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Mystic Voyage: Live Recordings

Roy Ayers

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Album Review

Depending on who you talk to, 1975's Mystic Voyage is either a classic or an example of a talented musician lowering his standards in order to make more money. Many funk and soul aficionados consider Mystic Voyage a classic, and the album has been sampled extensively by hip-hop and acid jazz artists. But jazz snobs have about as much use for Mystic Voyage as they have for George Benson's Breezin' and Patrice Rushen's Pizzazz, both of which found artists who used to specialize in straight-ahead jazz burning up the Billboard charts with more commercial music. Mystic Voyage doesn't pretend to be jazz; its primary focus is R&B, and it must be judged by R&B standards instead of jazz standards. Judging Mystic Voyage by jazz standards is like ordering a pizza and complaining that it doesn't taste like Vietnamese food; pizza isn't supposed to resemble Vietnamese cuisine, and similarly, Mystic Voyage isn't meant to impress jazz's hardcore. The only tune on the album that has anything to do with jazz is the title track, a laid-back pop-jazz instrumental that became a favorite with the quiet storm crowd. But Mystic Voyage is dominated by vocal-oriented R&B, and that includes gritty funk items like "Funky Motion," "Evolution," and "Spirit of Doo Do," as well as Ashford & Simpson's mellow "Take All the Time You Need." Although Mystic Voyage is a favorite among Ayers fans, it isn't the best R&B-oriented album that he recorded in the 1970s — Vibrations and Everybody Loves the Sunshine are actually stronger and more essential. But it's definitely enjoyable and pleasing if you fancy 1970s soul and funk and aren't a jazz snob.

Biography

Born: September 10, 1940 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Once one of the most visible and winning jazz vibraphonists of the 1960s, then an R&B bandleader in the 1970s and '80s, Roy Ayers' reputation s now that of one of the prophets of acid jazz, a man decades ahead of his time. A tune like 1972's "Move to Groove" by the Roy Ayers Ubiquity has a crackling backbeat that serves as the prototype for the shuffling hip-hop groove that became, shall we say, ubiquitous on acid jazz records; and his relaxed 1976 song "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" has been...
Full Bio