OnOffOn - Surrender Now

Year of Release: 1997
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: NFN31921
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:31:00

Surrender Now is the first album from California's jazz-blues-r&b-rock outfit OnOffOn, released in 1997. Like their follow-up, Your Mind, the collection of tunes is rather eclectic, though all pretty much staying within that jazz-blues-r&b-rock motif, sprinkling progressive elements here and there. Though in the course of this review, I'll mention each track, they aren't necessarily in playing order.

The title track is a 70s r&b sounding track that begins at first reminiscent of the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Running," owing to the harmonica of guitarist/vocalist/harmonica-ist (to make up a word) Don Lake. "Rock Garden" edges closer to the smooth-jazz realm for a brief moment, with its hazy, laid-back rhythm, though Lake as vocalist is uncharacteristic for that genre. While the track isn't intended to be humorous in any way - in fact, it's downright philosophical - I couldn't help but see comedic actor Bill Murray doing his lounge singer character from Saturday Night Live. This then becomes an impression that's hard to shake. Even during the very next track, the harder edged, blues-rock number "Your Reality," which gets into a mellow-ZZ Top kinda groove, this crossed with a Hendrix-like groove for the latter half, has a Murray quality. The Hendrix-ness, by the way, returns with the funky "I Don't Give No...," though in both cases, it is the Hendrix of "Purple Haze."

"Inside My Soul," with bassist/keyboardist Von Babasin on vocals is a mellow, torchy, warm, bluesy number, though lyrically it's rather sad, someone trying to work through the loss of someone very close. In that, it's touching. Musically, it's the kinda mellow material that Bonnie Raitt took to the top of the charts nearly a decade ago now -- though Babasin doesn't sound like Raitt, that's not the comparison. But anyone familiar with her Nick Of Time album, should keep "Ain't Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again" in mind - even down to the keyboards, which have a distinctive Rhodes sound to them. Along the same lines is "The Gift Must Always Move," an instrumental track that makes me think of Craig Chaquico, and it's more than just the sound of steel strings, as Lake's playing here echoes Chaquico's stylistically as well. A jazzier America also comes to mind, as well as Al DiMeola, for one. The other, first, instrumental is "Weekend In Montreal," which is at times energetic classic jazz, at times becomes mellow, cool jazz, all led by the tenor sax of Glen Garrett (and reminding me the sax in "Your Latest Trick" from Dire Straits). While that's not to say I don't like the other stuff, this is the kinda stuff I like, this "Weekend In Montreal." Yeh, I could listen to a whole album of the stuff on "The Gift..." and "Weekend..."

"Please Baby Please" has light, upbeat rhythm, highly percussive -- drummer Dave Goode is credited with "bluejeans, fannypack, newspaper" as his instruments, while bassist Babasin contributes fingersnaps along with bass, leaving guitars and vocals to Lake. Walking bass begins "Letter Received," a story-song that others compare to Tom Waits, and given the gravelly-voiced parts that are "the letter," I know exactly why they say that. Lake even does a bit scatting in this easy, soft-shoe like piece.

The other voice of OnOffOn is displayed in the acoustic guitar lead "If A Thief Were I." Lake plays an extended, often fragile intro. It is sensitive without being weak, assured without being aggressive. This track really feels like two, because the acoustic section is long (the track itself is 11-plus minutes). Once the vocal portion begins, the instrumentation is filled out by Kris Berry on conga, vibes and marimba, Babasin on bass, and Carole Couture-Oliveri on backing vocals. There are shades of James Taylor, Jim Croce and Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" -- by way of comparison.

The album ends with "Remember Only..." which begins as very moody, dark, atmospheric piece, quite subtle, but ominous... Maybe because I just saw it, but this could very well serve as the incidental music for something like Lord Of The Rings, or some other dark, dark drama... Pounding percussion resolves out of a orchestral swell, but dies off... here the track becomes very, very quiet again... the first time I was listening, I thought the disc had ended. This is the proggiest track, when you recall... remember? ... that progressive music expands beyond the rock definition. This is an epic, cinematic piece, that, aside from the two highlights of their jazz identity, and the highlight that comes before this track ("Thief"), is the best piece of music that OnOffOn have to offer... and you get more than 8 minutes of it. I think of Steve Roach's Midnight Moon release... with the latter four minutes or so, things become much more energetic, more rhythmic, but not losing its acoustic base.

Surrender Now (5:55) / Rock Garden (3:45) / Your Reality (5:07) / Weekend in Montreal (5:35) / I Don't Give No... (4:28) / Inside My Soul (5:48) / Please Baby Please (4:18) / The Gift Must Always Move (7:03) / Letter Received (3:44) / If A Thief Were I (11:03) / Remember Only... (12:17)

Don Lake - guitars, harmonica, vocals
Von Babasin - bass, vocals, keyboards, fingersnaps
Dave Good - drums, percussion, bluejeans, fannypack, newspaper
Lisa Panzerella - background vocals (1)
Okido Kyoki - koto (2)
Kris Berry - marimba (3, 11), conga, vibes (11)
Glen Garrett - tenor saxophone (4)
Carole Couture-Oliveri - background vocals (10)
Mudflap Buzz - onoffonothonic philharmonic conductor (12)

Surrender Now (1997)
Your Mind (1999)
Bridge To Presage (2005)

Genre: Fusion-Jazz Fusion

Origin US

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.onoffon.com
Hits: 692
Language: english


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