Simon and Bard made three records, supposedly, back in this period. Fred Simon was the keyboardist and Michael Bard sax and flute player augmented on this first album from 1980 by a moderately large and useful band. Of course what immediately attracts our attention is that the guitarist is none other than famed fusioneer Larry Coryell, who really should need no further description here. (And notice that in the next 1982 album, they enlisted Ralph Towner! great taste in guitarists, right?)
The discogs blurb for Fred Simon, of whom I knew nothing until this request, is worth reprinting:
Frederick Victor Simon
Fred Simon has been making music for more than thirty years, composing for records, live performance, film, dance, and television, with instrumentation ranging from solo piano to symphonic orchestra. His recorded work includes seven albums of original music under his name, three albums (as principle composer) with the Simon and Bard Group, numerous appearances on compilations and samplers, and many appearances as side-musician.
Fred has recorded and/or performed with Ralph Towner (founding member of Oregon), Paul McCandless (founding member of Oregon), Larry Coryell, Lyle Mays, Iain Matthews (founding member of Fairport Convention), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist), Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico (both with Pat Metheny Group), Bonnie Herman (Singers Unlimited), Kurt Elling, Fareed Haque, David Onderdonk, Ingrid Graudins, Ross Traut, The Stan Kenton Orchestra and many others.
Wow! will be your reaction. Notice that he did make a few albums on his own, presumably in solo style piano. All compositions on this record are by him except A4's disappointing entry Fancy Frogs by Coryell.
Overall, a mixed bag with some of that annoyingly light fusion mixed in with decent and well-conceived compositions. The track ded. to Joni Mitchell is particularly cute, appropriately enough for Robert Plant's experience of Going to California:
The more I've listened to this wee fantasia the more I enjoy it, as it seems to really capture her mid to late seventies jazzier free spirit, though there is nothing of the earnest and folksy earlier sixties-era strummer in there.
In this regard I have to tell a personal story relating to Joni very quickly. For many years from the album Blue I was familiar with the story behind the song Little Green which is about the baby she gave up for adoption as a teen (the father's last name was Green), and who she desperately wanted to be reacquainted with throughout her life. Some two decades ago it so happens that, through a mutual friend, I met the daughter herself whose name turned out to be Kilauren Green and who was in the midst of the revelation brought about by the loosening of adoption records and rules that her mother was indeed the famous Joni (confirmed by DNA or the Word of God). The happiness of Joni could only be equated by her disillusionment at finding out her daughter was on welfare with no job, a casual drug user and had no artistic talent, after so many years of doubtlessly imagining the beautiful artist she must have turned out to be. At least the wealth of the mother took the daughter off the country's welfare system, since Joni perforce had to financially support her to a considerable level, essentially forever... Years later their relationship hit rock bottom and below when Joni charged Kilauren with assault after a fistfight at her LA residence... All of which serves to illustrate very well the principle in the English saying: "be careful what you wish for."
One last comment regarding Joni, few people out there I'm sure are aware that she took one really beautiful stab at progressive rock in the chamber orchestrated piece Paprika Plains. Its mystery and dreaminess have made it a favorite of mine since simply forever. If you haven't heard it, please go ahead and have a listen. It's from the double LP Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, which unfortunately doesn't hold any further interest for us.
The last track with the awkward title Musaic is also very interesting. Look forward to that one and its appropriate placement at the end. And towards the end of this quasi-symphonic composition the whole band takes flight into the skies as if to paint with the colors of feathered wings... gorgeous.
What it also reminds me of is the flights of fancy of that master band from the US, The Muffins, in their earliest works. And how we can escape through the most beautiful creations of art our sore reality full of disappointments like the unexpected turns in our children's lives...
As usual, thanks to the requester for drawing my attention to this overlooked slice of musical 1980.