This is probably the best album by Swedish Bass giant Jonas Hellborg. The core trio here is Kofi Baker on Drums, Hellborg, and guitar phenom Shawn Lane, who sadly isn’t with us anymore. It’s mainly a fusion instrumental record, so I doubt if the Britney Spears fangirl/boy will take to this with open arms.
I must tell you that I’ll be dealing with the majority of the tracks here on an individual basis, because some of them are so WILDLY disparate, that they could very well be from entirely separate albums. Smack dab in the center of a solo album by bassist with a predilection for Indian classical music is a tempestuous 4 minute Piano solo!! Whodunnit? Either ways, it’s great.
Abstract Logic’s first track starts with a drum and horn intro which is massively reminiscent of Weather Report. Except that in the place of the immortal Jaco Pastorius, we have the soon-to-be-legendary Jonas Hellborg, who lets loose a heavy, grooving slap style that has become his signature. Though the first song ‘Serpents and Pigs’ starts off as a Weather Report redux, by the middle of the track it becomes a somewhat avant-garde rock trio thing, with Shawn Lane’s guitar flying high above a solid rhythm supplied by Hellborg and the drummer. It’s a memorable track.
There are several tracks here which are inflected with Indian classical scales. These are the ones that really stand out, ‘Rice with the Angels’ being the best one. It’s orgasmically good, with a beautiful hook that anchors the whole track down. Otherwise, the song is divided into intro-guitar solo-reprise intro- bass solo- reprise intro-drum solo-reprise intro. A simplistic format delivered with great panache by this trio.
I’m not especially fond of Hellborg’s tone. It works very (very) well for slapping and popping, when the thumps are really strong the pops have depth and no tinny-sound whatsoever. But in finger picked leads, it sounds extremely unclear and bogged down. If it were an animal, his sound would be an overweight hippo. When 8 months pregnant. Eergh. It’s a bit sad, because it is a notable detraction from a sonic documentary which is largely perfect in a non-commercial sort of way.
I’ve already mentioned the Piano solo. It’s turbulent and not terribly melodic, but virtuostic in a way that will make most rock keyboard ‘shredders’ look down and watch their penises shrink. I look at the next two tracks ‘Layla Attat’ and the title track as one track. The first is an unaccompanied bass solo and the second with accompaniment. I wouldn’t recommend either to anyone other that serious listeners. Being a bass-noob, I love it.
By this time, we’ve had guitar solos, a bass solo and a piano solo. So what’s left? No prizes for guessing…..drum solo. It’s admirable that Hellborg doesn’t use a solo album as a platform to unleash his awesome bass chops, but gives other people full song length tracks to solo. A 6 minute drum solo, titled ‘Put a Shoe on the Other Foot’? A surefire recipe for commercial success, that!
The final track is the fantastic, if whimsically named ‘Throwing Elephants and Wrestling’. Really, Mr.Hellborg? Why not call it ‘Picking Gangrene off my Armpits’? ‘Incontinent Frying Pans in Venus’? Slightly ridiculous. Anyway, it’s a wonderful track, with Hellborg’s ear filling slap riff being particularly noteworthy in the heady mixture of Shawn Lane’s incendiary shredding, and Kofi Baker’s hard hitting drumming. Ginger Baker’s son has acquitted himself well.
This is merely my first exploration of Hellborg, a bassist who I’m starting to like very much, not only for his playing, but for his ability to get the perfect people to make a great album. Expect more Hellborg reviews from me. This, indeed, sounds right.
– El Bajista
For more HELLBORG (just one album at the time of writing this review), go HERE.
For more FUSION (also, only one album at date of publication), go HERE.