Amazing Games is the second album from Norwegian progressive funky jazz-rockers Saluki the band having formed in the late 1970s, and is the follow up to their eponymous 1977 album. I'll just rewind while you figure that out. The songs on this collection were originally recorded for release in 1978 only for the band's then record company to go bankrupt. Now these gems are revisited, and while the band has aged and gained in experience, they have recorded them pretty much as they did in 1977, that is to say, aiming for a 'live' studio sound and feel with only a few overdubs. It is very much to their credit that they have retained a freshness and energy which they must have possessed on the first recording.
It's always a brave decision to stick with a full set of 40 year old tunes and retain them warts and all, and there are a number of warty moments from a fairly unprepossessing beginning. Top Of The World is a fairly standard, sluggish work out with some Age Of Aquarius stylings and a fake party backtrack livened only by a funky rhythm section and the first half of Amazing Games wallows in hippy nostalgia, until half way through something quite interesting happens and the song breaks out into an XTC-style riff. From here on the real party does start and the band are having a ball. Visions In Your Mind is upbeat sophisticated and funky with some cool, jazzy electric piano (Nice!) and smooth harmonised vocals. Be Here Now picks up on the John Lennon quote well before some Manchester mobsters laid their paws on it. While this starts out as a bit of idealistic musing, more true to the philosophising of the ex-Beatle, Saluki ring the changes, at times jumping into a Talking Heads type of workout, pretty impressive for 1977. After this the funk flows freely and the band are clearly having a ball. It is no surprise that this, the longest track is placed in a central position, presumably in the original LP version it would have been at the end of side 1 and begging the listener to flip the disk. Those who did will have been rewarded with a cracking display of muscular funk, jazz, blues-rock and progressive guitar and keyboard stylings. Perhaps a short side, but not short on quality and certainly more consistent than the first half. Open Your Eyes flexes some hard, blues based heavy riffing muscles before the side again ends on an extended work out with Sit Beside The Fire, perhaps the most traditional prog sounding piece on the album featuring spaced out keyboards and a relaxed, After The Ball Is Over vibe.
Saluki have done well to keep faith in this 'lost' album and give it the energy which the original must have possessed with a side order of elan. Although it may prove to be something of a curio for fans and completists, it is nonetheless an enjoyable excursion.
*** Andrew Cottrell
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