Billy Cobham: Spectrum

The Songs:

  1. Quadrant 4
  2. Searching For The Right Door
  3. Spectrum
  4. Anxiety
  5. Taurian Matador
  6. Stratus
  7. To The Women Of My Life
  8. Le Lis
  9. Snoopy’s Search
  10. Red Baron

Personnel:

  • Billy Cobham – drums & percussion
  • Tommy Bolin – electric guitar (All tracks except #3 & #8)
  • John Tropea – guitar (Track #8)
  • Jan Hammer – keyboards
  • Lee Sklar – electric bass (All tracks except #3 & #8)
  • Ron Carter – acoustic bass (Tracks #3 & #8)
  • Joe Farrell – flute, soprano & alto saxophone (Tracks #3 & #8)
  • Jimmy Owens – trumpet & flügelhorn (Tracks #3 & #8)
  • Ray Barretto – congas (Tracks #3 & #8)

Spectrum was the 1973 debut album by fusion drum powerhouse Billy Cobham and is still widely considered to be his best recording. Recorded and released near the end of his tenure with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, it featured fellow Mahavishnu member Jan Hammer on keyboards and famed session bass player Lee Sklar, as well as the young guitar sensation Tommy Bolin, in between his stints with the James Gang and Deep Purple, where he replaced Ritchie Blackmore. Bolin was still only 21 when Spectrum was recorded. Sadly, he would be dead only three years later from a drug overdose. This album captures some of his best playing along with some of the leader’s best compositions, such as “Red Baron,” “Taurian Matador” and especially “Stratus,” which has been widely sampled and even used in video games. A couple of cuts also featured acoustic bassist Ron Carter and a horn section consisting of Jimmy Owens and Joe Farrell.

Although Billy Cobham didn’t achieve the level of success that he had reached with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Spectrum easily stands with some of the best work by that group as one of the landmark albums of jazz-fusion, alongside albums by Miles Davis, Weather Report, and Return to Forever. He followed Spectrum up with several fine album, with band members that included the Brecker Brothers, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, George Duke, and Alphonso Johnson. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Greg Prato. Touched By Magic: The Tommy Bolin Story.

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