Owen Marshall “The Naked Truth” | Jazzman Records
Owen Marshall is a multi-instrumentalist whose background is as elusive as the LP’s he pressed during his tenure. With an ear for organic and rich musings into the “black classical” idiom as Roland Kirk termed it decades ago, the LP that his name has become synonymous for, The Naked Truth, is one that has raised many eye brows in the collectors world. Hints towards Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi period, Miles Davis’ early electric music, the post bop pathways of Lee Morgan, Sun Ra’s late 70′s soul era and the entire body of expression Rahsaan Roland Kirk mapped out become a main staple and identity marker for The Naked Truth. Owen Marshall brought all of this legacy together under one roof and leaves enough of his voice through this fusion to make it a really compelling and original approach. The albums original 1975 private press release must have been a huge achievement for a man whose contributions to music are hidden within story line almost lost until these times.
Jazzman Records has been in heavy reissue mode over the last few years and have become a source for rare archival material to see the light of day. Regardless of how rare a record might be, Jazzman has some of the best archivist around to bring forth the most vital pieces of art that need revaluation. Owen Marshall’s The Naked Truth is yet another highly sought after rare pressing Jazzman is making accessible again and a record that fills in more gaps in the 70′s fusion of mysticism and groove. As the latest inclusion into the Jazzman Holy Grail Series and with one of the greatest covers I have ever seen, The Naked Truth comes back into the world with full force and sounds as fresh, relevant and new as it must have the day it was pressed. It’s cosmic music that centers around gentle melodies and highly atmospheric mixes. When the music shifts into a different and more intense modal path, space is still present and gives the music an endless amount of direction to roam. The bass anchors every song down with tropical rhythms to keep the aura light and as flavored as you could ever imagine.
The Naked Truth is steeped in a blend of soul, tropical, jazz, exotic fusion, experimentalism and an afro-centric vibe that comes off so veracious and lovely that it’s a wonder something this intensely bright and beautiful was pressed in such small numbers and unknown outside of hardcore collector circles. Owen Marshall’s multi-instrumenatlism goes deep into the albums pulse line. Flute, electric piano, vocals, percussion, synth and sax are Owen’s main tools of expression and his backing band turns out every piece with astonishing authenticity into each field of music they discover. Owen Marshall announces his thanks for choosing to take the ride known as The Naked Truth on the opening psychedelic and exotic piece “Electric Flower”. It sounds like an extension of Funkadelic but with a more cosmic approach. Owen Marshall takes this direction of enriched sound scapes into an even more experimental path with the song “Ancient Astronauts”. Tracks like “Winter Butterfly” and “Grunt Uh-Uh-Uh” take on a much more mystic body and feels like deep soul jazz excursions from Sun Ra or Roland Kirk. Both light and dark, these songs are like two book ends into the concept and possibilities of ancient African traditions and the deep modal playing field jazz had become in the 70′s.
The album takes a rest and enters full dream state on the track “Nana’s Sleeping”. With some surprisingly hypnotic and trance inducing sax that is laced with tons of delay for a really unique tone, this song adds a quality that is hard to just copy or replicate in terms of expression and sound achieved. If you have heard “In A Silent Way” from Miles Davis, this is the brighter lit version of where that track was headed. “Casa Del Sol” is a very mystic and exotic piece that brings as much hypnotic flavor as “Nana’s Sleeping”. Centered around flute and one of the most colorful rhythm and bass sections, this is one of those special pieces that resonates inside of you weeks after you first hear it. It’s easily my favorite track on the album and takes me to the same places Hermeto Pascoal was headed with his 70′s LP’s. With a song like this, I can’t help but call this album one of the most exhilarating and important reissues of the year.
To think that this has been sitting, for the most part, unheard by the masses for decades, I can only thank the fine people at Jazzman for bringing this to light again. Owen Marshall collected sound from his contemporaries in such a highly entangled and altered way way that it became all his own and The Naked Truth symbolizes this compositional unification of a body of work created from prolific men and women whose collective musical ideas speak a thousand words. This is one of the best things to come out this year, no question on that.
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