Acoustic Sounds

Bernie Worrell

Wave From the WOOniverse



wave from the wooniverse

Label: ORG Music/Loantaka Records

Produced By: Evan Taylor, Jared Samuel Elioseff, Michael Moon Reuben, Will Calhoun

Engineered By: various

Mixed By: Evan Taylor, Matthew Cullen, Jeremy Delaney, Miles Senzaki, Spencer Guerra, Tony Maimone, Nick King, Steve Kaye.

Mastered By: Dave Gardner, DSG Mastering

By: Evan Toth

April 19th, 2024





On Record Store Day Bernie Worrell Waves to You From His Wooniverse

All-Star Friends help keyboard titan complete unfinished catalog recordings.

What are woo doing this Record Store Day? There’s always something to please almost everyone each year. One of my shopping strategies is to try to find something unique, containing music that hasn’t been heard before; I appreciate when an artist - or, their team - waits for this special annual shopping moment to drop some music that the world hasn’t yet heard; it makes it an event. This year, the record release that falls on that side of my barometer is Bernie Worrell’s, Wave From the WOOniverse.

Originally Bernie became known to audiences through his work with Parliament-Funkadelic, where he was founding member and musical director. During this time, Bernie was engaged in synthesizers like the mini-Moog, and other trailblazing keyboards of the day. Worrell often explored cutting edge technology during that time. His classical background and perfect pitch were extremely helpful additions to his toolbox.

Bernie Worrell Playing Several KeyboardsDuring a Parliament-Funkadelic respite, Bernie brought his skills to the Talking Heads, where he joined their lineup on many of their most popular albums, even making an appearance in Jonathan Demme’s film of the band's concert, Stop Making Sense. Using the Prophet 5, Bernie brought otherworldly textures to the band’s burgeoning multicultural and international sounds. Worrell issued a number of solo albums over the years and brought his abilities and sonic texture as a session musician to an extremely wide range of performers and musicians during the final years of his life including Gov’t Mule, Bootsy Collins, Les Claypool, Gil Scott, Herron, Keith, Richards, Cibo Matto, and many more.

A newly compiled batch of work from Bernie comes to us via this Record Store Day’s release, Wave from the WOOniverse from ORG Music and Loantaka Records. Most appealingly, it will be a vinyl only release (for now at least) and it’s a double album limited to 2,000 copies. These recordings come from archived sessions that Bernie had conducted over the years and were recorded on 2 inch analog tape. Following Bernie’s death in 2016 the tracks were sifted through, and the best of them appear on this new release.

It’s doubtful that you’ll find a stronger “who’s who” of featured guest stars this Record Store Day as Bernie’s album features Mike Watt, Binky Griptite, Fred Schneider, Sean Ono Lennon, Bootsy Collins, Mark Rau, Marco Benevento, and more. There’s even a previously unreleased Funkadelic track on the album titled, “Contusion”. Evan Taylor produced the bulk of the album (please see notes for full credits), previously, Taylor was the band leader of the Bernie Worrell Orchestra. Several engineers mixed most of it (see notes) and Dave Gardner mastered. The album credits list at least 24 recording studios in fourteen cities.

Producer Evan Taylor Wearing Sunglasses and a blazerProducer/Loantaka Records Founder: Evan Taylor

The album’s first cut, “Intro (Reflections on a Bird)” features Nick Montoya and begins the collection with a beautifully composed chord progression by Worrell fusing a melody played by Montoya that showcases the meditative and delicate dynamics that a modular synth is capable of when it’s the lead instrument. It’s a slow burn to begin the record, but it sets the tone for the overarching care that went into creating it. The album is about Worrell, of course, but I’ll be darned if I can’t get Montoya’s weeping synth lines out of my head. Top this track off with the included field recordings from Janet LeBelle, and you’ve got on yout hands a beautiful piece of music.

Sean Ono Lennon plays bass on “Re-Enter Black Light (Phase II)” underneath an instrumental groove led by the melody of what I assume is Worrell on melodica. The liner notes only mention that he is on keyboards, so he may be utilizing a melodica keyboard patch, but something tells me this recording is of an analog melodica. The intro to the song is an opportunity for Worrell to show off his high caliber classical compositional skills. The melodica, a masterful horn arrangement, and Sean Ono Lennon doing an excellent job of laying down the low end, makes this one of my favorite tracks.

Of course, all eyes are on the unreleased Parliament-Funkadelic track, “Contusion” which has all the makings of a late 60s or early 70s organ-driven scorcher. Here, Bernie is in complete control of an overdriven Hammond organ. The track doesn’t feature vocals or any remarkable compositional development, but it’s full of aggressive energy and stompingly funky fun and - what’s more - it showcases Bernie’s keyboard prowess without elaborate synthesizers.

The introduction to “Transcendence” which also features Marc Ribot and Norwood Fisher, fully showcases Worrell’s classical chops. The electric guitar and bass accompaniment, coupled with Bernie’s keys creates another sweet spot on the record: it’s a track that falls somewhere between a Virgil Fox Bach performance and the soundtrack of a 1990s detective film. The horn arrangements are impressive here as they are throughout the album; I’m not sure if these parts were added during the initial recording, or after the fact, but they help create continuity throughout the record. “Transcendence”, a jam, segues into the mystically eastern section; it’s a wonderfully exotic way to prepare for the record's conclusion.

“Wave From the WOOniverse” - the album’s title track (and the final song on the album) - features Miho Hatori with Sarah La Puerta and Steve Scales and is another contender for my favorite. As a Cibo Matto fan, I was pleased to find plenty of left-field energy reminiscent of that group which also recalls the Tom Tom Club (both of which whom Bernie also worked with).

Overall, considering the numerous, one might say excessive studios used to track it, the album sounds extremely coherent, helped by consistent production and mixing, as well as by Dave Gardner’s thorough and steady mastering. A deep wide and appropriately nebulous soundscape showcases a multitude of low frequency that should prevent listeners from cranking it up too loud, which would produce an excessive and unpleasant high frequency sheen. That, and the ample headroom produced during mastering makes it possible to play at high SPLs without adding excessive brightness and listening fatigue.

Even with Steven Bernstein’s muted-trumpet and Bernie’s trip through his keyboard arsenal (I detected a Rhodes, Clavinova, a Wurlitzer and more, let me know what else you can pick out) "Greenpoint" does not become aurally tiresome.

The review sample, pressed at Furnace Record Pressing in Alexandria VA was beautifully pressed—flat and well centered— and contained zero audible defects. My note to Furnace: whatever you’re doing, don’t go changin’, I love you just the way you are! Based on the last few records I’ve received from Furnace, their QC standards are consistently high. Kudos also to Raeghan Buchanan for the tastefully delivered jacket design, layout and illustration; the matt finish further enhances the eye-catching cover.

A Bernie Worrell vinyl discWhen checking all of your shopping boxes this Record Store Day consider the answers to the following questions: does the release contain excellent music that you’ve never heard? Does it feature an all-star cast? Is the pressing fantastic? After reading this piece, I imagine you know my answers to these questions about Bernie Worrell’s Wave from the WOOniverse. But, perhaps there’s one more question to posit: is the album a fitting showcase of a fabulously talented keyboard player (and his accomplished compadres) who contributed much of his extraordinary talents to an impressive amount of music from the 20th century? Yes, it does that, too. With this album, Bernie Worrell is certainly waving to us from out there in the Wooniverse. This Record Store Day, take a moment to wave back! 

Music Specifications

Catalog No: ORGM-2311/LNTKA0004

Pressing Plant: Furnace Record Pressing

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2024-04-22 04:31:32 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    While my RSD was 3 hours of waiting in the freezing cold and 30 mph winds, and missing most of my lp's, I wish I would've seen this and turned my day around. I had a chance to meet Bernie and Jerry Harrison after a screening of SMS, while they drank coffee at a local cafe. Totally cool cats and I need to see if this LP is still around. This album appears to be unmissable. Thanks for the review.

    • 2024-04-22 10:23:19 PM

      Evan Toth wrote:

      It is a good one, Jeff. Definitely solid throughout. I hope you found some cool discs on RSD and that you're lucky enough to find one of these out in the wild. I believe the album will be seeing a digital release in the future.