CULT CLASSIC: JADE WARRIOR-FLOATING WORLD.
Cult Classic: Jade Warrior-Floating World.
All too often, musical innovators don’t get the credit they deserve. That was the case with Jade Warrior. Their fourth studio album, Floating World was released in 1974, and pioneered both ambient and world music. Floating World was the most ambitious album of Jade Warrior’s career and almost wasn’t released.
After releasing their third album Last Autumn’s Dream, in 1972, Jade Warrior headed off on a tour of America. When they returned home Jade Warrior were called to a meeting with Vertigo, who cancelled the band’s contract. Not long after this, the group was dissolved and it looked like the Jade Warrior story was over.
This was ironic for the band. Since signing to Vertigo in 1970, Jade Warrior had released a trio of groundbreaking album They released their eponymous debut album in 1971.
When Jade Warrior began work on what became their eponymous debut album, they were a trio. The initial lineup featured guitarist Tony Duhig, flautist and percussionist Jon Field and bassist and vocalist Glyn Havard. They penned the ten tracks that became Jade Warrior. Little did they know the effect their debut album would have.
Jade Warrior was the album that pioneered the psychedelic-progressive sound. It combined elements of what would later, become known as world music. This came courtesy of the myriad of ethnic percussive sounds. They made up for the lack of drums, as at this point, Jade Warrior didn’t have a drummer. Adding another layer to Jade Warrior’s music were distorted, twisted guitars and ghostly, otherworldly sounds. The other ingredient was sudden changes in tempo. All this made Jade Warrior a groundbreaking album.
Critics realised this, and Jade Warrior received positive reviews. Despite this, Jade Warrior didn’t sell in vast quantities. However, Vertigo took the view that this was just Jade Warrior’s debut album. Maybe their fortune would change with their sophomore album Released?
When recording of Jade Warrior’s sophomore album Released began at Nova Sound in London, Jade Warrior were no longer a trio. Drummer Allan Price had joined Jade Warrior. Three had become four. With the addition of their latest recruit Jade Warrior began work on what’s on often called the difficult second album.
Thar wasn’t the case for Jade Warrior. At Nova Sound in London, Jade Warrior began recording the eight tracks the group had written. The nascent quartet were joined by Dave Conners. He added tenor and alto saxophone. One of his finest moments comes on the fifteen minute epic jam, Barazinbar. Dave Conners unleashes sheets of searing, soaring saxophone. His contribution is part of what was a stylistic departure for Jade Warrior. It was released in late 1971.
Gone was the world music influence of their eponymous debut album. Replacing it, was a much more progressive sound. Just like Jade Warrior, Released was well received by critics. They welcomed an album that was perceived as an album of contrasting songs. Ballads rubbed shoulders with jazz-tinged instrumentals and the much more progressive sounding tracks. Jade Warrior’s music, it seemed, was continuing to evolve.
Despite the continued evolution of Jade Warrior’s music, this didn’t translate into album sales. They were still to some extent, an underground band. Jade Warrior weren’t a prog rock Goliath. However, gradually, their reputation was growing. So they began work on their third album Last Autumn’s Dream.
Last Autumn’s Dream.
Having released two albums during 1971, Jade Warrior returned to the studio in early 1972 to record ten tracks. Nine of these tracks were penned by the four members of Jade Warrior, The other track, The Demon Trucker was penned by Tony Duhig and his brother David. He made two guest appearances on Last Autumn’s Dream.
When Jade Warrior made their way to the studio, they weer joined by David Duhig. He plays electric guitar on The Demon Trucker and lays down a solo on Snake. This wasn’t the first time had Jade Warrior had augmented their numbers with a guest musician, Nor would it be the last time.
Once Last Autumn’s Dream was recorded, Vertigo scheduled the release its release for the spring of 1972. After the release of Last Autumn’s Dream Jade Warrior were about to head off on a tour of America.
They embarked upon their American tour after some of the best reviews any of their three albums had enjoyed. Just like Released, Last Autumn’s Dream was an album of contrasts. Pensive instrumentals like Dark River, Obedience, Borne On The Solar Wind seemed reticent about sharing their secrets. Eventually, they did, and contrasted with the melodic nature of A Winter’s Tale and May Queen. Then on a trio of tracks, Jade Warrior found their inner rocker, and kicked loose on Snake, The Demon Trucker and Joanne. Critics were won over by the diversity of songs on Last Autumn’s Dream, and Jade Warrior’s versatility. Seamlessly, Jade Warrior flitted between musical genres, resulting in what critics called their finest moment. As Jade Warrior embarked upon their American tour, they felt like giants. After three albums they had arrived.
When Jade Warrior returned from their American tour, a new audience had been introduced to their music. However, back in Britain, Jade Warrior were still awaiting the big breakthrough. Last Autumn’s Dream wasn’t a commercial success. Three albums into their career, and still, none of Jade Warrior’s albums had proved a commercial success. It was a similar story with the two singles from Last Autumn’s Dream. Neither A Winter’s Tale nor The Demon Trucker charted. For Jade Warrior and Vertigo, this was a huge disappointment. However, Jade Warrior didn’t realise how disappointed Vertigo were.
Vertigo had had enough. They had supported Jade Warrior for three years and three albums. These albums had failed commercially. As a result, Jade Warrior were losing Vertigo money. It was all very well that they released innovative music. That however, didn’t pay the bills. So after the American tour was completed, Jade Warrior were invited into Vertigo’s offices. They were then told that Vertigo were cancelling Jade Warrior’s contract and Jade Warrior were dissolved. That looked like the end of the Jade Warrior story. However, it was only the end of of Vertigo years.
During 1973, Jade Warrior returned to the studio, and recorded enough material for two albums. Some of that music found its way onto various samplers. Despite this, no record label seemed willing to take a chance on Jade Warrior. That was until Steve Winwood of Traffic intervened, However, there was a catch.
By 1974, Steve Winwood of Traffic had spent the last seven years signed to Island Records. During that period, he had got to know Chris Blackwell quite well. Steve also knew Jade Warrior. He liked their music, and felt the group had potential. So had an old friend of Steve Winwood’s, Dave Mason.
The pair had played alongside each other in Traffic. Then in 1971 Dave embarked upon a solo career. On one of his tours, Dave asked Jade Warrior to open for him. That was a couple of years previously. Since then, Jade Warrior had been released by Vertigo and dissolved. However, there was still the chance that Jade Warrior may rise like a phoenix from the ashes. So, Steve Winwood spoke to Chris Blackwell.
Just like Steve Winwood, Chris Blackwell saw Jade Warrior’s potential. Both men saw Jade Warrior’s future as an instrumental group. So Chris Blackwell decided to offer Jade Warrior a contract. Steve Winwood suggested a four album deal. Chris Blackwell countered with a three album deal. Eventually, they settled on a four album deal. All that was left was to convince Jon Field and Tony Duhig to reform Jade Warrior.
The pair didn’t take a lot of convincing. After nearly two years without a record contract, Jade Warrior were back being paid to do what they enjoyed doing, making music. However,it was a case of absent friends. Glyn Havard hadn’t been included in the contract. Chris Blackwell thought that Jade Warrior’s future lay in making instrumental music. This was hugely popular in 1974, with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells well on its way to selling millions of copies. Could Jade Warrior do the same thing?
While that was highly unlikely, given Jade Warrior’s track record, the Island years was the start of a new chapter in Jade Warrior’s career. For the first album in their four album deal with Island Records, Jade Warrior embraced the Japanese philosophy of Ukiyo.
The philosophy of Ukiyo, which translates as Floating World, is essentially, about being able to accept life and its surroundings. It’s also about living for the moment. Pleasure seeking is important in the Japanese philosophy of Ukiyo, whose roots can be traced back to the Edo period. It began in 1603 and lasted between until 1868. 106 years later, and the newly formed Jade Warrior were being inspired by Ukiyo.
Jade Warrior named their fourth, and comeback album Floating World. It featured ten tracks. Eight were penned by Jon Field and Tony Duhig. They also cowrote Quba with Martha Mdenge. the other track, Monkey Chant was a traditional song which Jade Warrior recorded for Floating World. It would feature Jade Warrior at their most versatile, seamlessly combining multiple musical genres.
From the moment Jade Warrior entered the studio, they were on the clock. Island Records had always a reputation for keeping an eye on costs. They gave artists a budget, and they had to work within it. Similarly, Jade Warrior only had a certain amount of time to record the ten tracks that became Floating World. Given how complex an album Floating World was, this wasn’t going to be easy. It was a challenge, and a challenge that Jade Warrior relished.
As the recording session began at Island Records studio, Tony Duhig began to lay down the bass, glockenspiel, guitars, organ, piano, percussion and vibraphone. Onlookers watched as Tony seamlessly switched between instruments. As a man once said, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Jon Field arrived in the studio with various flutes and a myriad of percussion. This included bells, a bell tree, a cello, congas, flutes, a glockenspiel, gong, a harp, Japanese Flute, organ, piano, talking drum and vibraphone. Just like Tony Duhig, Jon Field was a truly versatile musician. This meant hardly any musicians were drafted in to augment Jade Warrior.
In total, only a six additional musicians featured on Floating World. Drummer Chris Carran played on Clouds and was joined on Mountain Of Fruit And Flowers by Coldridge Goode on string bass. Graham Deakin who was then part of John Entwistle’s touring band Ox, added drums on Red Lotus. David Duhig added lead guitar on Monkey Chant. Skalia Kanga added harp on Memories Of A Distant Sea. Martha Mdenge added vocal on Quba, which she cowrote with Tony Duhig and Jon Field. Along with the Orpington Junior Girl’s Choir who feature on the two versions of Clouds this completed the lineup of musicians who played on Floating World, Producing. Floating World, the first in the Island years quartet were Tony Duhig and Jon Field. Once Floating World was completed, it was released later in 1974.
Floating World was the most ambitious, complex, innovative and eclectic album of Jade Warrior’s career. Elements of ambient, classical, experimental jazz, prog rock, rock and world music combine with what’s now referred to as post rock. Jade Warrior were pushing musical boundaries to their limits on Floating World, their concept album based around the Japanese philosophy of Ukiyo.
The philosophy of Ukiyo saw like as a journey, and compared it to “a gourd floating along the river current.” Floating World was a journey, a musical journey through disparate musical genres. However, neither critics nor record buyers recognised Floating World for what it was, a truly groundbreaking album.
Critics were divided over Floating World. Some neither understood nor “got” Floating World, For those used to reviewing three chord pop or the output from the various American soul factories, they struggled and failed to understand a concept album based on an ancient Japanese philosophy. Some of the more erudite and cerebral critics grasped and understood where Jade Warrior were coming from on Floating World. However, while their reviews were positive, other reviews of this aural adventure were mixed. This didn’t bode well for the release of Floating World.
As Jade Warrior’s comeback album Floating World was released, sales were disappointing. History it seemed, was repeating itself all over again. However, Jade Warrior knew they had still three albums to write their way into Island Records history books. Little did they realise that they had already done this. Jade Warrior had released one of the most ambitious and innovative albums of their career, Floating World.
Over ten tracks Jade Warior take the listener on a captivating journey. It’s no ordinary journey. The listener to Floating World becomes the “gourd floating along the river current.” As they float down this musical river, the listener discovers twists and turns aplenty.
That’s the case on Clouds, which opens Floating World. Washes of ethereal harmonies from are joined by a classical acoustic guitar, Then from nowhere, there’s the first of several thunderous, dramatic interjection. It’s joined by glistening bells and gentle percussion. Contrasts abound. Especially as a searing guitar which cuts through the arrangement. Later, a much more understated, serene ambient sound returns. It meanders along, like the river carrying the gourd showcasing a Japanese influence.
This meandering musical journey continues on Mountain Of Fruit And Flowers. Again it has an understated sound. Haunting sounding flutes punctuate the arrangement as slowly, it grows in power and tempo. The rhythm section provide the heartbeat, with the bass and a jazz-tinged acoustic guitar plays leading roles. Horns and flutes are added, as the arrangement builds and the tempo rises. Elements of classical, jazz and prog rock are combined seamlessly by Jade Warrior, as this captivating musical journey continues.
Waterfall has a much more understated sound. Bells chime and glisten, before a wistful acoustic guitar plays. It’s joined by a blistering guitar. It plays in the background, its sound being reigned in. Gradually, it grows in power, but doesn’t quite overpower the rest of the arrangement. Each of the component parts are very different. A glockenspiel shimmers and percussion hurries along. Contrasts are everywhere as the music veers between elegiac and ethereal to dreamy and wistful. Other times, the music becomes urgent and dramatic. Especially as the percussion powers the arrangement along. All of a sudden, the journey gathers pace, before returning to a much more elegiac, melancholy sound.
An explosion of blistering rocky guitars cuts through the arrangement to Red Lotus. It takes centre-stage. Everything else seems to be playing a supporting role. That includes the percussion and crashing gong. Then the rhythm section kick loose. They seem determined to match the guitar every step of the way. Flutes are added. While they seem like unlikely bedfellows, this works. Opposites attract, as Jade Warrior veer between rock with an Eastern twist and freewheeling fusion. It’s a potent mix, before Jade Warrior throw a curveball. The arrangement almost comes to a halt, before meandering lazily along the river of life.
Clouds makes a reappearance on Floating World. A dramatic, almost discordant wash of sound reaches a crescendo, before being replaced by the ethereal sound of the choir and flutes. Mostly, though it’s the choir that work their ethereal magic.
Rainflower has a similar understated, mellow sound as the second part of Clouds. A wash of distant organ is joined by an electric guitar. At first, it’s in the distance. Gradually, it makes its way to the front of the arrangement, where its joined by an acoustic guitar. From there. instruments flit in and out of the arrangement. A harp, the searing, quivering electric guitar and the much more subtle sound of the acoustic guitar. Washes of organ are added resulting in an innovative and blissful soundscape that was years ahead of its time.
As Rainflower gives way to Easty, percussion plays and a flute shivers and quivers. It then floats above the arrangement, A hypnotic bass is joined by what’s best described as a myriad of percussive delights. Again, contrasting sounds melt into one. This includes a scorching, searing guitar. As it dissipates a much more mellow, jazzy sound unfolds. Jade Warrior jam, combining elements of ambient, jazz, lounge and world music. It’s another fascinating fusion of musical genres as Jade Warrior continue to captivate.
Monkey Chant is a traditional song, given a makeover by Jade Warrior. A hypnotic chant is augmented by a blistering, rocky guitar solo from David Duhig. It’s a show stealer, before a dramatic interjection punctuates the arrangement. After that, David Duhig continues to win friends and influence people with what’s a stunning solo.
It’s just a melancholy acoustic guitar that opens Memories Of A Distant Sea. Soon, it’s doubled and joined by a flute. A harp plays, and is joined by a cello on what’s a heartachingly beautiful song. Then at 2.36 Jade Warrior add an element of drama. An electric guitar threatens to cut through the arrangement. It never does, as drama and beauty combine to create a song the creates a sense of sadness and yearning.
Quba closes Floating World, the first in Jade Warrior’s Island years quartet. Just an acoustic guitar and melancholy flute combine. They’re distant, and sound as if they need brought forward in the mix. However, the way the song has been mixed, adds to the sense of melancholia. It evokes a sense of longing, longing for something long lost. When an electric guitar interjects, it adds an element of drama. Later, Martha Mdenge adds a spoken word vocal. This seems to highlight the sense of loss and longing, as the poignant musical journey that’s Floating World reaches its destination.
Floating World was the start of a new chapter in Jade Warrior’s career. No longer were the group a quartet. Instead, they were reduced to a duo, consisting of Tony Duhig and Jon Field. This multitalented pair could play a multitude of instruments. Their versatility is put to good use on Floating World.
Tony Duhig and Jon Field deploy a myriad of musical instruments, as they take the listener on a musical journey. The listener becomes “a gourd floating along the river current.” There’s plenty of twists and turns along the way on what’s best described as a genre-hopping album, Over Floating World’s ten tracks, Jade Warrior combine elements of African, ambient, avant-garde, classical, experimental, funk, fusion, post rock, progressive rock, rock and world music. Continually, curveballs are thrown and surprises sprung. One minute the music is ethereal, serene and understated, the next it becomes dramatic and urgent. Always, though, the music on Floating World is ambitous, and innovative. Floating World is also captivating. There’s a reason for this.
The listener never knows what direction this music journey is heading? Is it heading for calm or rocky waters? It’s a case of waiting and seeing, as what’s a truly groundbreaking album reveals it secrets. Sadly, when Jade Warrior released Floating World, very few people discovered its delights. The album passed most people by and nowadays is regarded as a cult claassic.
It was only later, when a new generation of critics and record buyers reappraised Floating World that Jade Warrior’s fourth album found the audience it deserved, Since then, Floating World has been recognised as a groundbreaking album from a group who pioneered ambient and world music. Somewhat belatedly, Jade Warrior are receiving recognition for one of the great lost albums of the seventies, Floating World their cerebral concept album based on an ancient Japanese philosophy is a glorious aural adventure awaiting discovery.
Cult Classic: Jade Warrior-Floating World.
- Posted in: Ambient ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Chris Blackwell, David Duhig, Floating World, Island Records, Jade Warrior, Jon Field, Last Autumn's Dream, Released, Steve Winwood, Tony Duhig, Ukiyo, Vertigo