Bozzio, Terry - Prime Cuts

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: Max-1001-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:11:00

Don't go into Prime Cuts expecting to hear - necessarily - the best drum work that Terry Bozzio has ever done. Or expect it to be a solo album of all new material - though there are two previously unreleased pieces, one of which was recorded for this album. Some might review it as commercial recycling ... a hook from Magna Carta to get you to purchase their product by releasing a series of focused samplers (past and future releases include Tony Levin, Steve Morse, and Mike Portnoy). Of course, much of what Magna Carta has released over the years is worth purchasing. What you should expect then is survey of what work Bozzio has done for artists signed to the Magna Carta label, including his own project with Levin and Steve Stevens (guitar) in Bozzio Levin Stevens ("Dangerous" is the included track from Situation Dangerous).

I'm not sure if it's my subconscious working and focusing on the subject at hand, but it sure seems like the drum tracks have been upped a bit in the mix. Not to the point of making the tracks out of balance, but... well, maybe it is just my imagination. Prime Cuts features a total of 8 tracks, the longest being "Last Call" from the Explorer's Club release Age Of Impact at 11:10... but Bozzio's own "Sick Jazz Surgery" is 10 minutes of well... drumming.

Since many of these pieces have been reviewed elsewhere (just follow the links at the end of this review), I'll focus on the tracks here that haven't been, beginning with "Sick Jazz Surgery," which starts the album. The title might imply some... fusiony jazz power workout, or something where Bozzio demonstrates how fast he can play... But no. It's a demonstration of what he can do with his full kit, and give it some meaning, some... "story telling," if you were. That is, it's not a drum solo in terms of what you get at concert, it's the drum solo version of piano solo albums (though, in fact, there's more than drums at play here). Now, to get some idea... the picture inside the booklet shows you his set up - at least 25 drum units*, a couple dozen cymbals, an array of pedals, and a laptop. And with the textures in this piece, well, I think he uses every piece at least once, including drum pads.

There are other instruments (or samples) that make an appearance, as entioned, including something that sounds like a very moody horn (I couldn't help but think of a sad elephant, actually), and a trilling flute. Looking at the notes - Bozzio plays drums, glockenspiel, flute, chromatic piccolo toms, keyboards, voice and programming on this piece. It's darkly jazzy, moody, morose... let's say, it's not a healthy elephant. Oh, it rocks, but it rocks in a subtle way.

For a more technical description of what he's doing, you can read the liner notes, written by T Bruce Wittet, contributing writer for Modern Drummer and Associate Editor of Muzik Etc./Drums Etc.. The "sick" part for me is that this piece is a little skewed... at about 2:30-2:40, it becomes something like a melancholy remembrance of a child's lullaby (must be the glockenspiel here).

The other new piece is "Walking Dream" a bass and drum duet between Levin and Bozzio. This is textured (yes, that word again), atmospheric and exactly what that title suggests... and, I think, really great piece. It was recorded during the Black Light Syndrome sessions. It's also a very short track at just about 2 minutes.

"A Glimpse Into A Deeply Disturbed Mind," which appeared on the Magna Carta release Drum Nation Volume One) is what you might have expected from the "Sick Jazz Surgery" title... drums pound and explode out of the speakers, yet still with a measured force. Effects create a fuzzed guitar element, and Bozzio's highly "effected" vocals give this a very digital, synthetic feel... like one has walked into... a world that is one part Blade Runner, one part 1984, and one part some dark, violent, super-cynical cyberpunk film... a movie that could only be made by some Ridley Scott/Quentin Tarentino hybrid. It's gritty, greasy, rough and dangerous, and the pounding drums only heighten one's anxiety and make the heart race. The intensity might go on just a bit too long, though it's only 8:47 in length...

"Dangerous" is a heavy fusion piece with fat, frenetic bass work from Levin, screaming guitar from Stevens and flurrious drum work from Bozzio (yes, I made that term up, I mean a flurry of furious playing). It's a bit Rush like, and yet much more like fusion. An amped up "XYZ," let's say.

What else is here: "Dreaming In Titanium" from Jordan Rudess' Feeding The Wheel, "Last Call" from Explorer's Club's Age Of Impact, "Edge Of A Circle" from Bozzio's collaboration with bassist Billy Sheehan, Nine Short Films, and "Melt" from the Vapourspace remix album (the original appearing on Situation Dangerous).

An album like this can be hit or miss... as I said, it doesn't necessarily represent what is Bozzio's best work... if you didn't like the albums these tracks appeared on originally, you won't like them here, either. This doesn't give them a new spin, no new approach or arrangement... it's a compilation album only. If you aren't familiar with the source work, well, the album is designed to entice you to try them out. But, to hear the two new pieces, it's work a look.

*I'm not a drummer, but I'm sure there's a more technical term... I mean, I know the metal frame that holds the skin (and the skin part itself) is called the head, and I know some parts, but...

Sick Jazz Surgery (10:32) / Dangerous (6:40) / Dreaming In Titanium (4:10) / Last Call (11:10) / Walking Dream (2:03) / A Glimpse Into A Deeply Disturbed Mind (8:47) / Edge Of A Circle (5:16) / Melt (3:40)

Terry Bozzio - drums, percussion

Trent Gardner
Wayne Gardner
Matt Guillory
James LaBrie
Tony Levin
James Murphy
John Petrucci
Jordan Rudess
Billy Sheehan
Steve Stevens

Bozzio Levin Stevens - Black Light Syndrome (1997)
Bozzio Levin Stevens - Situation Dangerous (2000)
Bozzio Sheehan - Nine Short Films (2002)
Prime Cuts (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 31st 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1056
Language: english


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