Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sonny Sharrock - Ask The Ages

Sonny Sharrock
Ask The Ages


Released 1991 on Axiom
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 16/09/2000ce


This album is an absolute classic!!, every single second of it. You might say this is the Blind Faith of the 1990's because Sonny assembled a lineup of true giants to play with him on this record. Try this on for size Sonny Sharrock-Stun-Guitar, Pharoah Sanders-Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Elvin Jones-Drums and Charnett Moffett-Bass. Wow!!Incredible I couldn't belive it when I first bought this.
Those who aren't familiar with Sonny Sharrock go straight to Pharoah Sanders' mighty 1968 masterpiece "Tauhid" then try and find his brainbusting solo album "Black Woman" on Embryo Records. These records are a good introduction to the man.
I must admit that I didn't hear this album until 1997 when some hippie I knew told me Pharoah Sanders had made a record with Sonny Sharrock in 1991, sadly I never heard of it. Worse still I had almost written Pharoah off after a few of his 80's releases came dangerously close to sounding like the dreaded "Hugh Hefner Playboy Jazz"( aka Fern-Bar Jazz ).
Well I had no reason to worry because 30 seconds into "Ask The Ages" opening number "Promises Kept" Pharoah starts to blow lines like it was still 1968. This song is a pure adrenaline rush that must be experienced to be believed, the energy being put out is immense. Sonny delivers a hypnotic riff as a jumping off point then all members of the group get a chance to do their thing and they all do it like it's the last day on earth. At one point Sonny and Pharoah start going at each other like maniacs, it almost sounds like they are trying to play "L.A. Blues" by the Stooges. Moffett's bass solo is incredible he sounds like he is assaulting his instrument all the while Elvin is destroying his drumkit Keith Moon style!!!!Wow What an opener!!!
"Who Does She Hope To Be?" is next and man it's stone beautiful. Pharoah plays a simple somewhat mournful line on sax while Sonny plays some gorgeous solos that remind me of Peter Green and Danny Kirwan of the original Fleetwood Mac. "Little Rock" recalls the mood of John Coltrane's Africa/Brass album with the addition of Sonny's machine gun fire guitar blasts.
"As We Used To Sing" follows the same formula on this one Sonny really cuts loose while Pharoah gets in some earth shaking elephant honks on his horn, Elvin as always is smashing every fucking thing in sight. Up next is "Many Mansions" which swings like crazy, the band hits a groove on this one that will take you to Venus and back.
Like all heavyweights The Sonny Sharrock Group saves the best for last. "Once Upon A Time" is positively staggering, Elvin begins this one with a tribal beat then Sonny steps up to the plate with some of the dirtiest vicious power chords you'll ever hear then proceeds to incarnate as Jerry Garcia circa-1968 playing "Dark Star" style runs, by now Elvin's drums are in tatters but he's still kicking the shit out of them. I really can't belive the outpouring of soul on this number.
The album is now over and I need a drink. Move over Buddy Miles, Sonny Sharrock's "Ask The Ages" is the REAL Expressway To Your Skull!!!Get Down!!!!!!


Reviews Index