Weather Report: The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981

The outlook is good on this must-have four-disc set.

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Weather Report’s popularity hit new levels in the wake of the chart success of their 1977 album Heavy Weather.

During their subsequent live shows the band developed a noticeable swagger, one which occasionally took them beyond showing off their prowess to simply just showing off. Add in a few burgeoning ego tussles to the already abundant levels of testosterone sloshing about, and there existed a potentially explosive mix. Yet it’s that chemistry between Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Pete Erskine (percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. features on just one disc), that made Weather Report such a volatile but attractive combination, both then and now. These four discs feature a persuasive blend of soundboard and good-quality audience recordings, and the sonic rawness of such sources more accurately reflects the visceral nature of the band, making this release preferable to 8.30. The last major-label chronicle of the ‘fearsome foursome’ in concert, that 1979 release had a somewhat diffuse and slick ambience. Here, each one of the 28 previously unreleased performances is a testament to a rapacious talent, one always keen to consume the adulation from the band’s awed crowds and convert it into a high-octane rocket fuel. Perhaps the best example of this characteristic is a 21-minute, no-padding rendition of Zawinul’s Gibraltar, the first official live release of this classic tune. Seeded with hair-trigger riffs and springboards for each player, it soars to skyscraper heights and swoops down to basement bop dives in one vertiginous rush. This, like the best of Zawinul’s writing, pulses with the giddied wonderment of someone who has witnessed the air age become the space age and whose melodies embrace modality and modernity with a convert’s zeal. Pete Erskine’s detailed sleeve notes give an insider’s take on life within a band eagerly determined to make and change their own weather. The Legendary Live Tapes is an essential addition to an already impressive legacy.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.