Friday, March 12, 2010

Surprise! AMG Gets it WRONG - The Pharoah Sanders Album That Doesn't Exist

I have long been Pharoah Sanders' Number One fan. I've been haunted by an item allegedly in his discography that I know nothing about. The mainstream source for discographical information on the web is the All-Music Guide, and it clearly lists a 1974 album for Pharoah, on the Capitol label, called "Voyage to Uranus." If you google this album, you'll find pages of listings seeming to verify the existence of this album. One or two them include people claiming they like this album or have used parts of it in their mixes. But I have never seen this album. Ever. I did hear an album a few months ago called "Voyage To Uranus," by Clive Stevens' Atmospheres, featuring among others, the fine guitarist Ralph Towner. It's a pretty decent obscure fusion album, worthy of inclusion in the Kozmigroov canon.

I started asking some of my music blog friends about this alleged Pharoah Sanders album. And then I remembered the name of the Atmospheres album. Damnit! It was issued on Capitol in 1974. And then my blog friend Cheeba pointed out that the Capitol number for the Atmospheres is the number AMG claims for this Pharoah album and that AMG is used as a feed for the majority of automated music websites. Eureka! We may never know how AMG ascribed this album to Pharoah in the first place, but here is the clear creation of an internet myth. By snowballing a mistake, AMG has seemingly created a rarity that some have claimed to have heard, and nobody seems to have ever doubted.

Let it be said clearly: While "Voyage to Uranus" is a fine album, it is not an album on which Pharoah Sanders plays.

AMG has a lot of useful information. It also has at least one completely clueless gatekeeper and reviewer, Scott Yanow, who doesn't actually like 1970s jazz, and so pretends that 1970s jazz either doesn't exist or is not worth listening to. Musical taste is so completely subjective that one can't be blamed for not liking something. But it seems bizarre that someone who only likes straight-ahead jazz artists who cover lots of standards would be an arbiter of taste, attempting to review a decade of music known for breaking the rules of jazz, breaking the rules of category and genre. It's not surprising under those circumstances that an error like this would be made. Hey AMG, want a music reviewer who actually loves the sound of the seventies? I'm available!


  1. Another problem I have with AMG is not only its fixation on straight ahead jazz, but also its fixation on North American straight ahead jazz. Europe and Japan are completely underrepresented. I could list a vast number of important artists not even having an entry on AMG.
    That said AMG is still a very useful source. But it could be better. Much.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Arkadin!

    I have to credit the music blogosphere to opening my eyes to the incredible range of non-American jazz. Over the years I've heard something Japanese here, Polish there, and everybody knows ECM, but appreciating the real spectrum of European and Japanese (and Australian!) sounds is comparatively new to me. As the internet shrinks the world AMG definitely needs to keep up.

  3. thanks for the confirmation of this non existence, i'll always though it was a wrong information as a heavy PS fan ! peace

  4. You're welcome Funky. This bothered me for years also!