Rants & Raves: February 2009

February 1, 2009

With no fewer than six players credited, it’s hard to know who’s doing what on guitar. Reportedly, Robin Finck, Richard Fortus, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Buckethead, Chris Pitman, and Paul Tobias all contribute 6-string tracks. The most important thing to know, however, is that the tones are amazing and varied, the riffs are gargantuan, and the solos represent some of the boldest playing the hard rock genre has heard in a long time.

“Shackler’s Revenge” starts with a facemelting barrage of screech guitar before going into a slew of other great tones. Bumblefoot’s fretless guitar solo might be the thing to finally bring that instrument into the mainstream. The Queen-inspired “Street of Dreams” has massive power chords, bold arranging, epic solos courtesy of Finck and Buckethead, and sure-fire hit potential. They serve up greasy electro-funk on “If the World,” along with awesome detuned sludge-fuzz and cool nylonstring work from the Bucketheaded one.

Given the baggage surrounding this band and this album, it’s incredible that Chinese Democracy even exists. It’s even more incredible that it absolutely rules. Anyone who thinks rock records can’t have killing riffs, compelling grooves, stellar production, and solos that actually make the songs better needs to take a listen. Democracy’s on the march! Geffen. —Matt Blackett



My Favorite Martin
Subtitled Legendary Guitarists Playing Legendary Guitars, this very enjoyable CD features 16 of the world’s most accomplished guitarists—Ray Walston is not among them— playing Martin acoustics. All the guitars sound magnificent, but a few of the vintage instruments sound especially luscious, such as Steve Howe’s ’53 00-18 on his composition “Ram,” Jim Earp’s ’73 D-28 on his arrangement of “Moondance,” and Tony Rice’s ’35 D-28 (given to him by Clarence White) on his lovely reworking of “Danny Boy.” Most of the performances feature a single musician playing unaccompanied, such as Laurence Juber’s ingenious DADGAD rendering of “Layla,” Martin Carthy’s stately version of “The Vandals of Hammerwich/John Peterson’s Mare,” and Roger McGuinn’s 7-string take on Pete Seeger’s “Singing in the Country.” Two of my favorites, however, are multitracked pieces by members of the Cars: Elliot Easton’s version of the Turtles’ “You Showed Me” is stunning, particularly the glissando “string” parts played with a slide and a delay pedal; and Greg Hawkes’ beautiful orchestratration of “Eleanor Rigby” using baritone, tenor, and soprano (a ’50s Style 0) ukuleles. I also dug Nancy Wilson’s massive-sounding, detuned, and possibly phase-shifted riffing on “Decatur Road.” The album ends with Steve Miller and his dog Lady (I’m not kidding) performing “Slinky” on a “hidden” track. Solid Air. —Barry Cleveland




If you can imagine a roguish, Tele-totin’ singing cowboy who’s as influenced by the rebel country of Steve Earle (think “The Week of Living Dangerously”) as he is by the T&A-centric humor of the Porky’s trilogy, you’ve got Travis Whitelaw. While his greasy guitar tones and silky pedal-steel textures are tasteful enough to be exports of Music Row, Whitelaw’s unabashedly un-P.C. lyrics (though witty in places) most definitely are not. Gleefully trying to blow the roof off an NC-17 rating, this funny ten-song redneck comedy collection would probably be vulgar enough to get Whitelaw run out of Nashville, were he was actually based. (Rumor has it that Travis Whitelaw is actually the alter ego of New York guitarist/singer David Weiss and his production partner, Joel Shelton.) But before you write Sexarkana off as pure novelty, remember that whether it’s unrestrained ribaldry or something else that’s waiting to bubble up from your subconscious, sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is grab a couple of guitars, head into the studio, and take on an imaginary personality so that the bucking bull that is your id can finally burst out of its cage. Skull Bros. —Jude Gold


Les Dudek, Deeper Shade of Blues Michael Nicolella, Push Jeff Beck, Performing this Week . . . Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Richard Pinhas & Merzbow, Keio Line Creedence Clearwater Revival, 40th Anniversary Edition Re-Releases Claude Pauly, Mind Meets Matter

Mike Eldred Trio, Mike Eldred Trio Rodrigo y Gabriela, Live in Japan Chic, Live at the Budokon [DVD]

The Smiths, The Sound of the Smiths Jeff Beck, Performing this Week . . . Live at Ronnie Scott’s Talk Talk, Spirit of Eden

Johnny Winter, Live Through the ’70s [DVD] Joe Zawinul & the Zawinul Syndicate, Vienna Nights: Live at Joe Zawinul’s Birdland Various Artists, Gypsy Soul: New Flamenco

Various Artists, Fretworx The Cult, Born into This Jeff Beck, Performing this Week . . . Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Brad Paisley, Play Digable Planets, Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) Jeff Buckley, Grace

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