Don Sugarcane Harris
"Cup Full of Dreams"
German - Import
Blueswax Rating 8
Masterful Violin Fireworks
Violinist Sugarcane Harris is fired up during this 1973 studio session for MPS (now available for the first time on CD). Guitarist Harvey Mandel's picture on the disc is hilarious with its black bar covering his eyes. My guess is there might have been previous contractual issues. The original LP had Mandel credited as the "mystery guest." Also on the sessions are keyboardist Dewey Terry from the classic Don & Dewey recordings, plus bassist extraordinaire Larry Taylor, the recently deceased drummer Paul Lagos, guitarist Randy Resnick, bassist Victor Conte, Jr., and Richard Aplan on sax. All five instrumental tunes were authored by Harris. He also co-produced this fine effort with Jerry Fox.
Flying right out of the gate is the appropriately titled "Runnin' Away" where Harris' opening notes and solo are furious and intense. Terry's piano solo is much more mundane in tempo but tasty, Resnick's guitar antics are very crafty, and Larry Taylor's bass lines along with Lagos' drumming are neatly aligned.
"Hattie's Bathtub" is both gorgeous and wild. Harris' playing is dynamic, and Mandel is also sharp with his expressive guitar solo and some heady guitar tapping. The tune closes with Harris and Mandel frantically riffing off each other's solos, stunning!
Closing side one on of this "two-sided album" is a wild jam, "Bad Feet," that sounds like a song that could have taken place during the third set of club gig. Everyone is bubbling with creativity. Lagos' drumming is percolating with Conte's bass, Sugar Cane is driving hard, and Mandel's guitar is right there with all the scrumptious fills and leads.
Side two starts with the lengthy title track cocking in at 14:21. There's a beautiful introduction to the theme of the song, but ever so slowly things begin to broil. Then like a supersonic jet Harris lifts off and into the stratosphere, and the band rolls. Things do simmer down for Resnick's clever guitar solo, Aplan's sax takes the tune out a bit, and Terry's piano playing off the sax is sympathetic and intuitive. Additionally, Taylor is given the opportunity to take a bass solo, after which Sugarcane steps back into the cockpit and away they go! The finale, "Generation of Vipers," is another late-night and funky jam. It features unique rhythm playing from Harris' violin, and Mandel is a little dissonant sounding much as he was on his groundbreaking Shangrenade recording that featured almost the same band assembled here.
Harris' career started as the guitar playing half of the 1950s rock duo Don & Dewey. Fortunate for us Sugarcane switched from guitar and picked up the violin. Harris also toured and/or recorded with John Lee Hooker, Frank Zappa, Johnny Otis, Freddie Roulette, Charles Wright, Harvey Mandel, John Mayall, and the short-lived Pure Food & Drug Act with Mandel, Lagos, Conte, and Resnick. Harris also has several recordings credited to his name mostly on this same MPS record label. He had many lengthy battles with pulmonary disease. At sixty-one years of age he was found dead in his Los Angeles home in 1999.
Kudos to the Promising Music label for its exquisite and distinctive packaging. The disc looks like a mini LP colored in black with what looks like the original vinyl. There are thoughtful and insightful liner notes printed on high quality and glossy paper by the label's Consul Bodo Jacoby, plus the original LP liner notes, and recent quotes offered by guitarist Randy Resnick that added a lot of background information previously unknown. The mastering is also delightful. This disc sounds ultra-clear. Every instrument jumps out of your speakers and right into your ears. This type of high quality effort is rarely seen by any current recording label and needs to be applauded!
Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: email@example.com
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com