Digital Audio, May 1987

Jan Hammer
The Early Years

Producer: Jan Hammer
Engineer: Jan Hammer
Nemperor ZK 40382 (AAD) 1974-77 (86)
Total disc time: 48:01

When I spoke to Jan Hammer some 10 years ago, the man was hot from a stint in the groundbreaking Mahavishnu Orchestra and in the throes of an equally inventive solo career but was he happy? No way.
In fact, he was frustrated to the gills at not being accepted as an out'n'out musical party animal. One could almost see the headline: JAN HAMMER JUST WANTS TO ROCK'N'ROLL!

Of course, 10 years after the fact, Jan has gotten his wish. Thanks in large part to his transfusion of Jeff Beck's career, Jan got to realize his dream after landing the job as tunesmith for Miami's favorite police melodrama.

As The Early Years (innovative title) says, the 10 instrumental tracks here are from Jan's first four solo recordings: Like Children with former Mahavishnu, Jerry Goodman), The First Seven Days, Oh, Yeah? and Melodies {both as The Jan Hammer Group), dating between 1974 and 1977.

Anyone looking for car chase music is advised to give this disc a wide berth; Jan wasn't too rowdy in his solo years. Walking the fine line between Rick Wakeman's mini-moog be-yow buffoonery and Keith Emerson's over-the- top classical swipes, Jan treads where no keyboardist dared to go back then or now into the realm of intelligence.

It would be apt, though crassly dismissive, to label Jan's music as high-class soundtrack work. After all, that's exactly what he's doing on Miami Vice . . . and let's not forget that The First Seven Days is naught but seven aural postcards sent from the creation of the universe.

What makes Jan's work head and shoulders above the competition is his use of color and texture. Whether he's working with partners like Goodman, Steve Kindler, or Fernando Saunders, or playing all the instruments by himself (listen to Wired 's "Blue Wind" for proof that he's one of rock's greatest drummers), Jan instills all his tracks with a quiet {don't laugh) dignity.

And when he does get a mite rowdy, as he does on the title track to 1976's Oh, Yeah? (one of two extra tracks not included on the album version), it's with a refreshing touch of humor.

The transfer to CD is close to perfect (note the total silence during the fake fade-out on "Oh, Yeah?'" a welcome change of pace for those of us who've worn out our original LPs a decade ago.

And now that Nemperor is back and in the CD business, how about issuing all of Jan's original solo albums on CD? After all, if Grade-A dross like Stanley Clarke's Modern Man can make the move to CD, surely Nemperor's most famous son is worthy, too. - JM

Digital Audio, May 1987