I have always had a soft spot for that most impossible of outfits, a fusion/jazz-funk quartet from Reykjavik called Mezzoforte. Since their first (and pretty much only) hit ‘Garden Party’ back in 1980 they have been hovering in this strange twilight zone between obscurity and the ‘oh, I think I have heard of them’ remarks. This of course proves my friend C’s point that I have a penchant for what he calls ‘elevator music’. Mezzoforte made some cracking albums in the eighties, full of impressive bass slapping, ‘oooo deee aaahing’ background vocals by barely post pubescent men from Iceland and some great melodies. Then there was a lull and they returned with some more albums that still had some bass slapping but less catchy melodies and more ‘adult’ jazzy bits (with other words, it wasn’t as good anymore). Because they’ve been around for a good thirty years now, they produced a 2 – cd live album (Live In Reykjavik) with the ‘deluxe’ version sporting an extra DVD, catching it all on video.
So far so dandy. Of course I had to have it, so when triple pack of digital goodness arrived I whacked the first CD into the player and was waiting for some good old sweaty musicianship with plenty of crowd noises and ‘Good evening Luton, er, Reykjavik’ shouts. Instead I heard what I thought was the studio versions. Checked the CD: nope, says ‘live’. Popped the DVD in: yes, there they were, a bunch of middle aged men, nodding their heads, swaying gently, but not much else, surrounded by a couple of dozen appreciative listeners. But it still sounded like the studio versions of their songs, with the slight minute aberration from the original. Just not quite as good.
Bottomline: If you fancy Mezzoforte, buy the remastered versions of ‘Surprise Surprise’ and ‘Observations’. Stay clear of this rather luke warm collection that’s neither offering a live atmosphere nor the energy of the originals.