Show ‘Em Where You Live – Vital Information
Tone Center 4022-2
The usual problem with a supergroup of Vital Information's caliber is that
they are too technically gifted for their own good. In other words, such
stellar virtuosity can often undermine the enjoyability of the tunes and
make them viable only to other musicians.
Given the stature of players in Vital Information – drummer Steve Smith,
keyboardist Tom Coster, bassist Baron Browne and guitarist Frank Gambale – it's miraculous that the band avoids such trappings. Instead, Show 'Em
Where You Live, a phrase uttered to ex-Journey Smith during a solo
20 years ago, is a well-balanced collection of interesting and occasionally
soulful grooves, curious improvisations and, yes, impeccable chops.
Credit Smith with allowing things to work. He maintains a sense of swing
throughout the disc's 72 minutes that is sorely missing in most fusion
outfits. The group also refuses to pigeon-hole itself to being strictly a
fusion group. Their flexibility pays off.
The group recalls the soul-jazz heyday of the 1960-70s on "Soul Principle"
and "Sideways Blues" and Coster uses his accordion to create a trance-like
drone on the aptly titled "Our Man In Louisiana." Even the obligatory
musical masturbation of "Mr. T.C." avoids pitfalls. The songs is an opener
and thus an introduction with each of the members given plenty of room to
strut. Rather than show what they can do – and, naturally, most musicians
can't – they aim for a more emotional than technical target. In Gambale's
case, this is particularly surprising. His awesome approach to swept-picked
arpeggios has come to pretty much define his career.
Scattered throughout the formal songs are seven improvisational pieces
"Cranials". This trend began on Vital Information's previous live disc and
the pieces range in length from one to seven-plus minutes. Although
occasionally impressive, they do more to break up an otherwise flowing album
than serve it.