Weather Report – Sweetnighter – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album. What surprised us most about the dozen or so copies that we played for this shootout was how wrong most copies of this album sound. They’re SOUR in the midrange. On this kind of music, a sour midrange is the kiss of death. Those copies that aren’t sour are frequently just plain dull. On a recording like this, so full of percussion — which to be honest LIVES OR DIES on the quality of its percussion — dullness is devastating.  

And so is SLOWNESS. If you have old school tube equipment — great for old RVG recordings but way too slow to keep up with this fast paced and percussion-heavy music — this record is not going to do what it desperately wants to do: get your foot tappin’.

This is our favorite Weather Report album here at Better Records. Heavy Weather is arguably a more ambitious and more accomplished piece of work. But Sweetnighter is so original and rhythmically compelling that we find ourselves enjoying it more. I don’t know of any other album on the planet like it. We only know of two Must-Own Weather Report albums, this one and Heavy Weather. They both belong in your collection if you’re a fan of jazz fusion.

Had Us a Real Good Time

We really had a great time listening to this album for our shootout. Weather Report has always been one of our favorite fusion groups, mostly because of the diversity of each of their albums within the confines (context?) of the genre. If you were comparing Sweetnighter to Heavy Weather, could you even be sure it was the same band?

Sweetnighter is completely and unapologetically groove-oriented, putting heavy emphasis on the rhythm section (here made up of some of the jazz world’s most innovative and talented players.) Which means, dear reader, if your copy doesn’t have punchy deep bass and plenty of whomp, man, you are really missing the boat on this album.

Not to worry — here at Better Records we know a thing or two about whomp. You might go so far as to say we LIVE for it. It’s the one area of the sound that, more than any other, really brings music in the home to LIFE. Those of you with big dynamic speakers and the power to drive them know what I’m talkin’ about.

Click on the AMG Review tab above to read their insightful and enthusiastic commentary.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Boogie Woogie Waltz
Manolete
Adios

Side Two

125th Street Congress
Will
Non-Stop Home

AMG Review

Right from the start, a vastly different Weather Report emerges here, one that reflects co-leader Joe Zawinul’s developing obsession with the groove. It is the groove that rules this mesmerizing album, leading off with the irresistible 3/4 marathon deceptively tagged as the “Boogie Woogie Waltz” and proceeding through a variety of Latin-grounded hip-shakers. It is a record of discovery for Zawinul, who augments his Rhodes electric piano with a funky wah-wah pedal, unveils the ARP synthesizer as a melodic instrument and sound-effects device, and often coasts along on one chord.

… The wane of freewheeling ensemble interplay is more than offset by the big increase in rhythmic push; bassist Miroslav Vitous, drummer Eric Gravatt, and percussionist Dom Um Romao are now cogs in one of jazz’s great swinging machines.