Billy Cobham: Original Album Series

Five albums from fusion’s mightiest drummer.

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Fresh from his genre-defining work with Mahavishnu Orchestra in the early 1970s, drummer Billy Cobham struck out on a solo career, and this set gathers together his first five releases. These Original Album Series collections are no-frills affairs without liner notes, but that doesn’t excuse messing up the track listing on Spectrum.

Opening with the fusion classic Quadrant 4, the album is vintage jazz-rock with Cobham showing the first signs of an interest in funk, on Red Baron. Crosswinds has arguably the most ambitious music of this bunch, from the multi-part suite of Spanish Moss - A Sound Portrait (including thunderous drum solo), to the freeform improv The Pleasant Pheasant. Total Eclipse and A Funky Side Of Things see Cobham really getting his groove on.

The sound is more commercial than the preceding albums, but he plays wicked funk grooves on Moon Germs and a superb solo on A Funky Kind Of Thing. Shabazz captures Cobham’s band live and positively tearing into the music, with extended solos and interplay.

While much modern fusion suffers from being slick and soulless, this really is jazz-rock and funk played with bite and power.