Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Music Revelation Ensemble: In the Name of . . . [DIW, 1995]
Blood Ulmer's 1977 debut Revealing reveals how articulately George Adams's saxophone answers his guitar and how drastically that guitar was to change--he's evolved from Montgomeryesque sonics toward blatant distortions and dense note clusters that take Hendrix down the road a piece. The rockish cult this sound attracted encouraged him to sing in a mumble of real but limited charm, and soon he was collaborating with David Murray on the most galvanizing live music I've ever heard him make. On this briefly domestic release as well as 1996's somewhat milder import-always Knights of Power, a horn man--Arthur Blythe on alto, Hamiet Bluiett on baritone, or (here only) Sam Rivers on soprano/tenor/flute--leaps to the fore the way Ulmer's voice ordinarily would, with the guitar chording and commenting and laying down a bed of noise more than it solos. His peak is still Odyssey, featuring one violin, no bass, and his finest all-around performance on record. But for a taste of how exciting he and Murray could be live, listen to Bluiett blow out "The Dawn." A-