Top 5 Jazz Fusion Albums For Your 5-Cassette Changer

Ernie Watts & Gamalon - Project: Activation Earth (1989) - Amherst Records

What do you get when you mix a highly refined jazz prog-rock fusion band with Ernie Watts?  A perfect marriage of saxophone, guitar, bass, and keyboards, that will leave you busy scooping the melted remains of your face off of the floor.  

By 1989 Gamalon was well on their way to becoming an established commodity in the jazz fusion genre with their self-titled debut in 1987.  While strong, the album felt as though it was missing something to set it apart and add one more layer, one more spice, to the fusion lasagna.  In steps legendary saxophonist Ernie Watts.  


When you start listening to jazz of the 1980’s, a lot of times you will run into the same names involved with different projects and Ernie Watts is one of those names.  This album takes you from peak to peak with it’s epic buildups and layered melodies.  


Best paired with:


Space food and Tang


Supplemental song featured below:         Lift Off

Cliff Sarde - Waiting (1986) - MCA & Curb Records

 

Picture  this: 


You roll out of bed on a Saturday morning, put on your best  shades and white suit jacket with oversized shoulder pads and head to  the mall.  While reading thread counts on sheet sets your face is  blasted with a rich synth riff followed by a devastating bass line that just as it bottoms out gives way to a saxophone hook that is so right it seems wrong.  


You thought you were coming to JC Penney’s for Egyptian  cotton, not a fresh pair of dockers.   You head to the catalog counter,  tip your shades and order 3 sets of white Egyptian cotton bathroom  towels.  As you prepare to wait 2 weeks for the towels to arrive, you make a beeline to Sam Goody for the latest Cliff Sarde cassette.  


Best paired with:


A food court meal consisting of a slice of pepperoni from Bob’s Pizza and an Orange Julius.


Supplemental song featured below:      Take My Love


Eateries  that operate within the designated square downstairs count as food  court. Anything outside of said designated square counts as an  autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking.

-Brodie Bruce, Mallrats

Natural Progressions - Rumor Has It (1989) - TBA Records

 Rumor Has It has a special place in my heart.  It's tough to describe the sound without listening to it first.  It perfectly blends the modern sound of it's era with a shopping mall sound aesthetic that is desperately trying to hip, and I believe it has achieved that goal, even almost 30 years later.  The lead track "Breath of Fresh Air" is truly that and will transport you to the mall of your youth, the smells, the sounds, it all comes rushing back.


Please listen to the full supplemental track below as this is the only true jazz fusion album that I know of that adds rap.  Yes, rap music.  All I can picture while listening to this cassette is someone in short neon shorts and a hat with the bill flipped up doing the Charleston and shuffling side to side as they go.  This album is a true period piece and deserves a full listen.


Best paired with:


A cold Crystal Pepsi and Topps Juice Box Bubble Gum, preferably orange.


Supplemental song featured below:  Rumor Has It

Neo-Fusion - Copious (1986) - Fortress Records

Initially I was drawn to this cassette because of it's alluring cover art.  I stayed for the amazing jazz fusion.  I found out pretty quickly that this was a religious album and Fortress Records is a Christian record label.  Fortunately, I can confirm that there are no lyrics, just face-melting fusion.


I can't confirm this, but I've heard from multiple sources that this entire album was recorded in 17 hours.  With the level of musicianship and the quality of the recording, it's nothing short of a miracle 😉.  In the liner notes they make sure to thank "the Lord our Creator for making this album possible."  If the Lord is truly the one responsible for this album, then I say to hell with world hunger, poverty, and all other humanitarian efforts, instead, keep churning out jazz fusion albums!


Best paired with:


Those tiny crackers and the blood of Christ.


Supplemental song featured below:  Slapper

The Fents - The Other Side (1987) - Passport Records

 If there's one thing I'm a sucker for it's puns and The Fents came through with cover art that's so in tents it's like camping!  I've heard people call this prog-rock jazz fusion, and they wouldn't be wrong, but I feel like there is more to it than that.  If Gamalon is the definition of prog-rock jazz fusion, I would put The Fents on the lighter side of that definition as they are a better representation of soft-rock jazz fusion.


The best way to describe The Fents is to imagine your Dad on the first day after you leave the house for college.  Your room is cleaned out within an hour and his old band equipment moved in.  Old bandmates are called and drinking ensues.  This leads to a god awful impromptu jam session, and cries of "I'm Satriani!" can be heard halfway down the cul-de-sac.  The drunken interpretation of what your Dad actually thinks he is playing is this album.  He is a rock/jazz legend for a day, and a massive hangover victim for two after.  So put on your holey heather gray sweatpants, your ill-fitting Def Lepperd shirt, and rock out to your hearts content!


Best paired with:


The cheapest beer in town and Totino's Pizza Rolls


Supplemental song featured below:

Where's My Producer?

Sony TC-C521 5-Cassette Changer

Supplemental video from Techmoan's YouTube Channel below.

Ernie Watts & Gamalon - Project: Activation Earth - Lift Off

Cliff Sarde - Waiting - Take My Love

Natural Progressions - Rumor Has It - Rumor Has It

Neo-Fusion - Copious - Slapper

The Fents - The Other Side - Where's My Producer?

What a 10hr music playlist looked like in 1992

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