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Articles Home » 1978 Articles » Medusa - 1978 Medusa
Medusa - 1978 Medusa

ARTIST: Medusa
ALBUM: Medusa
LABEL: Columbia
SERIAL: PC 35357
YEAR: 1978


LINEUP: Eric Tagg, Cheryl Alexander - vocals * Jim Mahoney, Daryl Thompson - guitar * James Batton - keyboards, vocals * John Lee - bass * Gerry Brown - drums

Additional Musicians: Eef Albers - guitar * David Sancious - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Soul Free * 02 Heartburn * 03 Second Hand Brain * 04 Our Love Is Surely Gospel * 05 Medusa * 06 Lucky Fella * 07 Hit And Run Lover * 08 You Leave Me Hangin' * 09 Mr CT

The cover might make this album appear darker upon first view, but the contents within defy that observation. Medusa were a 7 piece outfit, the key combination of the band being drummer Gerry Brown and bassist John Lee, both had extensive jazz fusion backgrounds, Brown appearing with Chick Corea's Return To Forever but is now the resident drummer for Stevie Wonder, and is considered by many in the industry to be in the master-drummer category. Lee, has played with Larry Coryell's Eleventh House and the legendary Dizzy Gillespie. Assmebled in New York and signed to Columbia Records, the early Medusa recordings also included Dutch guitarist Eef Albers, who at one point had replaced Jan Akkerman in Focus, but had spent many years in outfits featuring both Brown and Lee. Also part of the cast were David Sancious and vocalist Eric Tagg (Beehive, Lee Ritenour). Medusa then, an interesting assembly on paper, melding jazz fusion, west coast, and funk, though with two lead singers in the band (male, female), there was an option to go down the path perhaps set by outfits such as Desmond Child And Rouge or The Group With No Name, but thankfully Medusa had too many musical chops to consider making the band a vocal oriented one. Unfortunately, Columbia had signed the band on the basis of their jazz fusion background, but the material presented to the label wasn't purist jazz fusion at all, the Medusa collective had wanted to pursue a more 'rock oriented' direction, which probably didn't please the 'suits' one iota.

The Songs
Tony Jasper in the first edition of the International Encyclopaedia of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal (circa 1983) described Medusa as a mix between Kansas and Mothers Finest. I'm not totally convinced of that comparison, though I can certainly hear where he might have made that call. If you listen to the amazing intro to the opener 'Soul Free', you can immediately hear the incredible drum work of Gerry Brown, a man in the same league as Billy Cobham and Tony Williams in my opinion, though the song is quite dextrous, and shifts freely among different styles. The guitar solo is worth noting too. 'Heartburn' is a different kettle of fish, sounding like Memphis' very own Creed, with Cheryl Alexander sounding quite tough in a Ruby Starr way. Great smoky song! In fact, Alexander's contribution is sensational, she really adds a funky and heavier presence, so no doubt Jasper compared her to 'Baby' Jean Kennedy of Mothers Finest. This you can hear on the steamrolling title track 'Medusa', featuring some killer guitar work. She takes charge again on 'Hit And Run Lover' which will please many of the readership here with its hard but melodic sound. Tagg and Alexander team up for co lead vocals on 'Second Hand Brain', a searing rocker with vocal cameos and a style somewhere between early Le Roux and Tantrum. The title 'Our Love Is Surely Gospel' is a bit suspect surely? It's a lite effort, and to be honest, the tracks that Tagg sings lead on don't interest me as much as the ones that Alexander sings on. 'You Leave Me Hangin' is another featuring Tagg on lead vocals being a mellow west coast affair, and rarely raises the excito-meter, thankfully the closer 'Mr C.T' (an instrumental) kicks things back into gear, and sees Medusa express themselves through varying musical degrees, with some astonishing keyboard solo work.

In Summary
With next to no response from the public, the album went nowhere, perhaps not helped by the fact that Medusa didn't set one foot on stage to promote it. As expected, 'Medusa' the album disappeared into the murky mire of cutout bins only to be rediscovered many years later because of the reputation of the players. Of interest, Lee and Brown reconvened the following year under the banner John Lee & Gerry Brown for a joint album called 'Chaser', which continued the jazz fusion/crossover sound, and featured some of the Medusa members. Where Medusa excel are in the heavier tracks, and though the material may vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, this is certainly worth investigating for the handful of tracks that stand out a mile.

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#1 | gdazegod on June 26 2011 01:29:40
Medusa - Heartburn
YouTube Video:
#2 | gdazegod on June 26 2011 01:33:54
Medusa's keyboardist James Batton died in 1986 of a heart attack. According to Eef Albers webpage, Batton was overweight and died far too young.
#3 | Eric on June 26 2011 01:54:12
A good album, nice choice.
#4 | gdazegod on June 26 2011 13:26:11
I actually have that Lee/Brown album 'Chaser'. It's quite a varied album, mostly instrumental. The Crusaders light jazz in one corner, Santana like excursions in another corner, Brothers Johnson like funk elsewhere. It's quite good.
#5 | reyno-roxx on June 26 2011 21:38:53
Good album. The description in the book was not from the pen of Tony Jasper, but can be credited to either Steve Hammonds or Derek Oliver who both were more aware of the band and had the album at that time.
#6 | gdazegod on September 16 2016 00:22:36
Another one from the late 70s, hidden link.
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