The Zawinul Syndicate - Black Water/ Lost Tribes [BGO Records - 2020]Centred around respected Austrian keyboardist Joe Zawinul, of highly influential fusion band weather Report, The Zawinul Syndicate blended together fusion with world music and general genre trait mixing. Here from BGO records, we have a double CD release of the bands second and third albums- 1989’s Black Water, and 1992’s Lost Tribes- with both been digitally remastered.
The two discs are presented in a clear jewel case, which comes in BGO’s house style slip sleeve. We get a glossy twenty four-page booklet- this features fifteen-page write-up about the two albums & the band themselves. Along with full liner notes & lyrics too.
The Zawinul Syndicate started life in 1988, some two years after the end of weather Report- with a shifting line-up of around thirty musicians & vocalists. Over their career the band put out three studio albums and two live albums- they wound after Zawinul away in 2007.
First up on disc one we have 1989’s Black Water- this was originally released on CBS, and takes in nine tracks- there are no bonus track here. The albums runs spot on the forty-minute mark, and is often very densely layered in both it’s instrumental layers, blending of genres, and different world music traits- so it’s certainly a record that often takes a risk, which at times work, but at others feel a bit too busy/ crowded for their own good. We move from the afro ethnic jazz, meets gospel and cruising ‘n’ jiving Latin blues-rock/ soul-pop of the title track. Onto the haphazard though enjoyable Cajun funk R'n'B guitar tipped swing of “Medicine Man”. Through to soaring delta blues meet heavy synthetic afro-jazz of “They Had A Dream” which features both African male & slurred vocoder vocals. So as an album Black Water is certainly sonically globe-trotting, which at points does get a little over zeal/ heavy-handed in its blending's
Moving onto disc two, and we have 1992’s Lost Tribes, this was released on Columbia, took in ten tracks & playtime of spot on fifty minutes. Instead of the more formally lyrical edged track of the previous album, we largely get an instrumental affair( save for chants/ choirs)- though once again the sound is decidedly densely layered in both in instrument & general traits. We go from tight afro-eastern electro-funk of "Lost Tribes", with it’s locked ethnic scat vocal loop & darting Synclavier textures. Onto smooth jazz tipped pop-rock meets awkward/ choppy synthetic horn programming of “Night Clock”. Through to clip-clapping Spanish guitar meets Africain percussion of “San Sabastian”. Onto the bonding/ sleek bass-meets-jazz horn and piano playfulness, and latter chiming blues country guitar & gospel choir swoon of “In A While, In a While”. On the whole, I found as an album Lost Tribes more successful than it’s predecessor in it’s even mixing & blend genre. Sure it has a very 90’s production & use of synthetic instrumentation is very much of its time, but I don’t mind that too much, finding it kind of clankingly charming.
In conclusion, it’s great to these two albums get the classy & loving reissue from the folks at BGO. Sure they may not be an iconic & respected as his Weather Report work, but there is most certainly worth in both albums. And if you enjoy fusion where genres & world elements blend/ collided you’ll be wanting to put this two-CD set in your collection.Roger Batty