Blue Horizon and Island Breeze were a pair of albums originally released by Elektra's Jazz imprint label Musician, Eric Gale was a Brooklyn born session guitarist who had first found his feet when he appeared on Bobby Lewis's "Tossin' And Turning" which became a No 1 on the American R & B charts. Eric was in his early twenties, his career was underway.
All of which is factually true of course but it tells you nothing of the man.
Eric was a phenomenal talent, his guitar sound was fluid and distinctive, he played from his inner soul, tasteful blues based notes bent and caressed. His music possessed a generous warmth that flows babbling like a brook over pebbles, at times hypnotic, restful, playful, energetic and no matter what always entertaining.
In racking up over 500 album credits as a sought after musician, Eric contributed to all genres, from early Van Morrison (Blowin Your Mind which featured Brown Eyed Girl), the Bluegrass of Eric Andersen, the Jazz of Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, the blues of Al Kooper and Paul Butterfield, the soul and funk of Roberta Flack, Teddy Pendergrass, Ashford & Simpson, the pop of Paul Simon, Billy Joel and even Michael Jackson (Bad), to name a brief few.
Held in such high esteem it was inevitable that a solo career would be offered, a couple of releases on smaller labels led to the offer of four albums for Columbia ( all of which now have been released by BGO as 2 for 1) before these two became seventh and eighth release in 1982/3.
"Blue Horizon" is a melting pot of fusion as it mixes samba's reggae, blues, jazz, tangos, disco and pop seamlessly, they are all tied up with a tastefulness that carries the whole thing with Eric's Guitar always on the right side of restraint, never overpowering or attempting to steal the show. This is predominantly a record where each member of the group contributes and it benefits from it.
On "When Tokyo?", an instrumental' Peter Schott steps forward with cascading piano rolls reminiscent of the late Nicky Hopkins on "Edward The Mad Shirt Grinder" before we morph into a tango and then back into a jazzy blues guitar solo. It's pure class.
"Clock-A-Pa" is pop reggae, it's addictive, whilst "Call Me At The Same Number" is a powerhouse of a song with two drummers and a repetitive chorus, it digs a deeper reggae grove, the vocal is from Winston Greennan, one of the drummers who co wrote the song with Schott. Indeed all of the songs featured on "Blue Horizon" were written with the group assembled for the recording.
The album closes with a Gale penned track, the disco based "97th & Columbus", it's an uptempo close to an otherwise laid back piece of work. Eclectic was written for this type of record.
A year later and "Island Breeze" appeared, gone was the diversity, in was the commerciality.
Covers are tastefully interpreted, Bob James "Broadwalk", kicks it off with nine minutes of smooth accomplished fusion which leads into "We'll Make It (Sooner Or Later) featuring Sandy Barber, a disco diva, on vocals, it's a romantic ballad from the pen of Jimmy Kachulis.
"My Momma Told Me So" is from the Crusaders Joe Sample, it's a slice of funk, the sort of music to sexily snuggle to your girlfriend or partner when you come back after a night out.
The title track "Island Breeze" adds a sultry saxophone to the casual relaxed Caribbean feel as the waves gently crash in the background.
Stand out track though is the cinematic "Dark Romance" as it promises a story by the sheer variety that builds up with the piano ebbing and flowing, the guitar distinctive and economic each note savoured and devoured , the saxophone on top, the percussion below. A perfect theme for a murder mystery suspense tale and even at nine minutes long it's too short, you could loop this all day and still not be bored.
"Island Breeze" closes with "I Know That's Right", a funky dance floor number chosen as a single back in the day.
On the day it failed to chart and despite good overall sales of these two albums (20th and 35th respectively) in the Jazz Charts, it would be his last release for Elektra's label. Some four years would pass before Eric Gale released his next record "In A Jazz Tradition" for EmArcy. In the meantime he returned to sessions including "An Innocent Man" (Billy Joel), "Hearts And Bones" (Paul Simon), two LP's by Ralph MacDonald and of course "Bad".
Aged 55, Eric succumbed to Lung Cancer and sadly passed away and the music industry had lost a truly gifted guitarist.
If you are familiar with Eric's work or are intrigued enough to want to discover more then these two albums at the price point of a single are a good place to start, BGO has done a superb job with an informative twenty page booklet and the whole thing has been remastered in High Definition from the Original Masters.
So, if you are tempted further, I can wholeheartedly recommend the previous two LP's "Part Of You" & "Touch Of Silk" also on the BGO label.
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