Catalyst - The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 & 2
The rediscovery of a 70s funk and soul band is always a cause for celebration. This time, the renewed spotlight is on Philadelphia's Catalyst. "The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 & 2" collects the band's four release output, music that was hardly heard outside of the city. The volumes are sold separately, but I'll give you the overall review of both. While it is cool to report that the band was open-minded and daring enough to incorporate avant-garde and free elements into their music, they also all-too often fell back on a tepid fusion that quickly becomes redundant enough to give some insight into why Catalyst didn't make it out of Philly.
The funky, smooth, fusion with R & B and flute touches of "East" and "Jabali" share time on the first disc with tunes that borrow more from straight jazz, such as "Catalyst Is Coming." More tunes like "Celestial Bodies," hot, funk tracks with occasional toe-dipping into atonality, and featuring strong horn and organ work, would have been nice, rather than the mellow, lite jazz rock of "Uzuri," of which there are too many, especially on the second disc.
Aside from several uninspired slow jams of that type, the second disc has a few solid highlights, from the fuzzy bass driven funk of "A Country Song," and "Fifty Second Street Boogie Down ," to "Mail Order" s outre fusion, to the Mothers-like fusion, with a hip dub-like melody barely scraping disco of the two part "The Demon." The closer, "Bahi," is one of the best of the entire release, with a nice groove driven by conga and vibes, the kind of mellow rhythm with soul that stands out against other more tepid fare in that vein.
"The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 & 2" shows Catalyst to have been a competent quartet that could play funk and soul, and which had been listening to the various strains of Free and Fusion floating around in mid 1970s black music. While lacking the consistency to break out of their city or region, the band clearly had a wide vision that, even if they did not pull off, nevertheless shines through.
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