Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gábor Szabó - Magical Connection (1970)

















Happy New Year, first of all.
It's good to see many of Gábor Szabó's albums coming back into the catalogue, especially his 60s records on the Impulse! label. Here's one that's still out of print for some reason, 1970's Magical Connection on the Blue Thumb label. The follow-up, High Contrast, a collaboration with Bobby Womack, featuring the original version of the Womack-penned George Benson crossover hit 'Breezin',' has been out on CD for some years, but its less famous predecessor on the same label remains in limbo.

There's an invaluable Szabó discogaphy on Doug Payne's website here, which contains more biographical and discographical information than I could provide here. Check it out.

I first became aware of Szabó's name (as I imagine did many others) as the composer of 'Gypsy Queen' which was used as an extended coda to 'Black Magic Woman' on Santana's Abraxas album. I daresay Szabó made more money from that cover version than he did from all of his albums as leader combined. Larry Coryell also covered 'Gypsy Queen' on his excellent Barefoot Boy LP.

I'm a little ambivalent about Szabó's records. His playing is always outstanding, but his records occasionally tend towards easy listening cheese. Sometimes it works wonderfully, as with his bizarre Jazz Raga album (featuring his untutored sitar overdubs). Sometimes not so much. This one's a pretty straight-ahead pop/funk album, with some terrific guitar playing and the amazing Jim Keltner on drums (who also plays on High Contrast). Still not so sure about the version of 'Close to You,' which is maybe a little closer to Karen Carpenter than to Bobby Womack. For more info, have a look at Doug Payne's review.

Szabó's work as a sideman is equally impressive (and often less cheesy). I'd recommend seeking out his work with Charles Lloyd, Paul Desmond and particularly Chico Hamilton. If this post proves popular, I'll see which of his sideman albums are out of print and maybe post one or two.

Blue Thumb Records, 1970. Cat # BTS 8823

Gábor Szabó - Guitar
Richard Thompson - Keyboards (not the Richard Thompson)
Nick DeCaro - Accordion, Keyboards on Close to You, String Arrangements
Wolfgang Melz - Bass
Jim Keltner - Drums
Lynn Blessing - Vibes
Felix (Flaco) Falcon - Congas
Hal Gordon - Congas on Spartacus
Sandra Crouch - Percussion

Tommy LiPuma - Producer

A1Sombrero Sam
5:11
A2Close to You
3:06
A3Country Illusion
3:46
A4Lady With Child
3:44
B1Pretty Girl Why
3:32
B2Hum a Song (From Your Heart)
3:31
B3Magical Connection
4:28
B4Fred and Betty
4:58
B5Love Theme From Spartacus
3:12

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[Links fixed 22/1/12]