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January/February 2000

Catalyst
Catalyst: The Funkiest Band You Never Heard
32 Groove

The prime directive of major labels is to seek out new sounds, categorize them, market/sell "brand" bands to the consumer. That's what happened during fusion's golden age (1969-79; formula: electric Miles Davis = fusion. Mahavishnu Orchestra-Weather Report-RTF-Headhunters = FUSION B US). Defined yet limited by essentially four bands, art works became product units-so many pennies. That, kids, is why Catalyst recorded four absolutely brilliant albums (Catalyst, Perception, Unity, a Tear and a Smile) for Muse between '72 and '75 and most of y'all slept.

The righteously-titled 2-CD retrospective Catalyst: The Funkiest Band You Never Heard (32 Groove, 32116, 69:36/69:50) gives their vanguard music a long-overdue second chance. You'll scratch your head bald wondering how four gifted composers with mad in/out playing skills (Odean Pope, reeds; Eddie Green, keyboards; Tyrone Brown, bass; Sherman Ferguson, percussion) could innovate on CTI-style jazzy-soul ("New-Found Truths"), channel Sun Ra-Sly-Parliament in two movements ("Demon Pts. 1 & 2") and trump Herbie's electric-afrocentric steez ("Ile Ife") and remain obscure.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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