Rearview by Plan9 – reviewed by Chris Mann




Plan9 is an amalgamation of session players who have helped create some of the mega-hits of the past three decades in the pop/jazz idiom. 

The core of the band (listed below) play with or have played with Hall & Oates, Elton John, Pete Townshend, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, George Michael and artists of that calibre.  You can find out more about each of the musicians and their credits at  

The band members are Drew Bentley (guitar, band leader), Charlie Morgan (drums), John Marsden (keyboards, musical director), Charlie Dechant (saxophones, flute), Bill Gifford (bass guitar), Lane Hoppen (keyboards).  “Rearview” is the 3rd CD to be released by the band.  Cool Breeze” was released in fall of 2001 and “The 9 Days of Christmas”  was released in November 2002.  From personal experience, I can tell you that not only is the standard of musicianship stunning, but their treament of familiar songs is fresh and infused with a sense of humour which must be very infectious when Plan9 appear on stage. 

“Rearview” is an anthology of the songs which made members of the band want to be musicians in the first place… 

Whatcha Gonna Do is bright and brassy with real brass, drums and lovely bass.  The vocals are very ‘80’s chant style.  The sound reminds me of Tower of Power.  Superfriction is a tune written by John Marsden and is a very upbeat instrumental.  The piano solo is strong and the brass stabs are the bomb.  There is a lovely breakdown with bell-like acoustic guitar and tasty percussion.  Funky! 

Rod Argent’s classic She’s Not There receives a seriously Acoustic-Alchemy-meets-big-band treatment.  The acoustic guitar leads the melody, then piano and tenor sax solos follow close behind.  Earl Klugh fans will remember his oh-so-mellow version of Dance With Me.  Plan9 give it a vocal treatment.  To my ears, Larry Hoppen has a country and western voice and his performance has echoes of Dr Hook.  Well, it does to me OK?  The backing vocals are terrific. 

Lucky me – I went to see Earth, Wind & Fire recently and when they launched in to Fantasy, the crowd went mad (yes, me too).  I hope Plan9 take this on the road because Drew Bentley’s guitar melody is lovely.  The strings and brass are very strong.  Listen for nice percussion touches too – it’s a party.  The band keep the lazy rhythm Lou Rawls adopted for You’ll Never Find.  Acoustic guitar takes the melody.  The question and answer on the piano is eerily close to the original.  Tenor sax takes the chorus.  This works. 

I love the Steve Miller Band and I adore Blinded by the Light.  While I prefer the vocal on the original, this is a lively and well-recorded performance.  It’s a bit of a Las Vegas treatment – guys, if you play there call me for heaven’s sake.  No Reply is a Lennon/McCartney song with which I confess I’m not familiar.  The acoustic guitar takes the melody and the horns provide the refrain.  This is bubbly and really pretty. 

Guys, have you been looking through my record collection?  Steely Dan’s FM is an all-time favourite.  Drew Bentley takes the melody and this works well.  Of course, after the first chorus I’m aching to hear an electric guitar solo – the piano solo, casual tenor sax and well-scored backing vocals compensate though.  The bass gets funkier and in a live set, I’d want to hear Bill Gifford let fly with a bass solo.  This is my fave track on the CD!  The instrumental version of Kool and the Gang’s Too Hot is preferable in every way to the original.  The rhythm moves better, the backing is classier and Bentley’s crisp steel-strung acoustic out front sounds great. 

Gilligan’s Island – from a very cheesy 1960’s US TV show – gets a tongue-in-cheek treatment Latin/Caribbean treatment with tenor sax out front.  Vocals and piano are very over-the-top - I’ve just got to say it.  The bass is fantastic and the flute is delicious.  This must be crazy if they play it live!  The title track is one of two original compositions and acoustic guitar is the star here.  It’s very much in the Acoustic Alchemy vein with a steel-strung guitar backing and nylon-strung guitar playing lead.  How can that be bad??  It’s dramatic and it’s what I hope future albums will contain…  The final track is an abbreviated “manic samba remix” of Gilligan’s Island. 

I’m going to describe this as “grown up smooth jazz”.  It makes no reference to urban grooves, there’s no rap and it doesn’t feature guest spots from R&B vocalists.  However, it does feature a group of guys with a vast collective musical experience and real instrumentation.  You won’t hear a drum machine or sequencers here – and that’s what makes it different.  That’s what means that every song here should sound as good live as it does on record.  This album makes even more sense if you hear it after hearing the first two and it’s released on May 11th 2004, so you’ve got time to catch up…



Plan9 Partners – PSP006 – Produced by John Marsden