Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey [Columbia, 1983]
I always figured great Blood would sound like the climactic "Swing and Things"--pure virtuosic rave-up, Mahavishnu with soul and ideas. But of course, great Blood ended up sounding like nothing I could have predicted. With a new band comprising drummer Warren Benbow and violinist Charles Burnham--that's right, funk fans, no bass, though with Ulmer's strong fingers you can't always tell--he's created an ur-American synthesis that takes in jazz, rock, Delta blues (suddenly his mush-mouthed vocals kick home, especially on the heart-torn "Please Tell Her"), and even country music (though Burnham's fiddle also has a Middle Eastern effect). I don't mean he goes from one to the other, either--most of the time, you'd be hard-pressed to pin just one style on any of this painfully beautiful stuff. Great Blood, that's all. A