Charles Lloyd Warm Waters LP (Kapp, 1971)
Some years back I was yacking with Scott Miller* about "cracked" records by "straight" artists. I was obsessing over both the Beach Boys' Wild Honey and Alex Chilton's Flies on Sherbert. Miller asked if I had heard Charles Lloyd's Warm Water. "Charles Lloyd? The guy who did all those jazz albums geared towards hippies?" Same guy, Miller told me. He said he know a place that had one in a dollar bin and he'd snag it for me. A week later he made good on his word.
I took the record home and listened to it and it is indeed cracked. What is cracked? Well, it is a record made by an artist, who usually makes pretty straight forward records, but at this point in their career they are on some (hopefully) temporary skid or diversion and start turning out music that is a bit unhinged - musically, emotionally, creatively... Because of the circumstances an artist's cracked record is often his rawest and sometimes his most honest. Classic examples are The Beach Boys' Wild Honey, which is Brian Wilson at his most desperate, Alex Chilton's Flies on Sherbert, and Skip Spence's Oar. Whether or not Syd Barrett's solo albums or post Elevators Roky Erickson qualify is debatable. Charles Lloyd's Warm Waters certainly does.
Prior to Warm Waters, Lloyd had played sax on classic records by Chico Hamilton, Les McCann, and Cannonball Adderley. Starting in the mid-Sixties he cut a handful of records as leader, with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette which were quite popular with the hippie crowd, partially because Lloyd made the commercially smart move of playing place like the Filmore with psychedelic bands. In 1971, he played on a Beach Boys record. Soon after he recorded Warm Waters.
Think about the Beach Boys in 1971 and the thing that should come to mind is a lot of drugs, trendy mysticism, psycho psychologists, and other forms of mindfuck. Charles Lloyd was pretty solid in with those cats (Brian & Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine guest on Warm Waters, as do John Cipolina and Dave Mason). He also was a practicing fruitarian (as in he ate nothing but fruit). Listen to the songs here and you know something different is going on. The lyrics on Warm Waters are both personal and abstract, spiritual and full of pain. Put those words in the almost distant, near fading voice you hear on the record and it is obvious that Lloyd was either on some kind of skid or going through a serious transition.
After Warm Waters - called his first and worst pop album by many Lloyd loyalists - his music started to get a bit straighter, sound a bit more together. He made some more pop albums, equally obscure though not as pained as Warm Waters, and guested on records by Gabor Szabo, Harvey Mandel, Canned Heat, Roger McGuinn, and the Beach Boys. By the late Seventies he was back doing jazz, releasing records on Pacific Jazz, Blue Note, and ECM. Whatever tunnel Lloyd was traveling in during the early 70s, his ECM years showed that he had emerged and found a nice quiet, meditative ECM style existance.
Personally I prefer the cracked Charles Lloyd.
*obligatory "Nar/Bananas/Tikimen" Scott Miller not "Game Theory/Loud Family" Scott Miller disclaimer