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℗ 1971

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Paladin • 1971 • Paladin

Brainchild of ex-Terry Reid members Peter Solley and Keith Webb, Paladin was born to fuse. But even with their wildly eclectic sound — incorporating Cuban rhythms, jazz, rock, and psychedelia, the quintet aimed at a surprisingly accessible sound, and should have been a commercial monster. Paladin inked a deal with Bronze and released their eponymous debut album in 1971, a set that still quivers with creativity. Recorded live in the studio, the entire album has an immediacy to it, with even the downtempo numbers filled with energy. The opening "Bad Times" shows they mean business, the Latin rhythms underpinning an organ melody and a rousing chorus Traffic would have ground to a halt for, but before the almost seven-minute song comes to the end, the band bounces into a Santana-esque jam led by the raging, psychedelic, acid-drenched organ, which gets an even bigger workout on the rocking "Fill Up Your Heart," a song which must have been absolutely lethal live. "Dance of the Cobra" slithers through so many genres it's hard to keep track — Latin, funk, and jazz, for openers, and then guitarist Derek Foley strides in with a fiery solo before Webb launches into an extended big-band drum extravaganza, which he deftly transforms into rock, before the band goes out with a psychedelic flourish. That number's breathtaking, "Third World" is groundbreaking. It's obviously inspired by the Last Poets, an exuberant drum and percussion piece in a Latin/Afro-beat mode, over which the vocalists chant/rap a series of (sadly inaccurate) predictions for the years to come, ending with a sashay of jazzy R&B piano. That latter styling predominates across the bluesy, Southern tinged "Carry Me Home," another splendid number aimed straight at arena audiences. "Flying High" soars straight towards the airwaves, a luminescent pop number whose reggae undertones are so subtle they could almost go unnoticed. But there's no mistaking "The Fakir"'s ethnic origins, an exotic slice of Arabesque that swirls around the evocative melody like a dervish. As diverse as it is, Paladin's infectious rhythms and strong melodies pull the album together, and the excitement never lets up.

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