The adjective 'legendary' has become almost a cuss word in the oft wanting halls of modern critiquing. Hardly a name arises anywhere that the term isn't laid on him or her, even and especially if they've been on the scene only five minutes. I rarely use the word, so disgusted have I become with my compeers' bastardization of it. Ah, but then there are cats like Will Lee, who has appeared, if my calculations are correct, on half the LPs and CDs ever issued over the last 40 years and whose name is as much a byword for solid, dependable, vibrant bass work as Tony Levin's. So, okay, maybe I'm not as fed up with 'legendary' as I was before I got this disc, which is a rockin', bluesy, and even chart friendly (Miss Understanding, a cross between Alan Parsons and Al Stewart) affair. Then, of course, there's the jaw dropping roster of musicians: Billy Gibbons, Leni Stern, Pat Metheny, Chuck Loeb, Bob James, Steve Lukather, John Tropea, Allen Toussaint, Larry Hoppen, Oli Rockberger (here), Hugh McCracken, and on and on and on. Legendary indeed!
Randy Brecker gave Lee his breakthrough, inviting him into the Dreams jazz-rock band way back when, and from there, the guy never stopped recording, touring, and pal'ing around with people like Carly Simon, George Benson, Frank Sinatra, Carl Perkins, Steely Dan, and a list so long my fingers get tired just thinking of it. Though Lee's known for his bass work, he began as a drummer and is quite the singer as well. The first track, Gratitude, shows this clearly, a Manfred Mann's Earth Band-ish number with Lee sounding much akin to Chris Thompson (Paul Shaffer's and Lee's own keyboard atmospherics provide Mann's trademark colorations). Then jump over to Papounet's Ride for a hoppin' fusion romp bubbling propulsively, Bob James on the keys, Lee's bass perambulating underneath it all.
On the other hand, that four-stringed axe can be a lead instrument, as we saw with Colin Hodgkinson, Felix Pappalardi, and others. Lee drags his to the front of the stage for the highly lyrical Simple Way to Say I Love You, his fretless sounding very like Mark Egan's, Gary Schreiner's Buffalo/Thielemans harmonica bluebirding beside him. The cut is followed by Natives, a tropical rocker with a guitar solo by Lukather that's gonna turn Neil Schon green with envy, Lee's singing voice again featured—and if he doesn't watch out, as if decades of work in the CBS Orchestra weren't enough above and beyond all the other stuff, he's going to have another career to deal with, as Phil Collins found out once he stepped out from behind the drum kit.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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