Original released by Embryo Records in 1970. Catalog number: SD 524. Recorded at A & R Recording Studios, New York, 1969. Recording Engineer: Dave Green. Produced by Herbie Mann.
I don’t know if this reissue is the very best pressing of this record in existence, but I’m willing to bet it’s close (I’ll let others talk in detail about the music, per our review philosophy). Without an original LP or any other pressings to compare it to, I can’t say for sure. But I can say this is a very good sounding record–better than the CD issue I’ve had for many years–and the music is phenomenal. John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and Jack DeJohnette, tearing it up with a virtuoso young bassist in late 1969. Goodness! A fortuitous and timely meeting of jazz giants at the dawn of the fusion era. There was a synergy in the studio when this was recorded. The players sound as if they truly enjoy each other, which was likely the case since several of them played together on previous and subsequent records.
Sonically speaking, the production is straightforward and lets the music through. No studio trickery, as was starting to come into vogue at this time. Clean and balanced is how I would describe the sound. Vitous’s basslines, if you can call them that, are easy to hear (if not “follow”), and all the other players sound as they should. My only complaints are typical: It’s slightly veiled (as many reissues are, perhaps due to old tapes), and it’s a little tubby (the leader is a bassist, after all!).
(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)
As for the pressing, I am glad to report this record is of a very high standard indeed. The vinyl is silent. When I put the needle down, I literally thought my preamp was muted! That just doesn’t happen very often. The pressing is flat and is only a hair off-center. Give me this pressing quality for all my records and I would be a happy man.
I’m guessing this record was originally released in a small quantity, which is probably why it is not something you see in the used racks very often. Embryo’s parent company, Atlantic, re-released the record in 1972 with a new title, “Mountain in the Clouds,” as well as an additional track. Checking eBay turns up a few examples of both vintage LP issues, but I suspect the Pure Pleasure reissue is the way to go. The back cover of the retitled version on Atlantic describes how the songs were “re-mixed to improve the presentation of the music,” which just sounds ominous to me.