Freddie Hubbard: Backlash (1967) Atlantic

Selection 1: Backlash (Pickett)

. .  . . 

Selection 2: Little Sunflower (Hubbard)

.  .  .

Track List

A1. Backlash (Donald Pickett) 4:15
A2. The Return of the Prodigal Son (Harold Ousley) 5:42
A3. Little Sunflower  7:55
B1. On the Que-Tee 5:47
B2 Up Jumped Spring 6:43
B3. Echoes of Blue (Cunningham) 9:44


James Spaulding, alto saxophone, flute; Bob Cunningham, bass; “Killer” Ray Appleton, drums; Freddie Hubbard, flugelhorn, trumpet; Ray Barretto, Percussion; Albert Dailey, Piano. Recorded at Atlantic Studios, New York, New York, October 19 & 24, 1966, Adrian Barber, Phil Iehle, Tom Dowd, recording engineers; lacquer cut by Adrian Barber; producer, Arif Mardin – a Turkish-émigré like Atlantic co-founder Ahmet Ertegun. 

Backlash was released in May 1967, the year in which Atlantic was absorbed into Warner Brothers. That year Warner launched the ill-fated airship Led Zeppelin, named after a famous rock band.  Fact-checker! My office, now. 


With so many great Hubbard albums vying for attention, I pulled out this transitional title, hearing Freddie dipping his toe in soul/R&B boogaloo and Sidewinder Territory, enter spouse in shift-dress and beehive, hand-jiving, foreshadowing the ’70s Soul R&B commercial Freddie.

Industry reception (All Music): “The first of Freddie’s Atlantic albums, this excellent set falls between hard bop and the avant-garde, often hinting at both… Hubbard and Spaulding made for an excellent team and there are plenty of exciting moments on this brief but potent set”.

The covers tell the story of Freddie’s trajectory under Atlantic. The expression on the 1967 cover sees him looking nervously into the future – the Atlantic marketing gurus have pigeon-holed him below the waistline,  CTI begins to look like a good move.  

1967                                           1968                                    1969                                          1970

The Backlash selection Little Sunflower was reinvented with a more lush, exotic arrangement five years later, on 1972 Milt Jackson’s CTI title “Sunflower” – “Freddie’s warm, vibrant fat tone, vulnerable tremulous vibrato, leading the melodic lines over Milt Jackson’s shimmering vibes, a delight” – LJC.  Interesting to contrast the two arrangements five years apart, the pared-down 1967 line-up still sounds great, less can be more.

Milt Jackson:  Sunflower (CTI 1972):

.  .  .

Freddie Hubbard, trumpet, flugelhorn; Milt Jackson, vibes; Herbie Hancock, piano; Jay Berliner, guitar; Ron Carter, bass; Billy Cobham, drums, plus 17 other musicians

Interesting to compare the CTI arrangement and engineering – big fat mid-band, panoramic stereo electric keyboard, lush Hollywood strings,  – with the leaner Atlantic engineering, more musical to my ear. As per comments, the CTI Sunflower is a Van Gelder recording, though of course Rudy is not responsible for arrangements, the producer’s remit.

Vinyl : Atlantic SD 1477 (1967)

First issue green/blue label, logo-box with black fan ®, runout AT etched, W with three dots above one below (signature of an Audiodisc blank acetate), Longwear Plating LW. Laminated cover.

Click alert. Atlantic farmed out vinyl pressing to a wide variety of plants, this one does not identifying itself. A few clicks cleaned out, but too many stubbornly remain. 


Harry’s Place

Bass player Bob Cunningham falls into Harry’s viewfinder in this marvelous shot taken at Montreux, 1970, with Yusef Lateef – Cunningham was a regular feature of Lateef Atlantic albums in the 70’s. The photographer’s eye catches the diagonals and slanting lines  working against the straight lines of the frame, dynamic tension.  Great composition, Harry, music for the eyes.

Photo © Harry M

Collector’s Corner

Before acquiring the original green blue label, I previously had the later green orange label issue, from the early 70s. Putting them side by side, something jumped out. Send out for the vinyl detectives!

The labels are a different colour – yes, we all got that. Now examine the runout with an informed eye. Side ONE has a large wide band, which look like the famous Scully pre-set used by Van Gelder in the early days, that caused the tone arm to sway in and out. The  runout groove of side TWO has three narrower bands, no sway. 

Side ONE has a different runout lock-groove pattern to side TWO.  Secrets Of The Deadwax – Bingo, Watson! Side TWO  been recut on a different lathe, at a different time, possibly by a different engineer. Curiouser and curiouser.

Was it remastered by another engineer? Compare below the hand-writing. The  number 6 has a different size bottom circle, and the letter A in ST-A has a rounded top compared with a pointed top.  Discogs uploaders report the matrix code simply as letters and numbers, which are the same, unable to account for their different hand, or the different runout  lock-groove pattern.

SIDE 2 has been remastered by a different engineer – in this case, by Robert Ludwig at Sterling Sound. Bob Ludwig was the engineer who famously cut the 1969 US release of Led Zeppelin too hot, causing groove skipping and many copies to be returned. The Zeppelin pressing was withdrawn, and recut. Sometimes there is a good reason why you might not want the original first pressing! How can we be sure the remaster was by Bob Ludwig? Well, the clue could be this RL etching in the runout , only side  TWO.

SIDE ONE of the second issue of Backlash is identical to the original issue SIDE 1, the same metal. Why SIDE TWO alone was remastered remains a mystery, one of the many secrets of the Lathe Trolls, those who toil in the darkened corners of Studios.

What of Adrian Barber, who cut the original Backlash for Atlantic? Barber was born in Ilkley, Yorkshire, and  became The Beatles’ sound technician – first in Hamburg, and then on their first US tour, a promising start for a Yorkshire lad. He subsequently emigrated to the United States, where he became an in-house recording engineer and producer at Atlantic Record, producing numerous hits for Atlantic artists including The Velvet Underground, The Bee Gees, and Aerosmith –  Freddie’s Backlash didn’t really register on the scales.

His career took a downward trajectory in which he succumbed to heroin addiction, and eventually disappeared to Hawaii, where he recently passed away, in poverty, in 2020.  Sex Drugs Rock and Roll doesn’t often end well. I guess it doesn’t always help to know these things, but at least you know. However the mystery of Backlash SIDE TWO recut remains unresolved.  I did compare the two editions, but  only Side 1, which  turns out to have been the wrong choice at the time – same metal. It’s not easy being a vinyl detective. 

Even more spooky (looks over shoulder), digital ink still wet on this Freddie post, my mailbox this morning contained news of this new release :  Freddie Hubbard – Little Sunflower – nine minutes 20 seconds  exactly each side, at 33rpm. Credits to Hubbard and Al Jarreau, Claus Ogerman 1979 arrangements, licensed from Sony by an opportunist UK entrepreneur,  “Above Board Distribution”, on yellow vinyl, WTF?

The original of this 1979 reissue is itself an oddity – special edition of Columbia Single – a copy below is asking $300 on Discogs.

 A “Jazz Influencer“?  I think my keyboard is bugged! The minute you write anything online, anything at all, Hi-Tech knows, and serves up an advert, specially for you.

Freddie left us a great legacy, Blue Note, Atlantic, CTI, and may be others. The CTI catalogue has many fans, Polar AC, Red Clay Straight Life (no review yet), but what to make of this Atlantic period, and what after CTI – his Columbia years. The covers don’t look very enticing.

Any worth seeking out? Or just say hello to Freddie, I’m sure he will be reading your comments with interest.


10 thoughts on “Freddie Hubbard: Backlash (1967) Atlantic

  1. The W with the three dots above and one dot below is actually Adrian Barber’s cutting signature, not an Audiodisc blank. Just a plain W without the dots is a reference to the cutting source blank.


  2. These early Atlantic releases have Freddie in his prime, not crazy about the house sound of Atlantic but all worth having.
    My personal fav is “High Blues Pressure” and an original can be found for quite a reasonable price.


  3. Little Sunflower is one of my favourites. We hired some Jazz musicians for our wedding and our first dance as a married couple was to Little Sunflower.
    As well as the versions you mentioned I would also recommend Chuck Mangiones live version from 1972 ish.


  4. I have been very pleased with every Speakers Corner or Pure Pleasure reissue I have bought. They have always struck me as being reissues done well, with reasonable transparency, and at fair prices.

    Having said that, Backlash isn’t one that appeals. ‘Too much drums,’ as they say…


  5. Interesting. According to the Speaker’s Corner website, “the master lacquers of Warner titles are made at Cohearent in California” – which includes Atlantic. Nice review by Speaker’s Corner themselves:
    Certainly one to look out for. Not had a Speaker’s Corner reissue on my turntable, so I can’t comment on the sonics. Most Speaker’s Corner copies of Backlash on Discogs appear to be located in Germany, and a few in Holland, none in UK, which tells you about SC distribution.


  6. The more recent AAA reissue by Speakers Corner is a great one to own if you’re searching for a really high quality version. This one is done by Kevin Gray, then you can imagine how this one is sounding!

    Liked by 1 person

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