The Johnny Almond Music Machine - Patent Pending (1969)

  • review
  • jazz
  • fusion

'Patent Pending' is the 1969 debut album from The Johnny Almond Music Machine. Before this record came out into existence, Johnny Almond played saxephone, namely on John Mayall records https://www.discogs.com/artist/305974-Johnny-Almond?filter_anv=0&subtype=Instruments-Performance&type=Credits. Later on he played for Alan Price Set and Fleetwood Mac and in 1970 he founded a jazz/rock band called Mark-Almond together with Jon Mark - whom he knew from also working with John Mayall.

This is an instrumental fusion record - a combination of jazz, rock with some room for exotic experimentation. It consists of 8 tracks - all written by Johnny Almond except for 'Before Dawn' which is written by Yusef Lateef. I found this record in a record store called Good Times in Alkmaar. I own the 1987 limited reissue from Timeless records https://www.discogs.com/Johnny-Almond-Music-Machine-Patent-Pending/release/2227059. What initially triggered my interest in this record - which is the case with a lot of records in my collection - is the beautiful cover art. The cover art is made by David Anstey - a cover artist who worked for Decca and it's sub-labels https://www.discogs.com/artist/1827361-David-Anstey.

It all starts off with the track 'Ensingle'. A track which features a typical hammond organ lead and an oddly satisfying layering of alto and tenor sax. After about 30 seconds into this track it switches over to a very nice flute piece and dartles between these two instrumental roads, till the end of the track. In all honesty this track is a little on and off to me. I love the layering of the saxephones, but I don't enjoy the individual saxephone pieces that follow that much. The second track - 'Before Dawn' - has that same issue. The mixing revolves around the saxephone which makes all the other instrumentation less prominent. Luckily, the track that comes after is much densely layered, which is mainly due to the absence of the alto sax. Also, 'Voodoo Forest' has a really experimental and minimalistic use of drums and rhythm, sounding almost similar to a field recording from African regions. Then follows 'Solar Level' which almost completely obliterates that idea with a very typical funk track. In comparison to the previous track I find this to sound a little bland. I've yet to decide if this has been a bold move or something which just wasn't that smartly picked in the order of the tracklisting.

On the flip side we start off with 'To R.K' which continues on where 'Solar Level' ends. What follows next is a bit of studio enginering and psychedelic free playing of horns, called 'Reversed For Two Horns'. A title which could have been on a library record. The following track continues on in a latin jazz fashion, sounding like early exotica recordings. It reminds me a lot of Eden Ahbez's music and early Brazillian music. The last song on the B-side, 'Tales Of Junior', sounds similar to the last track on the A-side. And it has somewhat of a similar issue. I find it to be a little uninteresting instrumentally compared to other tracks on the record. Also this one also falls completely out of synch with the previous track.

All in all 'Patent Pending' is a decent record. I like the tracks 'Ensingle' and 'Pequeno Nova' individually. Which is also exactly the right word to describe the biggest downside of this album: as a whole this record jumps from one track to the next, with almost no consistency whatsoever. This is also the reason I felt that I had to review this album song by song. This doesn't mean that there aren't tracks which sound similar, just that there's no coherence between one track to the next. There are songs that sound similar, like 'Solar Level' and 'Tales Of Junior' but they are really far off from each other in the tracklisting. I like that he tried to experiment and play with different musical styles and instrumentation but because he's doing it so much and in so many directions, it sounds like he has no unique thing of it's own. It almost sounds like listening to a compilation album, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in this case - it being a solo album of one artist - I find it to be one. [5.9/10]

Published on: Jan 20, 2018 by Gerard - list of changes