It’s that time of year!
I should have listened to my inner voice. The album art was tempting and I had some store credit to burn at a favorite shop. I didn’t even listen closely to the record store owner’s subtle advice. Paraphrased, he said he liked the album and that it sounded “Ok.”
And it does sound “Ok” but it doesn’t sound awesome or fantastic or jaw-droppingly great. Actually, it sounds kind of like I imagine this album would sound on CD. It sounds very similar to the 16-bit, 44.1 kHz streams on Tidal and Qobuz (which also sound OK).
But for a 1968 album that seemed to promise some sort of psychedelic Sitar splendor made by a tall handsome barefoot man in a dark suit and tie — who looks somewhat like actor Pierce Brosnan — perhaps I should have known better than to expect something more sonically and musically satisfying.
Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood might have been a thin recording to begin with but I may never know as original pressings on Impulse Records are pretty rare and quite pricey on the collector’s marketplace.
I guess part of my unrealistic expectations stemmed from seeing that Impulse Records logo on the cover. Even the spine looked accurate too, with the classic orange and black striping. So, I thought Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood might sound like a classic Impulse album — rich and full bodied with loads of studio presence and round woody instrumentation.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here (on this pressing at least).
When I opened the album I saw the logo and label design of Captain High Records, my heart sank a bit. It was then that I looked closely at the back cover and saw the insignia of “Universal Special Markets” and I realized this probably wasn’t something even close to the fine Acoustic Sounds or Tone Poet series of releases Universal has issued in recent years. As far as I can tell from the back cover and the internet, Bill Plummer And The Cosmic Brotherhood was issued in 2013 on vinyl (there is also a 2011 date listed, which I think applies to the first CD reissue at that time).
As I said earlier, this sounds very much like the CD quality streams I have spot checked.
So, my question is why Bill Plummer And The Cosmic Brotherhood is suddenly appearing on store shelves in 2022? I have seen it popping up in several shops here in San Francisco prior this (ahem) impulsive purchase. Was the album sampled by someone famous or perhaps a track from the album was used in a movie?
Some of you might want to know how the music is on Bill Plummer And The Cosmic Brotherhood? Well, its a curio for sure which — at times — loosely recalls the Middle Eastern flavored works of David Lindley’s great first band, Kaleidoscope with some jazzy overtones. Ultimately, I found it disappointing as an end to end listening experience. It is nowhere near the epic journeys of Alice Coltrane.
Some of the music has a fun West Coast vibe at times especially when Plummer sticks to by-then-classic jazz structures — “Pars Fortuna” is quite an enjoyable piece that has a nice timeless feel. “Song Plum” is a sweet Jazz-lite tune, marred only by too-loud-in-the-mix (and incessant) finger cymbals and distracting Sitar intrusions.
But more often than not, much of the music on Bill Plummer And The Cosmic Brotherhood feels tepid and unfortunately dated (not in an especially good way). The groovy Sitar-and-Harpsichord vibe of Burt Bacharach & Hal David’s “The Look Of Love” could fit in an Austin Powers movie soundtrack.
The trippier flavored jams on Bill Plummer and the Cosmic Brotherhood feel less successful. I can’t help but feel this is a wobbly bit of stoner-flavored cash-in attempt played by a bunch of studio cats. The album includes some great players like Milt Holland on Tabla, Dennis Budimer on Guitar, Tom Scott on Sax (flute and “electronics” too) and Wrecking Crew legend Carol Kaye on Bass. With that pedigree, I kept hoping that some of the longer pieces like “Arc 294º” and “Antares” might lift this mothership into the stratosphere but it never quite gets out of the airplane hangar. Again, it is OK but not remarkable as I was hoping it might be.
Your experience may vary, of course…
Anyhow, even though I am fairly disappointed I’m glad I got this. I wish I’d taken the time to look into this release a bit more closely so I knew what I was getting into. Accordingly, I hope this review might offer some perspective for some of you fence sitters to consider before plunking down your $25 bucks. Proceed with caution…
Will I keep this? For now, I guess I will. It is an interesting curio. Maybe it will grow on me when I listen to it again in a year or two. And perhaps I’ll get lucky and find an original which will hopefully sound warmer and more inviting than this cold sounding edition.