquainted with The Lonely Bears on their own terms. While it may have been more beneficial to have put at least one of these pieces earlier in the album to help ease the listener into the uncharted waters, it still comes as a welcomed oasis.

What Injustice serves to do is show the listener just what kind of strides were being made in progressive jazz in the early '90s -- and how these roads may still be unfamiliar to many people. At times a fascinating listen, at other times an uncomfortable one, The Lonely Bears proved they were well worth paying attention to back then -- and still are today.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Pelican Sound Records, and is used for informational purposes only.