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Phase - 1979 Midnight Madness

ALBUM: Midnight Madness
LABEL: Red Mark Records
YEAR: 1979
CD REISSUE: 2013 Modulus, MOD503


LINEUP: Regan Ryzuk - piano, moog synthesizer, celeste * Carl Scariati - electric bass * Dave Anderson - electric guitar * John Hvasta - drums, tympanis

TRACK LISTING: 01 Mobius * 02 Ostination * 03 Vibes * 04 Seven Eleven * 05 Irrational Funk * 06 Quiescent Gale * 07 Midnight Madness

Here's a kick-ass fusion album that flew under the radar of most astute collectors of the genre for years. Formed in 1978, this young and seriously driven New Jersey band rarely played live preferring instead to experiment with various sounds and influences that were coming their way at the time. From Weather Report and Miles Davis to the progressive rock of ELP, Yes and PFM as well as modern classical composers such as Stravinsky, Bartok and Ligeti; Phase was drinking it all in although by necessity they continued to support themselves through straight ahead jazz gigs and top 40 cover bands. After laborious sessions, the Phase demo tape dropped in the laps of the little known Cincinnati based label QCA records and they were excited enough to record and release 'Midnight Madness' on their tiny Red Mark imprint. In 2013, The Laser's Edge offshoot Modulus smartly reissued the album in a nicely presented, true to the original art mini-LP sleeve and what a killer disc it is.

The Songs
Stunning front sleeve graphics aside, the liner notes on the back might possibly lead to clues as to why the album has been so long overlooked as Jazz rock masterpiece. Each of the seven songs features a rather dry and academic description and a couple even allude to improvisation and those two dreaded words among melodic fusion fans- Free Jazz. Fortunately that's not what we have here as Phase sits comfortably with Return To Forever, the aforementioned Weather Report and a host of European fusion outfits like Nova, Perigeo and Passport. The playing is outstanding and rapid-fire from the get go with 'Mobius' and hotshot guitarist Dave Anderson enormous talent on full display. 'Ostination' runs a similar line, just with a tad more horsepower and lots of noodling moog recalling Keith Emerson while the band slow it down for the lilting 'Vibes' which is similar to Shadowfax and some of the tranquil moments from their 'Watercourse Way' opus. 'Irrational Funk' is just like the title says, nutty stuff in 15/8 time and now I'm dizzy and suffering Frank Zappa withdrawals although the first couple minutes of 'Quiescent Gale' are the cure and very calming before we dive head first into seriously rhythmic territory highlighted again by Regan Ryzuk's stellar moog work. His stabbing piano interplay between Dave Anderson's lightning fast licks are a marvel to behold and on a high note brings the curtain down on one of America's top fusion secrets.

In Summary
The same album was released in 1981 as 'Comprovisations' under the moniker Fusion Quartet with the same tracks but different running order. Not sure what the story was on that and I've never seen a copy but I think I'll just stick with the CD reissue. It's cheaper that way.

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