Gabor Szabo is one of those gigantically influential guitarists whose name or music few have ever heard. Carlos Santana, John McLauglin, Robbie Krieger, and Larry Coryell all seem to have spent some serious quality time soaking in Szabo’s hypnotic sound. Largely self-taught, Szabo‘s playing brilliantly fused elements of jazz, pop, Gypsy, Indian, and Middle-Eastern music, creating a highly mystical and totally unique style.
A refugee of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, Szabo spent his formative years playing guitar in underground jam sessions in Budapest. His distinctive sound matured during an important four-year tenure in Chico Hamilton’s pioneering quintet, which also featured saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Two years into his solo career and deep in the midst of the late ‘60s music revolution, Szabo released his studio masterpiece, Bacchanal. It was on this 1968 recording that he triumphed in his experiments with feedback and Eastern-tinged psychedelic re-workings of current pop tunes.
The album opens with one of two Donovan covers, "Three King Fishers." Szabo fluidly bends his guitar strings to create a spellbinding sitar-like sound. Classically trained guitarist Jimmy Stewart accompanies him with rhythmic intensity. Monster drummer Jim Keltner is magic here, keeping things incredibly tight while seamlessly floating in and out of jazz, rock, and Eastern time signatures. "Three King Fishers" is a golden psychedelic relic, comparable in mood and intensity to the Doors’ brooding classic, "The End." The title track, one of only two Szabo originals included here, follows the shining path of "Three King Fishers." Hal Gordon’s percussion adds another layer of rhythmic complexity to the mix, driving the song to the highest of heights. Szabo’s agile fingers wring every bit of emotion imaginable from his electric guitar. This musical highpoint is followed by the album’s second Donovan cover, "Sunshine Superman." This up-tempo track sounds wonderfully dated, conjuring up images of miniskirt clad Go-Go dancers gyrating in suspended cages while waves of multi-colored lights wash across their bodies. Szabo’s contagiously energetic playing uplifts the song, keeping it from sinking into pure kitsch. "The Look Of Love" is a pre-Barry White pillow talk classic: clink your wine glasses and sink into the plush shag carpet of this relaxed groove. The strongest LP recorded by Szabo’s regular group of the era, this would prove to be their last session. While Bacchanal is largely an album of ‘60s pop covers, Szabo’s inspired quintet transforms the material into a one of a kind collection of first-rate jazz instrumentals(musthear)