With a return that is even more welcome than that of the Jedi, Jade Warrior are back with a simply stunning album, Now (Windweaver Records, 2008). There is always an element of risk when you have a long, established, and highly respected tradition surrounding a band, and you decide to return to the studio to revive that name.
No need to worry here. Now oozes all the quality you could possibly hope for. Let’s get a couple of opinions out and up front from the off. With Now they have released a deeply effective album that, if anything, adds to that already bulging reputation.
For a band with a long history of producing some of the most attractive Japanese style covers imaginable, they have come up trumps again. The artwork inside the cover is achieved by Toyokuni IV, assisted by Barry Turner. How I would love that in my hallway.
The line up is a combination of Jade Warrior past and present. There are the flutes, percussion, and keyboards of Jon Field. Glyn Havard returns to add his vocals and guitar. Dave Sturt completes the line up on bass, percussion, and keys. Added to the mix are an impressive list of guest musicians, guitarist Tim Stone, pianist Chris Ingham, drummer Jeff Davenport, and saxophonist Theo Travis (Gong, Soft Machine).
The band formed following the meeting of the musical minds of Jon Field, and Tony Duhig in the early 1960s. After various changes in name and line ups, the band finally morphed into Jade Warrior. They found a home firstly on the Vertigo label, for three albums, and latterly on Island for their next four. It had been Steve Winwood who had recommended them to Island.
Their style on these early albums was one of trademark complexity. There are touches of straight forward rock, splashes of what we would now call ‘world music’, some African tempos, and dramatic shifts in timings. Their sound was distinctive through Jon Field’s flute playing.
The Japanese theme appeared on 1974’s Floating World. This was further explored on 1976’s Kites, an album rich in its exploration of ancient China and the Zen Master The Ch’eng.
Their history is too long and involved to cover here in any greater detail, save to say that the band gathered dust for ten years. This is why their return is all the more welcome but, as stated, they have a huge reputation to either add to or deflate. With Now it is certainly the former that they achieve.
The album is rich in dynamics, so much so that you will notice additional depth and dimension with every play. Opening with the mouth watering “Fool And His Bride”, beautifully enhanced by Jon’s flute, and the sax of Theo Travis, it is a statement of triumphant return.
There is the delicate vibe that is “Journey”, the magnificently executed “Lost Boys”, the exquisite styling of “Tall Trees”, which flows effortlessly into “Floating Moon”. There is so much going on here that it draws you in and totally absorbs every sense you possess. The constantly shifting foundation of “3am Meltdown” splashes free-form jazz, barking blues onto its intriguing canvas.
The multi layered “True Love” suddenly ignites. “Talisman” oozes emotion whilst “Screaming Dreams” shocks you back to the Now within its roller coaster trip. The intricate, near cinematic, “Everything Must Pass” concludes an album that sounds like it is not just ten years in the waiting but actually ten years in the making.
You could write a musical thesis on this album. That said this review falls on its own simplicity in trying to capture the complexities of this stunning work, So in that vein I’ll summarise. Now has got to be heard. Even I can’t say it any more simply than that.
Jade Warriors official website has all the trademark artistry you would expect, a detailed history, samples, an excellent gallery section, and is well worth a visit.