This Super Hot Stamper Caldera album has DEMO DISC SOUND, big and bold, wall to wall and then some! Listen to the monster drum at the opening of Sky Islands — it’s not deep like the bass drum in an orchestra, but it’s solid, punchy and way up front in the mix where it really grabs your attention right from the get go. It’s the perfect introduction to a band that wants to get in your face and knock you over with the power and energy of their music. The immediacy of the recording is like standing at the front of the stage where the music is its loudest and clearest, exactly where I like to be!
Not only is this a phenomenally well-recorded album, it’s also one of the best Jazz Fusion Albums of all time, and easily takes top honors in the sub-category of Latin Jazz Fusion. If you like percussion instruments of all size and shape jumping out of your speakers, this is the record for you!
Produced by Larry Dunn of Earth Wind and Fire fame (he also lends a hand on keyboards), Sky Islands is the pinnacle of the group’s output. AMG really nails the Caldera sound in their bio for the band:
One of the most innovative and chance-taking jazz-fusion outfits of the late 1970s, Caldera was a Latin band that combined jazz, funk and rock with a wide variety of Latin music. 1970s fusion explorers like Return to Forever and Weather Report influenced Caldera, but its members were also influenced by everything from Earth, Wind & Fire’s soul/funk to Afro-Cuban salsa, Brazilian samba and Andean/Peruvian music.
Any band that tries to emulate Weather Report, Return to Forever and Earth, Wind & Fire gets high marks in my book, assuming they can pull it off; those are some seriously talented musicians, groups that have made some of our favorite albums of all time, Desert Island Discs even. If you can keep up with them you’ve been doing your homework.
I would add one more band to that list: Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66. Diane Reeves fronts two tracks which sound very much like Classic Sergio Mendes (when Lani Hall was still in the band, pre-Stillness). I’m a total sucker for albums with female vocalists backed by jazzy latin ensembles, been that way for thirty years and see no reason to change now. Especially when they have, as is so often the case, Audiophile Quality Sound. The track commentary below gets into some of the sonic details that separate the winners from the also-rans. A top copy of this album is to die for, but not many had the goods.
Carnavalito is a track that really comes ALIVE when you Crank Up the Volume. I played it FULL BLAST on two different occasions for audiophile friends of mine just to show them what happens when a Big Speaker Stereo meets a Large Scale Recording with absolutely AMAZING audiophile quality sound — BIG and BOLD, wall to wall and then some!
It’s my favorite track not only for the album as a whole but for the band’s entire recorded output. It just doesn’t get any better than this if you have the system for it.
Hearing the megawatt energy in the section when the soprano saxophonist jumps in, right into an ongoing orgy of wild percussion, who then proceeds to blow his brains out — now that is a thrill beyond belief. Played REALLY LOUD it’s about the closest to The Real Thing, the Live Event, that you will ever hear in your living room. (Unless you have a very large living room and lots of latin jazz musician friends.)
Even a year ago there was no way I could get that music to play that LOUD, that CLEANLY, and that tonally CORRECT, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well. The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time. It’s never too late to join in the fun.