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Tony Williams – The Joy of Flying

June 9, 2020

A while back my son @pwelbs lured me into a Twitter game where you were supposed to name four albums you typically listen to from beginning to end. Like that was a unique thing! Millennials were raised on individual tracks and playlists. I was raised on LPs. It got me thinking what’s an album I don’t listen to all the way through?

I was recently listening to Ronnie Montrose’s Open Fire and that led me to recall drummer Tony Williams’ 1978 album The Joy of Flying. That is an album I have rarely listened to from beginning to end. At best I listen to side one, but most of the time I listen to the last song on side one: the album’s sole live cut featuring Ronnie Montrose and his song “Open Fire.” I love that track.

“Open Fire” was from a one time only Tony Williams All-Stars show performed on July 27, 1978, at Japan’s Denen Coliseum. Someday,  I hope to hear the rest of that show. It was reported to include “Rocky Road” and “Heads Up” from Montrose’s Open Fire, “Red Alert” and “Wildlife” from Tony Williams’ Lifetime album Believe It, “There Comes a Time” from Ego, “Dragon Song” from Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express and “Capricorn” with special guest Billy Cobham.

It is a great cut. It is hard rock with no hint of jazz and fusion on the rest of the album. Montrose has great riffs and face-melting solos. Williams makes Bonham sound like a lounge band drummer.

In light of the “listen to from beginning to end” challenge I gave the album a proper listen recently. On paper the album is a hodgepodge:

  • Two duets with Jan Hammer
  • A duet with Cecil Taylor
  • Two songs by a quartet with Jan Hammer, George Benson and Paul Jackson
  • Two songs by a quartet with Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, and Tom Scott
  • One song with a quartet labeled the “Tony Williams All-Stars” with Ronnie Montrose, Brian Auger, and Mario Cipollina

In reality, it is a remarkably cohesive album. I have been missing out all these years not listening to it like a proper album. Give it an open-minded listen.

P.S. My wife, who edits my posts, noted that I rarely listen to an album all the way through – because I fall asleep in my chair before I get through the first side.  Touché!

From → Music Reviews

One Comment
  1. Just listened to this a while back. You always remind me of music i like to hear.

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