The result is not exactly a success and any sign of victory in either genre is likely to put off fans of the other genre. Most listeners that would even bother to pick this up in the first place will be expecting to hear these two engage in jazz interactions, if not the light jazz present on Szabo and McFarland’s previous collaboration, GYPSY ’66, and there’s precious little of that outside of McFarland’s spectacular title track and parts of Szabo’s hypnotic “Spring Song”.
The focus here is on pop music, which finds the two leaders – for better or worse – singing. While their voices make for a peculiar yet not disagreeable blend, Szabo is clearly not the vocalist McFarland is. Together, they work best on the Beatles numbers (“The Word” and “Norwegian Wood”), chiefly due to McFarland’s amazing facility for suggesting a cross between a Beatle and a Beach Boy in his nearly monotonic delivery.
Szabo’s originals (“Yamaha Mama”, “You Will Pay”) aren’t too bad and seem to be the kind of thing he would continue exploring on his JAZZ RAGA album. Surprisingly, McFarland’s originals (“Hey, Here’s A Heart”, “Ups And Downs”, “She’s A Cruiser”) aren’t among his stronger work and, predictably, never caught on. There are also the seemingly unhip inclusions of “Nature Boy” and “Cool Water”, which probably wouldn’t have appealed to any pop rock fan who happened upon this set.
The album bombed at the time, receiving (few) poor reviews and garnering almost no sales to make it anything more than a cult classic, which indeed it has become. How? Even though it’s rather poorly recorded (one of McFarland’s earliest productions) and there are some genuinely jarring and incongruous moments on hand in this all-too brief set, repeated listens yield positively remarkable rewards – especially in the too-few instances of Gabor Szabo’s piquant and pithy playing.