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Crate Digger’s Gold: Weather Report – Sportin’ Life (1985)

November 17, 2013


I was a very one-dimensional Weather Report fan – I was a Jaco Pastorius fan.  I had the good fortune of seeing Weather Report live during the Mr. Gone tour and I got to see Jaco with Joni Mitchell Shadows and Light tour.  So my Weather Report experience was Heavy Weather and Mr. Gone. I failed to dig deeper back in the late 70s and early 80s.

But a few years ago I bought the Forecast Tomorrow box set and I learned how much I was missing.  This coincided with my vinyl renaissance.  Weather Report was a hugely popular band so their catalog is easily available on vinyl for cheap.  Over the last few years I have been slowly filling in the gaps with near mint vinyl for less than five bucks a title.  Each title I have picked up has been sensational.

My most recent purchase was Sportin’ Life from 1985.  I have been spinning it endlessly for the last couple of weeks.  It is a sensational record.  I Googled it and found a great site: Weather Report: The Annotated Discography.  The article on Sportin’ Life gives the back story better than I can so read it.

At this point in the Weather Report discography, the band was primarily Zawinul.  That is not to diminish Wayne Shorter – he adds some amazing spice here, but he is not the main attraction – it is Zawinul. Zawinul had just recently embraced the latest in keyboard technology – MIDI.  This album was his first official expression of the new technology.  In the hands of a guy who had been playing with electronic keyboards for 20 years at this point it was a match made in heaven.

This album has a very world music feel and it most of the songs have a very festive resort feel (the album cover perfectly captures the spirit of the music on the LP).  Weather Report were at the height of their powers and on top of the world in the mid-80s – they were THE FUSION band.   Unfortunately this was the end – there would be one more throw away album and the band would be over.

This is near perfect fusion jazz – it is timeless – is sounds amazing today as it must have over 25 years ago.  Zawinul makes a synthesizer totally organic: a horn section and not just sound effects.  The cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is perfect and a great introduction for the novice of the Weather Report modus operandi.  This album is readily available in the crates for less than $5 – buy it!

  1. Zawinul just makes good music. GReat crate dig. My next take is on the first time I heard WR.

    • Well I look forward to reading your remembrance of that first time. I have to admit it was an acquired taste for me. But over time I came to really love the band.

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