- Amazing sound from start to finish on this Shootout Winning TRIPLE TRIPLE (A+++) copy
- One of our favorite CTI albums, and surely one of the best sounding, especially on this pressing
- Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded orchestra occupies
- AMG raves “This is Burrell at his level best as a player to be sure, but also as a composer and as a bandleader. Magnificent.”
God Bless The Child is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others at the top of my list would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).
What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the strings are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.
The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are beautifully rendered. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.
This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it.
What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of the group having the correct timbre
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.
The high point for side one is clearly the first track. It’s got a Midnight Blue relaxed groove going on, the kind that Kenny Burrell seems to be able to bring to any session he plays on. Or maybe it’s the rhythms Ray Barretto works out in the songs that make them so relaxed and swinging at the same time.
Side two is magical from start to finish. The two extended songs, both more than eight minutes in length, leave plenty of room for the band and the orchestra to stretch out.
What We Listen For on God Bless the Child?
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The guitar isn’t back there somewhere, lost in the mix. It’s front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put it.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitar notes, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
Love Is the Answer
Do What You Gotta Do
A Child Is Born
God Bless the Child
Kenny Burrell’s guitaristry is well-documented in his years with Oscar Peterson and on his first dates as a leader on the Blue Note label, but God Bless the Child, his only date for CTI in 1971, is an under-heard masterpiece in his catalog. Burrell’s band for the set includes bassist Ron Carter, percussionist Ray Barretto, Richard Wyands on piano, flutist Hubert Laws, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and drummer Billy Cobham.
CTI’s house arranger, Don Sebesky, assembled and conducted the strings in a manner that stands strangely and beautifully apart from his other work on the label. Sebesky understood Burrell’s understated approach to playing guitar. Burrell didn’t belong with the fusioneers, but he could groove better than any of them.
Sebesky built a moody, atmospheric soundscape behind him, one that was as impressionistic as it was illuminating of a player who could dig in and chop it up — as he does on his own composition “Love Is the Answer” and “Do What You Gotta Do” — and stroke it smooth and mellow as on the title track, the truly sublime “Be Yourself,” and Thad Jones’ “A Child Is Born.”
This is Burrell at his level best as a player to be sure, but also as a composer and as a bandleader. Magnificent.