Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gabor Szabo - Bacchanal

Gabor Szabo is one of those gigantically influential guitarists whose name or music few have ever heard. Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Robbie Krieger, and Larry Coryell all seem to have spent some serious quality time soaking in Szabo’s hypnotic sound. Largely self-taught, Szabo‘s playing brilliantly fused elements of jazz, pop, Gypsy, Indian, and Middle-Eastern music, creating a highly mystical and totally unique style.
A refugee of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Szabo spent his formative years playing guitar in underground jam sessions in Budapest. His distinctive sound matured during an important four-year tenure in Chico Hamilton’s pioneering quintet, which also featured saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Two years into his solo career and deep in the midst of the late ‘60s music revolution, Szabo released his studio masterpiece, Bacchanal. It was on this 1968 recording that he triumphed in his experiments with feedback and Eastern-tinged psychedelic re-workings of current pop tunes.
The album opens with one of two Donovan covers, “Three King Fishers.” Szabo fluidly bends his guitar strings to create a spellbinding sitar-like sound. Classically trained guitarist Jimmy Stewart accompanies him with rhythmic intensity. Monster drummer Jim Keltner is magic here, keeping things incredibly tight while seamlessly floating in and out of jazz, rock, and Eastern time signatures. “Three King Fishers” is a golden psychedelic relic, comparable in mood and intensity to the Doors’ brooding classic, “The End.” The title track, one of only two Szabo originals included here, follows the shining path of “Three King Fishers.” Hal Gordon’s percussion adds another layer of rhythmic complexity to the mix, driving the song to the highest of heights. Szabo’s agile fingers wring every bit of emotion imaginable from his electric guitar.
This musical highpoint is followed by the album’s second Donovan cover, “Sunshine Superman.” This up-tempo track sounds wonderfully dated, conjuring up images of miniskirt clad Go-Go dancers gyrating in suspended cages while waves of multi-colored lights wash across their bodies. Szabo’s contagiously energetic playing uplifts the song, keeping it from sinking into pure kitsch. “The Look Of Love” is a pre-Barry White pillow talk classic: clink your wine glasses and sink into the plush shag carpet of this relaxed groove. The strongest LP recorded by Szabo’s regular group of the era, this would prove to be their last session. While Bacchanal is largely an album of ‘60s pop covers, Szabo’s inspired quintet transforms the material into a one of a kind collection of first-rate jazz instrumentals. - by John Ballon,

Artist: Gabor Szabo
Album: Bacchanal
Year: 1968
Label: DCC (1994)
Runtime: 33:41

1.  Three King Fishers (Donovan Leigh) 4:48
2.  Love Is Blue (Bryan Blackburn/Cour/Andre Popp) 4:18
3.  Theme From Valley of the Dolls (Andre Previn) 3:51
4.  Bacchanal (Gabor Szabo) 4:57
5.  Sunshine Superman (Donovan Leigh) 3:46
6.  Some Velvet Morning (Lee Hazlewood) 5:25
7.  The Look of Love (Burt Bacharach/Hal David) 3:17
8.  The Divided City (Gabor Szabo) 3:19

Gabor Szabo (Guitar)
Jim Stewart (Guitar)
Hal Gordon (Percussion)
Jimmy Keltner (Drums)
Louis Kabok (Bass Guitar)


  1. Gabor Szabo - Bacchanal (1968)

    This brings back some memories.

    I saw Gabor Szabo & his band perform at a club on the north side of Chicago sometime in the 1967-1969 time period. I don't remember what musicians were with him, but the instrumentation was much like the group on this album.

    I enjoyed the performance, but remember being a bit disappointed that there was not much of the exotic or psychedelic in either set. (I was expecting something more like the music on Sorcerer.)

    You would never have confused his sound with that of Kenny Burrell, but it was much more main stream than I was expecting.

    That said, I very much enjoyed his performance then, and I have enjoyed listening to this recording now.

    Thanks for posting.

    1. Philo, you're a lucky man. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Muchas Gracias Amigo, Saludos desde Argentina !!

  3. I treasure my vinyl copy of this great album. Thanks for the digital version!

  4. Why do wonderful things must fade away so quickly? I'm looking for lossless copy of this DCC disc for a long time. Please, reupload it if you can.

  5. Would you please provide new links?



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