1/  Memory Serves                              (Laswell,Beinhorn)            5.08
  2/  Disappearing                               (Dara,Sharrock,BL,MB,Maher)   7.11
  3/  Upriver                                    (Bang,Laswell,MB,Maher)       5.25
  4/  Metal Test                                 (Frith,Laswell,MB,Maher)      4.30
  5/  Conform To the Rhythm                      (Laswell,Beinhorn,Frith)      4.30
  6/  Unauthorized                               (Sharrock,Laswell,Maher)      3.50
  7/  Square Dance                               (Frith,Laswell,Maher)         4.29
  8/  Silent Land                                (Lewis,Laswell,Beinhorn)      3.48
  9/  For A Few Dollars More                     (Morricone)                   4.22

          Recorded at OAO Studio, Brooklyn, New York
          Track 9 recorded at Radio City and Green Street Studios
          Engineered by Martin Bisi
          Mixed at Sorceror Sound, NYC by Martin Bisi, Michael Beinhorn, Bill Laswell
            and Fred Frith
          Produced by Material with Martin Bisi
          Track 9 produced by Material
Bill Laswell: 4, 6 and 8 String bass; Sonny Sharrock (1,2,3,4,5,6): guitar; Fred Frith (1,4,5,7): guitar, violin, xylophone; Henry Threadgill (2,6,7): alto saxophone; George Lewis (1,7,8): trombone; Henry Kaiser (9): guitar; Olu Dara (2,3): cornet; Billy Bang (3,6): violin; Robert Musso (9): guitar; Grand Mixer D.S.T. (9): turntable; Daniel Ponce (9): percussion; Anton Fier (9): drums; Charles K. Noyes (1,8): drums, percussion, bells; Fred Maher (1,2,3,4, 5,6,7): drums, guitar, percussion; Michael Beinhorn: synthesizers, tapes, radio, guitar, drums, voice.

          1981 - Celluloid/Disques Vogue (France),  529812  (Vinyl)
          1981 - Celluloid/Island (USA),  ILPS 9693  (Vinyl)
          1981 - Celluloid Records (Germany),  204 291-320  (Vinyl)
          1982 - Musician/Elektra (USA),  EI  60042  (Vinyl)
          1982 - Elektra Musician (Canada),  XE1-60042 (Vinyl)
          19?? - Celluloid (France),  CEL. N.Y.  5508  (CD)
          1992 - Metronome/Restless (USA),  7 72653-2  (CD)
          1992 - MauMau Records (UK),  MAUCD  623  (CD)
Note: Only the Metronome/Restless and MauMau versions contain track 9.


Material was a prolific band in the early '80s, and if you had to pick just one of the many EPs and LPs that came out around this time, this is the one to take. First of all, just check out the personnel -- it's a who's who of the downtown avant-party set: Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn, of course, aided and abetted by the likes of Fred Frith, Sonny Sharrock, Henry Kaiser (and those are just the guitarists), violinist Billy Bang, drummer Anton Fier, and too many more to mention. The sound is consistently challenging yet just as consistently rewarding; Laswell's bass is front-and-center most of the time, churning out funky and angular lines that provide a solid foundation for more outre sounds like Frith's prepared guitar and George Lewis's splayed trombone on "Memory Serves" and the scratchy violin and edgy seven-beat melody of "Metal Test." "Conform to the Rhythm" indulges Beinhorn's singing at its tuneless, Orwellian worst, but there's far more to recommend than to criticize on this album. Strongly recommended.

Rick Anderson (courtesy of the All Music Guide by way of the Get Music website)


Artistically, jazzrock fusion has been dead for at least the last five years, the original Miles Davis-Mahavishnu Orchestra vision of blazing jazz soul, solo derring-do and electric rock urgency having been undone by commercial nearsightedness. Now Material, a chameleonic New York ensemble headed by bassist Bill Laswell and synthesizer player Michael Beinhorn, has brought fusion back to life with a startling, wholly uncompromising debut album.

Memory Serves knows no limits because Material recognizes no rules. They acknowledge their influences – like the murky Bitches Brew bop of "Disappearing" and the Captain Beefheart-sounding Delta moan of Laswell's six-string bottleneck bass in "Upriver"–and they brazenly flaunt a knack for cooking up hot, sexy disco rhythms. But at the same time, Material molds and subverts these ingredients to strange purposes, bringing together modern jazz, progressive rock, dance-floor R&B and new music for a sound that is more fission than fusion.

If you have been waiting since Mahavishnu's The Inner Mounting Flame for a fusion record to give you that same thrill of discovery, then Memory Serves will serve you well. (RS 371)

4 out of 5 stars

David Fricke (courtesy of the Rolling Stone website)