Listening Back With Plan 9
Bruce Von Stiers
There is a very, very cool band that I found out about several months ago. Their name is Plan 9. I got a chance to review their album The 9 Days of Christmas. It was a great album of seasonal tunes with a unique jazz spin. Now the band is getting ready to release their third album. It is a collection of songs from the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. The title of the album is Rearview.
The band set up this album as a tribute to the music that they played and listened to during the three decades that the songs cover. And they did indeed play during that time. Charlie DeChant was sax player for Hall & Oates, doing a mean sax solos on tunes for them like Maneater. Charlie Morgan was Elton John's drummer for 13 years. He also played with Paul McCartney, Cher and Tina Turner. Lane Hoppen was the keyboardist for Orleans . John Marsden is the musical director and plays keyboards. John's background is composing and arranging music for children's television and corporate clients. Bill Gifford is the band's bass player. He has played a lot in the Central Florida music scene. And Drew Bentley is the band leader and guitar player. He has no formal pedigree to bring with him. But that doesn't really matter in this eclectic group of musicians. They all mesh together to provide a solid and great sounding album of jazz inflected covers of a few of the most popular songs of the last three decades.
Also helping out on the album are people like Bill Boyd on trumpet and flugelhorn, Beth Gottlieb on percussion and Larry Jacoby on bass guitar. There is also Steve Walters on trumpet and flugelhorn and Amy Gifford (Bill's wife) on vocals.
There are 11 tracks on the album and it lasts a little over 44 minutes. John Marsden produced the album.
The first song takes the album to great heights right away. The song is Dance With Me. It was a signature song for the band Orleans . The song is extra special in the fact that Larry Hoppen does the lead vocals. Larry is the brother of Lane and was the original lead for the song when Orleans released it. The song sounds a little different. But the inflection of the song is more jazzy than pop now.
Most of the songs on the album are strictly instrumental. But a few of them have at least some harmonizing.
You might be thinking that this is just an album of elevator music. But you would be wrong. This album puts a definite jazz spin on some pretty cool pop tunes.
The second song puts a spicy jazz spin on a classic '60 pop tune. The song is She's Not There, which was a huge hit for the Zombies. Both the sax and the trumpet are hopping on this song.
If you are an Earth, Wind & Fire fan, then you will enjoy the band's rendition of Fantasy. Lots of horn action is going on here. That is followed up by Lou Rawls' great song You'll Never Find.
There are some of you who might have really liked Pablo Cruise when they were around. The album has a song that was a hit for Pablo Cruise, What Ya Gonna Do. The great thing about this version is that the band was able to recruit Dave Jenkins to do the lead vocals on it. Dave was the lead vocalist on the song when Pablo Cruise did it. And the horn section of Plan 9 replaces the guitar licks of the song, making it truly what the band calls “a totally funky version of the Pablo Cruise classic.”
The Beatles No Reply gets a jazz makeover here. It features a great piano solo from Larry Hoppen.
There is another funky tune that might make your feet tap a little. This one is Kool & the Gang's Too Hot. There is some real nice sax work in the song.
Steely Dan's FM is also given a treatment. I have heard a couple covers of this song before but none quite like this. While staying close to the original music of the song, Plan 9 puts their own stamp on it. There are some harmonies in the song.
For you classic TV fans out there (who isn't?), Plan 9 provides a too cool treat. They play a guitar and steel drum laden Caribbean version of the Gilligan's Island theme song. There are some vocals throughout the song reminding us of the “three hour tour” that caused the premise for the show. It is a fun and busy tune that will surely bring a smile to your lips and movement to your feet.
The last two songs on the album are brand new tunes that Plan 9 put together. The first of these is Superfriction. The band gives tribute to such greats as Tower of Power and James Brown in the song. It features the wah-wah guitar work of guest performer Tommy Colton. He had been the guitarist for the classic band Hotel.
The second of the original tunes for the album is the last song on the album. It is also the title track, Rearview. It is a cumulative look at the music of the last three decades. The song features a great sax solo from Charlie DeChant. But then again, I'm pretty biased. My son is a sax player.
There are several things that came to mind when I was trying to decide how to close this review. One is that Plan 9 is a great smooth jazz band. Another thing is that they have a lot of great musicians who work well together. And the song selection for the album was also great. I know, far too many “greats” in this paragraph. But that's because I really think that Plan 9 is a great band and Rearview is a great album as well. The jazz treatments of classic songs from the past three decades are a definite improvement over the typical elevator music styling that they may have gotten in the past.
Check out the Plan 9 web site. It will have the definite release date of the album. It also has sound clips from the album and some other extras to check out. The web site is www.plan9theband.com .
© 2004 Bruce E Von Stiers