In the 70's, especially in Europe, there was no shortage of groups striving to merge the worlds of jazz and rock. Often the fruit of these labors seem proggishly vulgar, pedantically over-intellectualized (looking right at you, Soft Machine), or were simply train wrecks-- the result of clueless musicians who understood neither jazz nor rock with any insight or subtlety, smashing them together like joyless stoners. So If I were to tell you that Dutchman Hans Dulfer's Candy Clouds is a Jazz-Rock masterpiece and beyond, I'd understand if you required some further persuasion.
Let's get something straight: Dulfer doesn't even belong in the Prog-jazz ghetto with acts like Alcatraz, Xhol Caravan, and all the others. Candy Clouds' mind-blowing brand of fusion has much more in common with the free/spiritual jazz scene in Europe, and can be easily to compared to the experimental fusion efforts of Archie Shepp or Gato Barbieri in the 70's. It isn't even entirely accurate to call this jazz-rock, as though the two modes of music share the spotlight equally; the music here is as Latin as it is heavy, and so this becomes a fascinating record of Spiritual Free Jazz Latin Psych. Stupendous.
I am unable to find much information on this record, or indeed much on Mr. Dulfer himself. I was inspired to do this post after Bacosco at Orgy in Rhythm dropped another sweet Dulfer joint, El Saxofon, an event which was followed by my noticing the inclusion of a 6-minute edited-down version of the title track to Candy Clouds on Jazzman's release of Spiritual Jazz Vol. 2.
That title track, split into two sections on the record and totaling nearly twenty minutes, is the heart of this fine album. Part 1 opens with a giant smash of heavy guitar that sounds like early Sabbath (forgive the obviousness of this comparison-- it just sounds like fucking Sabbath), trading lines with conniptions of free sax. They go back and forth a few times, until the whole things drops and it's a heavy psychedelic Latin jam with red hot sax burning through everything. In case I am failing to make the case, let me be blunt: it is awesome, as in awe-inspiring.
Part 2 takes its time getting started, beginning above the clouds with a long dreamy section, the sax heating up to flaming as the combo descends to earth... after six or seven minutes, your flight has landed, and that huge groove from Part 1 makes a return. Bigger, deeper, groovier even than before, Dulfer's improvisations reach a thrilling space between, say, Gato Barbieri's warm exotica shredding and Archie Shepp's emotional Fire Music-- all while electric guitars blaze in a cloud of reverb, a piano wanders off and gets lost, and a glorious cowbell abides with wisdom.
Just as good as "Candy Clouds 1&2" are the two tracks preceding it, a guitar-based groove with jungle shadows that's honestly just too cool to be believed, and a huge Latin jam with excellent flute acrobatics (the flautist is doing that Black Harold-y thing where he's sort of howling into the flute as he's playing it, whatever that's called). The Fire Music is in full force throughout.
The last two tracks sort of lose me, unfortunately. A seemingly pointless, very free jam with no groove and no flavor, entitled "Froggy", followed by a goofy Afro-Cuban/Kwela/highlife number (which does have some fleeting but awesome guitar blasts). These two tracks are short and inconsequential next to the utter majesty of what has preceded them, a lost masterpiece of many fusions, an album so crazy and cool and fun that I honestly can't believe it exists. This is the type of thing I hear in my dreams, then wake up depressed because it wasn't real and I can't even remember it anymore. So, so good.