Missing Man Formation
First Appeared in The Music Box February 1999, Volume 6, #2
Written by John Metzger
The debut disc from Vince Welnick's Missing Man Formation is a posthumous look back at the original group, which included drummer Prairie Prince as well as Zero's Steve Kimock and Bobby Vega. Prior to this release, the band had performed far too few dates, mostly along the west coast, and the subsequent personnel changes most likely were made to give Welnick more leeway in taking the band out on the road.
In a sense, this disc is also a passing of the torch. Robin Sylvester and Trey Sabatelli both provide backing vocals on this release, and they were later tapped to play bass and drums, respectively, on Missing Man Formation's last tour. Also joining the new incarnation of the group is saxophonist Bobby Strickland, who provided a delicately sweet solo to ease the transition from the space-instrumental It's Alive into True Blue.
While there's no question that the group's latest incarnation is much tighter than the line-up that appears on this disc, there's no doubt this band had that special magic right from the start. Credit is certainly due to Welnick for penning some great songs, including Golden Days and True Blue, which lovingly look back on his days as keyboardist for the Grateful Dead and his healing process after the passing of Jerry Garcia.
Kimock turns in a number of fine solos on this disc as he lets loose and allows his guitar to truly sing — something that was sadly missing from The Other Ones' tour last summer. Comparisons to Garcia are inevitable, but Kimock brings his own amazing style to the music as well, providing fluid leads that complement Welnick's vibrant piano solos and rhythmic chord progressions.
The instrumental Smog Farm, which concludes the disc, was taken from a live performance in 1996. It's a stunningly beautiful track that shows off the incredible musicianship of the original group. Had Kimock, Vega, and Prince been able to devote their full attention to this project, the musical terrain that Missing Man Formation would have traveled surely would have been phenomenal. Fortunately, the new line-up gelled quickly and has become a powerhouse force of their own. Let's hope there are many more albums and tours in this band's future.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box