Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts: Encore

AS REUNION albums go, this is considerably better than The Byrds’ album, Booker T and the MGs’, The Small Faces’ or The Animals’, but that’s like saying that a kick in the balls is considerably better than a jab in the eye with a pointed stick.

Way back in the swinging ’60s, I used to dig Auger/Driscoll (as Julie Tippetts was then) a whole lot; the epitome of cool high energy. Auger’s keyboard work was simultaneously stately and rampaging, Driscoll’s voice was meandering and dangerous.

Anyway, they split up in ’69, and since then Auger — a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion since the days when jazz-rock fusion actually combined the desperate energies of rock and jazz instead of subtracting one from the other — has been keyboarding his way around Europe and America, and Julie Tippetts has been avanting with her husband Keith Tippett and sundry others. Now they’re floated to the surface with another collaboration.

Now maturity suits black biuesmen and jazzers, but it doesn’t seem to have done much for Auger and Driscoll. The hideous bland-out plague that afflicts 90% of rock and roll and its assorted related fields in the late ’70s has, sadly, not left even these two unscathed: two cuts to the contrary, Encore is little more than so much elegant wallpaper.

Two songs by Al Jarreau, Chrissakes, one at each end of the album: ‘Spirit’ at the front and ‘Lock All The Gates’ at the end. Other songs include Roebuck Staples’ ‘Freedom Highway’ and what must be the 94th (or thereabouts) version of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s ‘Rope Ladder To The Moon’. Auger’s two contributions ‘Git Up’ and ‘Future Pilot’ are as good a definition of “undistinguished” as one is likely to find this year.

That leaves two cuts: Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi’s ‘No Time To Live’, a strong, beautiful song that receives a strong, beautiful treatment. Auger’s keyboards stab and flow, and Tippetts’ voice claws into your guts and maybe even reminds you of why you dug her in the first place.

I’ve left the best ’til last: a stunning, moving, shaking version of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ — Eric Burddn did it up pretty good with The Animals back in prehistory, but the definitive version was the original by Nina Simone, one of the most affecting vocal performances since James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. Tippetts can’t cut Nina Simone — though she’s certainly been doing her best these last ten years — but she pays a fine tribute.

If ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ comes out a single, purchase is all but mandatory. The album’s a bad bet, though. Still, if this is the Encore, I’m just glad that I was around for the show.

© Charles Shaar MurrayNew Musical Express, 22 April 1978

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