Weather Report – Sweetnighter

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Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Boogie Woogie Waltz was one of the most mindblowing tracks found on any album from 1973
  • The sound is huge, spacious, lively, transparent and punchy – this is jazz fusion that really rocks
  • 4 stars: ” 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.”

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.

The top end is fully extended here in a way that most copies barely hint at, and the overall sound is amazingly transparent and three-dimensional. The brass is full and rich, the percussion lively and present, and the bass is weighty and defined. All the stuff we look for on a Classic Weather Report album is here.

Note especially that the energy is excellent, and both sides are also very high-rez; the echo trails from all the studio reverb go on for days.

What the Best Sides of Sweetnighter Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • 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 1973
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

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 qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

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.

What We’re Listening For on Sweetnighter

What surprised us most about the dozen or so copies that we played years ago 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 vintage 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’.

Smear is also another thing to watch out for — smear kills what’s good about this record. The percussion transients lose their snap and the harmonics get lost. The less smeary sides really work to bring out the funky magic of the recording.

Click on the Reviews tab above to read AMG’s 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.