Reviewed by Nathan Ford
A total treat for the ears (and feet) here with Esoteric handling the first ever official CD release of Bob Downes' "Deep Down Heavy", originally released on the cheapo Music For Pleasure label in 1970.
Downes' second album (Esoteric also reissued his first here a few months back), "Deep Down Heavy" is a stylistically diverse and totally fascinating document of it's times.
Downes is of course most celebrated for his saxophone and flute skills, but anyone expecting a straight jazz album will be grabbed by the shoulders and shaken vigorously by this one. Joined by the likes of Chris Spedding, Alan Rushton and Ray Russell, this is a hugely entertaining piece that uses progressive jazz as a starting point but is equally reliant on heavy funky psychedelic rock.
Take opener "Too Late" - it all starts incongruously enough with some of Downes' delicate pastoral flute work, but within half a minute we're in thunderous heavy rock territory with drums that reimagine John Bonham as a member of Funkadelic. Totally outrageous stuff.
Likewise the tribal percussion and atmospheric flutework of "Day Dream" has more in common with Black Widow than Miles Davis.
Also featured prominently is poet Robert Cockburn (who elected to record his pieces on location on various London public transports - only in the late sixties...). Heady stuff, but a treat for those who enjoyed the nutjob BBC Radiophonic Workshop / David Cain "Seasons" release on Trunk last year. Speaking of the Workshop, the sinister ambient throb that acts as a backdrop to Cockburn's "Hollow Moment" sounds an awful lot like a precursor to Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire's "Legend of Hell House" soundtrack which was yet to come.
Fear not though, it's not all progressive weirdness. There's plenty of funky, heavy jazz grooves here for those who don't want to wander too far beyond the fringes, with Downes taking the lead on Saxophone behind some piping hot crate digger's-dream drums.
Certainly as an album "Deep Down Heavy" is wildly stylistically incoherent, but as a document of the anything goes, melting pot nature of the U.K underground of the late sixties and early seventies it's nigh on essential, and more importantly ceaselessly entertaining.
You can buy this wee gem here.
Let this play through to get an idea what you're in for....