Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts – Encore: Album Review

Newly reissued, Encore is the 1978 album that reunited Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts, and is an exhilarating tribute to two amazing musical talents.

Release date: 26th May 2023

Label: Esoteric Recordings/ Cherry Red Records

Format:  CD

Encore was the album that reunited Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts in the studio, having gone their separate ways in 1969. This newly reissued and remastered version of the album is a great testament to their collective musical vision and talents. Julie Tippetts (formerly Julie Driscoll), with Brian Auger and the Trinity, made cutting-edge music in the latter part of the 1960s, and they of course came to public attention with their definitive 1968 version of the Bob Dylan and Rick Danko song, This Wheel’s on Fire.

Encore demonstrates the breadth of musical genres and styles that the duo are able to effortlessly carry off, drawing on their extensive musical palette. There is also a very evident passion and commitment in the music, that imbues it with a real warmth and emotion. Opening track, Al Jarreau’s Spirit, is a funky rhythm and blues workout, that has some very nice musical embellishments, including Dave Crigger’s syncopated drum rolls and cymbal work, and George Doering’s clipped rhythm guitar. Brian Auger supplies some sparkling electric piano phrases and of course a sublime Hammond organ solo that simply lights up the song. 

Then there is Julie Tippetts’ vocals. I first became properly aware of Julie Tippetts’ work on the 1984 Working Week single Storm Of Light, and just loved the very impressive vocal performance she gave, which perfectly complemented the exciting combination of jazz and soul that Working Week delivered. On Spirit her voice completely inhabits the song, where every word is made to count, and her voice ascends and swoops in perfect synchronisation with the band’s playing. 

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is a fantastic jazz and blues-based reading of the Nina Simone standard, accompanied by some intriguingly atmospheric guitar lines. There is an utterly thrilling final section, where book ended by some wonderfully sympathetic Brian Auger Hammond organ playing, Julie Tippetts sings “Tried so hard,” and sustains the most incredible soaring notes, where she appears to be literally reaching for the stars.

Git Up is a Brian Auger composition and demonstrates why he was so ahead of the curve in terms of jazz fusion, where funk, soul and jazz meet in a glorious mix, underpinned by some infectious angular bass playing by David McDaniels. The background vocals of Maxine Waters Willard, Julia Waters Willard and Jessica Smith, meld perfectly with Julie Tippetts’ lead vocal, providing a vocal sound which is very resonant of the heights the legendary Labelle often scaled vocally. This is without doubt a stunning collective vocal performance. Freedom Highway, the Staple Singers classic song follows, and is a joyous celebration of gospel music, sung with a free-flowing abandon by Julie Tippetts, improvising beautifully over the final coda.

I hope the reflections here on these first four tracks on the album give a sense of why this album is such an essential listen and is so convincingly able to grab your attention right from the start. Two more tracks it is worth highlighting, which cement the classic status of this album, include the Brian Auger penned song Future Pilot. It takes the jazz fusion direction even further and instrumentally layers on some very sophisticated arrangements, where keyboard counterpoints cross over complex rhythmic structures, featuring some striking free-form drumming from Dave Crigger. It is quite simply a beguiling listen, and the lead and backing vocals constantly lift the track into some very impressive soulful crescendos.

The album’s interpretation of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s Rope Ladder To The Moon, from Jack Bruce’s solo album Songs For A Tailor, is a masterpiece of musicianship and vocal dexterity. It is a song with complex time changes and evocative words that speak to the sometimes fragility of connection. It requires a lead vocal and musicianship that can both follow the contours of the song and be able to jump off at points into strange musical tributaries. Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts, together with the band, bring this off to perfection, in what is a completely immersive musical triumph.

Esoteric Recordings and Cherry Red Records are to be commended for releasing a superb new and remastered edition of this great album, just waiting to be discovered by a new generation of listeners. The booklet that comes with the CD has an excellent and informative essay by Sid Smith that includes an interview with Julie Tippetts.

You can view here a video, courtesy of  Beat-Club, of Julie Tippetts, with Brian Auger and the Trinity, performing a storming live version of Save Me in 1969:

For more information about Julie Tippetts recent work, see the Facebook link for the collaborative work with Martin Archer, and the Mind Your Own Music website link for more about the music of Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett: Website / Facebook

Brian Auger: Website / Facebook

Cherry Red Records: Website / Facebook

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