Personnel: Tony Williams (vocals, drums); Jack Bruce (vocals); Ron Carter (cello, bass); Khalid Yasin a.k.a. Larry Young (organ); Ted Dunbar (guitar); Don Alias, Warren Smith (drums, percussion).
Producers: Jack Lewis, Tony Williams.
Reissue producers: Bryan Koniarz.
Recorded at RCA Studio B, New York, New York in February and March 1971. Originally released on Polydor (24-4065).
Digitally remastered by Kevin Reeves (Polygram Studios).
This is part of Verve's Verve By Request series.
Easily the weirdest record the Tony Williams Lifetime ever released, 1971's Ego is an experimental blend of post-hard bop jazz and the spacier end of psychedelic rock. Larry Young's wafting organ parts and Ted Dunbar's rockist guitar (as opposed to the more traditional jazz bent of the guy he replaced, John McLaughin) combine to make parts of the album sound like Atom Heart Mother-era Pink Floyd, particularly on "There Comes a Time" and "Lonesome Wells (Gwendy Trio)." Unfortunately, both of those tracks are bogged down by vocals (by Williams and Jack Bruce, respectively) singing Williams' own earnest and not terribly inspired verse. The best tracks are those that dispense with the lyrical claptrap -- the liner notes are also a terribly dated hoot -- and get down to the creation of some roiling atmospheres and powerful group improvisation. In that regard, things really pick up at the end, with the ghostly "Mom and Dad" and the cacophonous closer "Urchins of Shermese," on which Williams splits the narcoleptic mood of the introduction with some of his most fractured and arrhythmic fills ever, while simultaneously maintaining a groove that's typically snaky and propulsive. Drum geeks will particularly adore the two brief solo pieces, "Clap City" and "Some Hip Drum Shit," which are both technically impressive and short enough not to get dull. Solid jazz-rock, from the days before fusion got painfully dull. ~ Stewart Mason