Lonely Bears, The - The Lonely Bears

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: PSR 9804-2 (or MA 9804)
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:12:00

How do you classify something this diverse? Should you even try? This is one moment progressive rock, one moment jazz fusion, one moment mellow jazz rock, one moment world music, and one moment classical ... many things. All great.

How to describe it is a bit easier - enchanting, entrancing, exhilarating progressive music. Anyone who claims that they are a lover of music should allow themselves to be seduced by this disk. It's playful and serious, subtle and overt, warm and cool ... it is by far one of the best, if not the best, things I've heard this year.

Here's why - four guys: Terry Bozzio, Hugh Burns, Tony Coe, and Tony Hymas. Drums, guitar, sax, and keys. That's all it took to make this music the work of art it is.

Now, I'll admit I was not familiar with The Lonely Bears before getting this - though I was familiar with Bozzio. This disc was recorded in the early 90s, and is now released for the first time in the US.

I don't even know where to start on this ... track by track? Overall? Tony Coe's sax work is just amazing ... his tone is beautiful, whether he is playing it cool, warm, or hot. Hugh Burns guitar lines are one moment lyrical and at another cutting, angular, raw. Terry Bozzio's drumming is quite dynamic and powerful. Tony Hymas' keyboard textures are spectacular, a balance between jazz, rock, and classical.

A playful sax riff opens the album with "Our Red Sea," which has a sort of "Take Five" kinda groove to it. Burns then comes is with searing, raw guitar slices, only to give way to Hymas' keys, and then all at once ... it sounds cacophonous and yet it all holds together ... Bozzio's drums and percussion percolate ... this gets the heart going, gets you excited for what might come next. The credits say that this has a traditional arrangement, but I was hard pressed to find any other reference than to The Lonely Bears.

This leads into the loping "Zugzwang," bringing to mind aerial shots of wildlife in Africa - galloping animals trying outrace each other ... or footage of two angry critters - pick any one - fighting it out over territory ... Burns' guitars shreds even more, searing hot leads, sharp as glass. Odd vocals effects here, too, plus some voice overs. Floating over this at times is a gentle, floating sax ... odd percussive sounds (keys, I think). Weird and wonderful at the same time. Chaos in the jungle, becomes extreme chaos ... heart pounding chaos!

Track three shifts gears to shimmering guitar and bright sax leads ... this is almost more a smooth jazz/Rippingtons kinda thing, but played with more subtlety and nuance. More trad jazz in the smooth than most smooth gets.

Brooding sax starts off "Oka," an arrangement based on "the traditional 'Iroquois Scalp Dance'" ... well, until a sudden brightness comes upon us, courtesy of both Coe and Hymas. The rhythmic tone Bozzio gets from his drums is warm.

"Sartre" is probably their most progressive rock moment, with shades of King Crimson and jazz fusion. Drums drive this track, the only solo Bozzio penned tune, as Coe's sax squeals and trumpets, Hymas' keys cluster in small flurries, and Burns' guitar razors in and out.

On "The Alpes As We Knew Them" there is a quiet stillness underscored by quiet, sustained piano notes from Tony Hymas - there's tension in the air, as the piano slowly becomes more prominent ... then the sparse trill of Coe's soprano sax ... symbol work from Bozzio ... the tension builds ... and builds as heavy piano notes overwhelm the lighter ones ... something menacing this way comes ... and then ... it passes by (or maybe we're on slow approach ... reach the peak ... and we're over on the other side...). Wow ... great stuff, and certainly too subtle to be background music.

"Chanson Du Bonhomme" is another Coe lead piece, soprano sax ... very classically influenced as he trills in an almost playful way (recalling the motifs a bit of the opener).

Whew! And I even left out mentioning some tracks. This has claimed the top spot on my favourites of 1999 (even though its a re-release) ... it will take quite a bit to top this, I think.

Very Highly Recommended.

Our Red Sea (5:35) / Zugzwang (7:59) / Eastern (6:36) / Oka (6:39) / The Freedom of Wind (4:02) / Trois Tambours de Abed (1:53) / Canterbury Song (3:21) / Sartre (3:12) / The Alpes As We Knew Them (5:13) / Chanson due Bonhomme (6:27) / Alarums (0:44) / ...And Excursions (4:43) / Nana (5:08)

Terry Bozzio - drums
Hugh Burns - guitars
Tony Coe - saxes
Tony Hymas - keyboards

The Lonely Bears (1999 reissue)
The Bears Are Running (1994)
Best Of The Lonely Bears

Genre: Fusion-Jazz Fusion

Origin US

Added: September 7th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1016
Language: english


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