Personnel: Hubert Laws (alto, flute); Debra Laws, Eloise Laws, Blanch Laws, Johnny Laws (vocals); Roland Bautista (guitar); Dorothy Wade, Marcia Van Dyke, Janice Dower, Robert Sushel, Sandy Seymour, Arnold Belnick, Bonnie Douglas, Paul Shure, Endre Granat (violin, strings); Ron Cooper, Raymond Kelly, Nils Oliver (cello); Ronnie Laws (saxophone); Garnett Brown, Benny Powell, Maurice Spears (trombone); Raymond Brown, Oscar Brashear, Snooky Young, Bobby Bryant (brass); Patrice Rushen (piano); Larry Dunn (synthesizer); Leon "Ndugu" Chancler (drums); Victor Feldman (percussion).
When Columbia released Land of Passion in 1979, the album received scathing reviews from jazz critics. They knew Hubert Laws for his work as a jazz instrumentalist, and for the most part, Land of Passion isn't instrumental jazz -- it isn't hard bop, post-bop, or even fusion. The main focus of this LP is mellow, mildly jazzy R&B/pop (with the occasional instrumental). So serious jazz standards shouldn't be applied. Unfortunately, the critics who trashed Land of Passion did apply serious jazz standards, which is sort of like a food critic lambasting an Italian restaurant because it doesn't provide Vietnamese or Cambodian cuisine. Land of Passion needs to be judged by R&B/pop and quiet storm standards, and when those standards are applied, one has to say that this record is likable but not mind-blowing. Laws was obviously going after the quiet storm crowd when he recorded gentle tunes like "Music Forever" and "We're in Ecstasy." Arguably, quiet storm music falls into two main categories: R&B/pop vocals (Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Anita Baker) and R&B-minded crossover jazz (Grover Washington, Jr., David Sanborn, Lonnie Liston Smith). For the most part, this LP (which had yet to be reissued on CD when the 21st century arrived) falls into the former category, although it does contain two gently funky instrumentals: "We Will Be" and "Heartbeats." Neither are masterpieces, but they have a lot more substance and integrity than the sort of elevator Muzak that Kenny G and Richard Elliot were known for in the 1980s and 1990s. Not one of Laws' essential releases, Land of Passion must be taken for what it is: a pleasant but unremarkable collection of mood music. ~ Alex Henderson
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