Rants and Raves: December 2008

December 1, 2008



It’s swingin’ like Charlie Christian, but cranked through a half-stack. It’s quoting Coltrane, but blowing through humbuckers. It’s Holdsworthian harmony, but it’s shimmering through spinning Leslies. It’s loaded with tasty Morsels (get it?) of fully rocking Dixie Dregs-type unison themes, but it’s 2008, not 1978. These are just some impressions you may get from the guitar parts on Lifeboat, the long-overdue debut from the hardest working man in the epic solo business, Jimmy Herring. As respected for his stunning versatilit as he is adored for his amiable and humble demeanor, Herring has long been in demand by everyone from the Allman Brothers to the Dead to his current band, Widespread Panic. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Southernbred guitar sharpshooter rarely has time to lead his own projects. Now, with a little help from his friends—including slide phenom Derek Trucks, bass badass Oteil Burbridge, drum genius Jeff Sipe, and sax sensei Greg Osby—Herring finally takes the captain’s chair. If your ears’ idea of a good time includes thoughtful melodies and searing-hot solos gracefully woven through intriguing chord changes powered by monster backbeats, you may find that Herring has one of the most compelling voices in instrumental guitar. Always gutsy, adventurous, and melodic, never dorky or disingenuous, this under-recognized -jude gold




Thanks in Advance
Although bassist Bryan Beller’s second solo release is technically a “jazz-fusion” album, deploying plenty of serious musical talent, he assiduously avoids the gratuitous displays of virtuosity and compositional bombast all too often associated with the genre. Beller’s compositions are sophisticated but not stuffy, powerful but not overblown, diverse but not diffuse—and they are chock-full of great guitar playing by Mike Keneally, Chris Cottros, Rick Musallam, Griff Peters, Mike Olekshy, Bruce Dees, and Beller himself on one cut. Ace Nashville and Southern California players round out the team. Opening with the purposefully languid “Snooze Bar”—which ends with the sound of an alarm clock buzzer—Thanks in Advance recapitulates Beller’s journey of personal awakening and transformation, catalyzed by the death of a close friend in 2005. Highlights along the way include the Weather Report-approved “Casual Lie Day” and the N’awlins-inspired “Greasy Wheel,” both featuring tasty licks by Cottros; a bitsmashed noise rocker on which Beller plays everything but “real drums” titled “Cost of Doing Business;” the Zappa-esque “Blind Sideways;” a gorgeous orchestrated bass piece called “Life Story;” and a bluesy trio showcasing Griff Peters’ gutsy guitar called “Cave Dweller.” But the pièce de résistance is “Love Terror Adrenaline/Break Through,” a complex yet lyrical King Crimson-meetsthe Beatles masterpiece powered by a merciless guitar barrage from Keneally. The soulful, Hammond-drenched title track, and a sax-frenzied “From Nothing” close things out. And for those who like to delve deep, a special CD+DVD package is available on Beller’s Website. The DVD features studio and live footage, interviews, and lots of bonus audio tracks. Onion Boy. -Barry Cleveland



Print: Off The Rails:Aboard The Crazy Train In The Blizzard Of Ozz

By Rudy Sarzo
This book is not particularly well written, is chock-full of typos, and is poorly edited. That being said, it’s also a fascinating window into bassist Rudy Sarzo’s world and a heartfelt tribute to his friend and bandmate Randy Rhoads. Sarzo talks about his youth, growing up in Castro’s Cuba, getting his first guitar, and dedicating himself to music upon seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. But it’s Sarzo’s tales of meeting and playing with Rhoads that will really appeal to guitarists. He recounts how a young Rhoads captivated audiences at Quiet Riot gigs with a Les Paul plugged into a solid-state Peavey amp. He explains the changes in Rhoads’ tone and technique after recording with Osbourne in England (he had switched to his famous Marshall rig by then and was delving deeper into classical music). Sarzo reminds us that Rhoads’ blending of heavy rock and classical was relatively rare back then and, in fact, the reason it became so commonplace was largely because of Rhoads. The stories of Osbourne’s excesses are hilariously disturbing, and the struggles the band faced early on, with cancelled gigs and vicious reviews, are intriguing given how successful they would become. When he tells the tale of Rhoads’ tragic death, Sarzo does a riveting job of conveying how horrifying, bewildering, and life changing that day was. His stories of post-Randy guitarists Bernie Torme and Brad Gillis are an added bonus. As someone who was lucky enough to see Rhoads play (Sarzo writes about that very gig in the book)and who was holding a ticket for the second tour when he learned of Rhoads’ passing, I couldn’t put this book down. We miss you, Randy. Too Smart. -Matt Blackett



Print: So You Want To Be A Rock ’N’ Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day 1965-1973

Christopher Hjort This exhaustively researched book documents the Byrds’ career from their formation and huge breakthrough success in 1965 with “Mr. Tambourine Man” to their short-lived reunion of 1972/1973. What transpires in these 336 pages is a wealth of information that covers just about every significant event that occurred during the band’s nine years of existence. From tours and recording sessions to press conferences and reviews to the upheavals created by constant personnel changes, these chapters document the Byrds’ rollercoaster journey from folk rock and psychedelia to their pioneering of country rock with Gram Parsons. Featuring tons of photos and an extensive index of concert locations, recording sessions, and radio and TV appearances, this book is truly the go-to reference for pretty much anything you want to know about the inner workings of this hugely influential group. Jaw Bone.-Art Thompson



Print: Sounds Like Teen Spirit:Stolen Melodies,Ripped-Off Riffs,And The Secret History Of Rock And Roll

Timothy English
English paints a thought-provoking picture of how songs get created and recreated in this 185-page paperback. Some of the inclusions, like George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and the Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine,” represent tunes where the second writer got sued and lost. Others in that category include “Ghostbusters” vs. “I Want a New Drug,” “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” vs. “Taj Majal,” and various Zeppelin Page-erisms. Then there are the tunes where a writer got sued and prevailed, like the John Fogerty “Run Through the Jungle” vs. “Old Man Down the Road” debacle. English definitely seems to know a thing or two about the guitar, as evidenced by his nuanced dissection of Harrison and the Byrds, as well as music theory and history. All in all, this is an interesting read for anyone who has ever heard a song and said, “Aw man—that song’s just like . . . .” That would pretty much include all of us.-Matt Blackett



The good news is this sounds just like John Sykes-era Whitesnake. The bad news is it’s not Sykes, although Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach kick major ass throughout. Some tones are overly distorted, but the riffs are huge, the tunes are solid and the singing is still great. If you dug “Still of the Night,” you’ll dig this. SPV. —MB

A haunting rendering of Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G Minor” opens this wonderful collaboration between Canadian ambient and “infinite” guitarist Brook and Armenian duduk master Gasparyan. Majestic, earthy, airy, electronic, and timeless in turns. Canadian Rational. —BC

The West Coast improv adventurer parachutes into New York City and lands on his feet with this hypnotic nine-song jazz trio record. Myspace.com/shankennerguitar. —JG

Swedish electric guitarist Klas Gullbrand and double-bassist Palle Sollinger—with assistance from drummer Ola Hultgrin and pianist Fredrik Hermansson—offer up introspective improvisations, soothing soundscapes, and cool tonal colors on this adventurous but gentle jazz release. Found You Recordings. —BC

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