Oh, Yeah? (Nemperor/Atlantic)
Make Love (MPS/BASF)
There's little doubt that Jan Hammer is now in the public consciousness. As soon as we heard the First Seven Days album, we knew it was going to happen, and it has. The kind of music that's getting him all of the attention these days; the LP with Jeff Beck (Wired), and Oh, Yeah? featuring the Jan Hammer Group (Hammer on almost every kind of keyboard, Steve Kindler, violin, Fernando Saunders, bass and vocals and Tony Smith, drums and vocals). Oh, Yeah? is a very tricky package. Hammer plays as if he had a dozen fingers on each hand, and some of the numbers sound like they're designed to transport you straight to disco land: strong almost hypnotic beat, figures that repeat themselves and vocals that can vie for honors with any of the biggest pop-rock groups around. It's all done marvelously well, mind you, but it has the stamp of a commercial cookie cutter. Oh, Yeah? was recorded in Hammer's Red Gate Studio in upstate New York.
Make Love (originally released as Maliny Maliny in 1968) on MPS/BASF was recorded live in Munich when Hammer was only twenty years old and before he was influenced by western pop. Maybe that has something to do with this writer's appreciation of it over the former. Hammer only plays piano and organ; he just has bassist George Mraz and drummer Cees See for backing and there are no vocals within earshot. Simple stuff, but cerebral enough to bring you back for multiple replays. It boils down to what's new and what's nuance. We'll take the velvet glove every time.