Rants And Raves: April 2009

April 1, 2009

There is so much great music on this record that it is difficult to single out highlights. Several of the tunes are played entirely or mostly on acoustic guitars, such as the impressionistic duet “The Androgyne,” and the lovely “Prayer Wheel,” a sparkling composition built on a cycling arpeggio in 6/8. The slide work on the acoustic guitar and Dobro duet “The Nomad’s Home” bridges Nashville and New Delhi, while “Thurston County” transitions from wonderfully dissonant chords accompanied by Theremin-like lap-steel work, into a surf-flavored 7/8 rhythmic groove with orchestrated single-note lines and various textural elements overlaid. The six-part “Onan (Suite)” is considerably more abstract, at times reminiscent of 1950s musique concrète, but with some killer solo work, and an upbeat finale that borders on electronica. There’s more—much more— but if your interest has been piqued, just do yourself a favor and go buy the record. Cryptogramophone. —Barry Cleveland

SCRAPING FOR CHANGE

19*6*3

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Rock bands that rely more on melody and songs—and that are obviously seeking major-label recognition, airplay, and public notoriety—tend to get dismissed by GP readers who, quite reasonably, have “hot guitar” more on their radar. Scraping For Change guitarist/vocalist Sterling Selover certainly won’t drop any jaws of the Satriani-Vai-Malmsteen set, but he has an uncanny ability to propel his catchy melodies with parts that enhance and energize the feel of each tune. The stark arpeggios and singlenote lines on “Through the Mirror” that underpin a poignant vocal reading, the Policelike skanks that drive the verses of “What Would You Do?,” and the glam-rock-approved riffs and solos that transform “Second Chance” into a thrilling live-concert-like explosion of sound are just three examples of Selover’s cagey musicianship and production smarts. There may not be a ton of mind-blowing solos to rip off on 19*6*3, but if you want some tips on how to craft songs that can grab a listener’s attention before you unleash that shred solo, Selover delivers a master class on the art of seductive songcraft. SFC. —Michael Molenda

 

DAVE FIELDS

All Wound Up

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Blues guitarist Dave Fields learned the basics of his craft from his genre-hopping father, Sammy—a jazzer who could also appreciate bubblegum pop—so it’s no surprise that All Wound Up takes a few stylistic journeys through the blues. “Train to My Heart,” for example, chugs down the rock tracks (à la Jimi Hendrix), “Ain’t No Crime” goes for the funk throat, “Blue Ballad” pulls in B3 riffs and B.B. King-esque stings, and “Guide Me to the Light” brings on the soul. While it’s often difficult to embrace various styles and put a bit of yourself into the mix, Fields’ smooth vocals and tasty guitar lines accomplish the task by avoiding rote readings, as well as incorporating the occasional sly bend, angular phrase, or wacky effect. As a result, I think All Wound Up is an enjoyable listen for both blues acolytes and causal club jumpers, and it presages an exhilarating concert experience if you ever get a chance to see Fields live. FMI. —Michael Molenda

 

DVD

ERIC JOHNSON

Anaheim

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Anaheim, CA—the land of strip malls and Disneyland. It is also home to the annual Winter NAMM Show, where tone freaks and gearheads descend each year in search of the piece of equipment that will finally allow them to create the sound they hear in their heads. It makes perfect sense that the biggest tone freak of all time, Eric Johnson, would choose Anaheim as the locale of this great live DVD. After all, no one obsesses over every aspect of their signal chain like Johnson, and his gigs are like church to many NAMM attendees. EJ did not disappoint on this night, bringing ungodly tone, chops, and musicality to the dozen tunes. He hits the stage with “Summer Jam” and cranks out gnarly fuzz for his trademark open-voiced chords and some tasty false harmonics. The close-up hand shots on his cover of Dylan’s “My Back Pages” provide a great view of his picking and fretting techniques. He switches gears, and guitars, on “Cliffs of Dover,” trading his Strat for a cherry red Les Paul/SG. In the incredibly delicate clean-toned intro he quotes, among other things, the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” He then launches into his most famous tune, and it’s pretty cool to hear him work his magic on a humbucker axe. You also get a three-song bonus acoustic set, where Johnson plays “Wind Cries Mary” (on piano!) as well as interview footage. This DVD will remind you why we love this guy. Vanguard.

 

 

WHAT’S SPINNING IN THE EDITORS’ HEADS THIS MONTH?

MATT BLACKETT

Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti Al Di Meola World Sinfonia, La Melodia Live in Milano George Lynch’s Souls of We, Let the Truth Be Known

BARRY CLEVELAND

D. Rider, Mother of Curses Razi, Rotonova Carl Weingarten, Lost In the Air

JUDE GOLD

Jeff Richman, Aqua Allen Hinds, Falling Up Fountains of Wayne, No Better Place— Live in Chicago [DVD]

 

KEVIN OWENS

Redd Volkaert, Reddhead Various Artists, Guitars That Ate My Brain Mike Stern Band, New Morning: The Paris Concert [DVD]

 

ART THOMPSON

Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II Hank Williams, The Unreleased Recordings

MICHAEL MOLENDA

Various Artists, Guitar Masters, Vol. 2 Rosie & the Goldbug, Rosie & the Goldbug The Cult, Pure Cult: The Singles

DAMIEN CASTANEDA

Roxy Music, Avalon Jeff Beck, Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scotts [LIVE] Gov’t Mule, The Deep End, Vols. 1-2

QUICK HITS

JOE CEFALU, FEAR ITSELF

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Great Strat-y tones, nice phrasing, wide-ranging dynamics. That’s what you’ll get from Cefalu’s latest, but you’ll also get some kick-ass burning and solid tunes that should appeal to fans of his main influences, Gilmour and Hendrix. Ready Room. —MB

STEF BURNS, WORLD, UNIVERSE, INFINITY

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The Bay Area Beck’s soulfully virtuosic Strat playing is showcased within musical contexts ranging from upscale-pop to blues to jazzy rock—including a live version of “Little Wing”—supported by a cast of stellar musicians, with cameos by Lyle Workman and Peppino D’Agostino. Lakeside. —Barry Cleveland

TONY MCMANUS, THE MAKER’S MARK

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Renowned Scottish fingerstylist Tony McManus plays with incredible fluidity and exquisite tone on this collection of Celtic and other tunes. Using a different boutique guitar for each song (supplied by Paul Heumiller of Dream Guitars), McManus turns in beautiful perform ances imbued with the tonal signatures of 15 beautifully recorded guitars. Dream Guitars. —Art Thompson

THOMAS BLUG BAND, LIVE IN RAALTE, NL

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One of the best things ever to happen to the Fender Stratocaster, Thomas Blug blazes on these live instrumentals with astounding vibrato, tone, melodic grace, and compositional intrigue. He soars. Guitarplayer.de —Jude Gold

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