The trouble with supergroups is that they're so damned super.  Few psyches can survive that open return on the great ego trip.  Thus it has become the unfortunate modus operandi of so many superstars to fall back and regroup with as super an assemblage of confederates as possible.  Each superego gets nursed back to health--or is it wealth?  The luster from the cluster of great and near-great sells like hell but the music almost invariably suffers from the shuffle.

Luckily, there are exceptions to this condition.  And the music in this album is about the best example around.  After The Nice broke up and two of the protagonists got themselves new groups, Brian Davison did the best thing possible.  That is, he didn't do anything.  He just sat back and thought a bit.  About what he wanted to do.  And where he wanted to go.  Little by little he got together some friends.  And where they went was Every Which Way.  It turned out to be exactly the right way.

You can relax.  There isn't a hit song on this album.  There wasn't intended to be.  This is just five guys getting it together in the very best way possible.  Since Brian's the leader, he would have had the right to turn Every Which Way into a vehicle for his drumming.  But that's not Brian's way.  He's too disciplined a musician for that.  Graham Bell wrote most of the songs on the album, so he could have hogged it.  But he doesn't.  Jeff Peach plays formidable saxophone and flute; this easily could have become his album.  But it didn't.  Nor is it Alan Cartwright's album.  Or John Hedley's.  What it turns out to be is your album.  Yours because they're not playing for you.  Or for your buck.  They're playing for themselves.  There isn't a bulging ego in sight.

This is quiet music.  An exciting kind of quiet that outshouts all the watts and King Kong speaker systems going.  Bringing the levels down to acoustic guitar, voice and soprano saxophone blending, shaping, complementing.  Rhythm an inflection rather than a statement.  Everybody talking.  Everyone giving back.  The ending to Bell's Castle Sand is so marvelous it should be perceived in absolute silent concentration.  And even then you'll miss half the beauty and structure of it the first time.

You miss a lot of the beauty of the music the first time that you listen.  Again, it's that kind of an album.  Brian?  To my mind, he's never played better on a recording.  He plays with a constant ear to the other members of the group.  And make no mistake, this is a group.  Listen to the music in this album and you can feel the exploration; you can almost pick the direction of their next album.  Almost.  But not quite.  Even though you know better, you get the feeling that the music is just happening, that it's thoroughly spontaneous.

Every Which Way isn't a supergroup.  This album isn't a super album.  There are no superstars here.  In many ways the music here is so much more intense --yet at the same time, more relaxed-- than so much of the product issuing forth from the superpeople.  This isn't easy music to listen to with half an ear.  But come back to it once and you'll wear out the album long before some of the superproduct.  Come back to it once.  Make all the wonderful little discoveries in this album by yourself.  Feel the discoveries grow into directions.  Every Which Way is one helluva way to go.

-Paul Roewade

(Mercury SR 61340)