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A mammoth, fifty-person enterprise featuring the cream of the early-seventies jazz-rock brigade, Centipede's 1971 album 'Septober Energy' proved to be an exercise in both gargantuan excess and instrumental brilliance. Naturally, opinions on the release are divided. The line-up is far too numerous to list here, though it did include the likes of Soft Machine alumni Marc Charig(cornet), Elton Dean (sax), Roy Babbington(bass), Robert Wyatt (drums), Nick Evans(trombone), John Marshall(drums, percussion) and Karl Jenkins(oboe, sax), Patto's leader Mike Patto(vocals), King Crimson-and-Bad Company's future front-man Boz Burrell(vocals), King Crimson and future Foreigner co-founder Ian McDonald(sax), Nucleus members Ian Carr (trumpet), Brian Godding(guitar) and Jeff Clyne(bass) whilst the projects main organiser was Keith Tippett, leader of The Keith Tippett Group, whose wife Julie(vocals) also appeared. The album is divided into four, lengthy pieces, each of which hover around the twenty-minute mark, making this one epic listen. Luckily, three of the four pieces are pretty memorable, the group playing with considerable discipline. If there is a problem with 'Septober Energy', however, then it is this: the opening section features precious little music, instead featuring a cacophony of strange, eerie vocals and abstract sounds; not a good start. Also, despite the musical excellence on offer, this very much touches on a more arty style of jazz-rock, the rock almost airbrushed out completely.
That said, fans of the many groups who appear - and it could be said that this is basically a massive supergroup of sorts featuring Soft Machine, Nucleus, Patto, The Keith Tippet Group and a bunch of seriously talented classical and jazz musicians - should lap this ensemble piece right up. Very high-brow then, and not exactly progressive rock or fusion per se, but still pretty fascinating for serious music listeners all the same. (progarchives)