Under Appreciated Band of the Week
Weather Report: Groovy 70s Fusion
How smart was the record buying public in the 1970’s? Well..if you can believe it they were smart enough to place 10 Weather Report albums on the US LP charts between 1971 and 1980…jazz doesn’t sell goes the old retail adage ….but incorporate a few sounds of pop, rock and funk and you have a wonderful sonic fusion….easy on the ears…thought provoking in a way that much music from the 1970’s wasn’t.
Led by jazz greats Joe Zawinul (the composer of the standard ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), Wayne Shorter, saxophone king supreme, and Miroslav Vitous, an original and stunnng bass player- Weather Report burst on to the scene during the heyday of early 70’s jazz rock fusion.
Miles Davis in fact had just scored a Gold Record with Bitches Brew and other significant albums by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever and Deodato proved to anyone in the record biz that jazz combined with rock could sell in the early 1970’s. Weather Report’s self-titled debut album hit #7 on Billboard magazine’s jazz chart and was voted album of the year by the jazz bible Downbeat. By late1974 the band had scored 4 Top 40 Jazz best sellers in the US and had issued a well received live album in Japan and they were just getting started.
Taking on a sort of floating workshop in 1975 and 1976 the band veered into funky sounds by enlisting many new players into their recording sessions. Drummers and bass playes came and went as Zawinul and Shorter became the Fagen and Becker of jazz. Finally in 1976 the bass player of their dreams, Jaco Pastorious, entered their Weather Report world.
Pastorious was so talented that he collaborated with producer Bobby Colomby to issue a dazzling solo album even before officially joining the Weather Report
ensemble in 1976. By early 1977 the new LP from Weather Report was issued to rave reviews and big sales. Heavy Weather would prove to be one of the biggest selling fusion albums of all time, topping the Billboard Jazz chart and crossing over to hit #30 on the pop LP chart and #33 on the rythmn and blues chart. Additionally the lead track, ‘Birdland’ was also popular in discos and was even edited down for pop stations in early 1978. Weather Report had arrived…they were jazz-rock fusions only “rock” stars, selling out hughe venues and selling a lot of vinyl. Heavy Weather was certified Gold for 500,000 copies sold in 1978 and has remained a big seller to this day.
Heavy Weather’s sound is very much a reflection of the era…funky bass, electronic keyboards that dazzled your headphones and intelligent compositions that just said what they said and asked for nothing in return….the band could go no where but down after this but
All of their work is worth a listen (except for their last album in the mid-80s which they admitted was a piece of junk)…1979’s Mr Gone continued on where they had left off and has some fine work including Jaco’s FM radio ‘River People‘….an Eno-esque tale of UFO’s landing in a tropical swamp somehwere..tired of 2014?? Put on your headphones, go to YouTube and type in w-e-a-t-h-e-r report….you won’t be bored anymore…;-)