Lenny White: The Adventures Of Astral Pirates (1977 )
The name Lenny White has been synonymous with the better end of the prog / fusion spectrum since Adam wore short socks to Pre School, but in so doing was normally better known for his collaborative efforts with bands like Return To Forever where he was able to amply demonstrate his dexterity on the skins. This release under his own moniker from 1977 which I chanced upon while doing my usual vinyl browsing many years ago was a total surprise for me. I was greeted with an amazingly clever concept style of album that had been meticulously put together with the help of an otherwise unknown keyboard player called Don Blackman, Alex Blake on bass and Jeff Sigman on guitars.
There is plenty of variety in style and structure with some stellar (no pun intended), playing from Don & Lenny in particular. Although the limelight is rightfully directed towards Lenny and his impeccable style of drumming, there are also a lot of wonderful keyboard fills and rhythms to enjoy from the other members of this ensemble. Being a concept album from 1977 was also a reasonably cool thing to do at the time although a few years down the track, this type of project would have only succeeded if the big guns were at the helm.
Names such as Alan Parsons or Rick Wakeman would have had no trouble pulling off a minor gem like this out of the bag on a regular basis but Lenny White being unknown to all except those lucky few who knew of his earlier work with R.T.F. was not a name on everybody's lips. This album therefore could not have sold that many copies, certainly not here in Australia as in over 30 years of collecting, I have only seen the one and only copy which sits proudly amongst my collection of essential prog / fusion gems from the 70's. If you missed out on scoring the vinyl version back in the 70's I understand this has since been reissued on CD.
Although this is a minor departure from the all time best ever prog / fusion classic, Romantic Warrior from Return to Forever, as there is less frenetic and blistering guitar work, the album still scores well as a beautifully conceived and executed winner. Apart from another very good effort called Venusian Summer, Lenny also recorded a few other albums of which I bought 2, being Best Of Friends and Streamline but I would suggest you give these other 2 a wide berth. Unless you are heavily into the funky jazz thang, Adventures of Astral Pirates is gonna float your boat in a way the other 2 couldn't.