The distinctive rolling grooves, growling basslines and blasting horns of Snakehips Etcetera combined to present Nucleus's most energetic record. First released on Vertigo in 1975, original copies of Snakehips Etcetera are now very tricky to score. Like all the Nucleus records, it’s aged ridiculously well and this Be With re-issue, re-mastered from the original analogue tapes, shows off just why this deserves to be back in press.
Genius trumpeter and visionary composer Ian Carr was one of the most respected British musicians of his era. He was a true pioneer and saw the potential in fusing the worlds of jazz with rock, just as Miles Davis and The Tony Williams Lifetime did in the US. In late 1969, following the demise of the Rendell-Carr quintet, and tiring of British jazz, Carr assembled the legendary Nucleus. Regarding music as a continuous process, Nucleus refused to “recognise rigid boundaries” and worked on delivering what they saw as a “total musical experience”. We can get behind that.
Under bandleader Carr, Nucleus existed as a fluid line-up of inventive, skilled musicians. This constant evolution and revolution was all part of the continuous musical exploration and discovery that took jazz to new levels. And the music has kept relevant. To steal a line from a review of our re-issue of Roots, when it comes to anything Nucleus “it’s basically already hip-hop”
With all restraint out the window, 1975's pimped-up Snakehips Etcetera is the outrageous - in both cover art and sound - follow-up to the brooding Under The Sun. It's perhaps not one for the jazz purists! It finds Nucleus pared down to a core group of six, with Carr, Bob Bertles (sax), Ken Shaw (guitar), Geoff Castle (keys), Roger Sutton (bass) and Roger Sellers (drums) comprising the collective. Snakehips Etcetera reflects a period where the compositions start to become a little more direct and less-cerebral in comparison to some of Nucleus' previous releases. And why would we begrudge them some fun? This one rocks, swings and funks with no little soul. And more than a little jazzy sleaze. Clearly, they were having a good time.
The album has a real live, jamming feel to it, no surprise given the extent to which they were touring at the time. The band is tight and grooving throughout, none more so than on Bob Bertles's effervescent opener, "Rat’s Bag". So darn funky it stings, it's an infectious gem full of punchy clean lines over a killer bassline from Sutton. The thick, driving jazz-rock of "Alive And Kicking" is exactly that. It has a very improvisational feel, but an inspired one at that and features a wailing guitar solo from Ken Shaw that simply slays. The funky "Rachel’s Tune" is amazing, bringing you back to Canterbury days with its fuzzed-out organ solos to close out Side A.
Opening up Side B, the cool psychedelic title track unfolds slowly and sensually over its ten-plus minutes. A stoned soul stew of sorts, each member of the crew gets their chance to shine over Sellers's steady drums. The melodic funk fusion of "Pussyfoot" pairs Carr with Bertles on ace solo flute for a bright, springy melody. This one really gleams over shuffling drums. Changing the pace to close out this memorable set, the particularly cool "Heyday" is a reflective, sober tune which reinforces the sumptuous Nucleus palette, the acoustic guitar and bass high in the mix to make the neck snap, the horns elegantly blasting to help you swoon.
This Be With edition of Snakehips Etcetera has been re-mastered from the original Vertigo master tapes, Simon Francis’ mastering working together with Cicely Balston's cut at AIR Studios to weave their usual magic with these wonderful recordings. The striking, lascivious sleeve has been restored in all its seductive/ridiculous beauty.