Like a Metaphor
This is slinky, sexy, animated, and multi-textured instrumental music that effortlessly seduces listeners to undertake a journey of both comfort and surprise. While the CD played, I kept musing about awakening in a warm, sunny climate with some ravishing beauty who defined eroticism and sensuality. Not that this sort of thing has ever happened to me, but BTG’s music suggested what it might feel like if it ever did. The diverse and brilliant arrangements—which make evocative use of acoustic and electric timbres—are further enlivened by the exquisite tones and cagey phrasing of guitarists John Bartron and Mike Tyler. Everyone in the band (which also includes bassist Joey Fabian and drummer John Hasty) is obviously a good listener with a solid connection to the music and the idiosyncrasies of each player. For a moment of sublime beauty, check out “How They Eat in Heaven,” and for a peek into the ingenuity and heart of the ensemble, listen to how the guys interpret the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” If you’re like me, Metaphor will become one of those treasured Sunday morning CDs that always seems to creep into the rest of the week. Hardwood Music.
Parkinsong, Volume One: 38 Songs of Hope
The benefit album, Parkinsong, is the result of efforts to fight Parkinson’s disease by the son and two daughters of Selma Litowitz, a retired teacher in Lawrence, New Jersey, who was stricken with the disease a little over a decade ago. The double CD features both unreleased and archival material from a who’s who of singer/songwriters, including David Crosby, Dave Alvin, and Dar Williams. The disc also features accomplished guitar players such as Bonnie Raitt and Chuck Prophet, although the coolest riff on the compilation is played by record producer Bill Bottrell on the Kim Richey track, “No Judges.” Bottrell informed GP that the part, which sounds like it was played by a double-stringed banjo picker on the front porch of an Appalachian shack, was actually performed on a baglama, which Bottrell described as a “baby bouzouki.” parkinsong.com.
One of Europe’s leading solo acoustic guitarists, Belgian Jacques Stotzem has built a international following around his bouncy, ragtime-inflected fingerpicking. Featuring highlights from recent shows in England, Germany, Austria, and Belgium, the album contains an inspiring mix of jangly grooves, snappy riffs, jazzy chording, and wistful melodies. Though the program consists primarily of originals, he also tackles “Purple Haze,” as well as a swinging medley of “All of Me” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” that brings down the house. Acoustic Music.
I’m a Baal Teshuvah
Pesach Chaim is an Orthodox Jewish guitarist who was inspired by “a voice in his head” to play Jewish heavy metal. He admits to suffering from schizophrenia. He is also one serious and dedicated musician with formidable marketing chops. Unfortunately, I’m a Baal Teshuvah is defined by the things that Chaim is not. He’s a decent soloist, but his riffs are about as heavy as a low-carb snack, and his songwriting is innocent of hooks. I’ll certainly give the guy a kudo or two for self-producing this album in his 16-track home studio, but his production chops are idiosyncratic at best. Amateurish and frequently off-pitch vocals are mixed far above the backing tracks, the sample/MIDI-generated drums are totally stiff, and the guitar tones are thin and wimpy in the extreme. Unlike classic heavy metal records, I’m a Baal Teshuvah does not grab you by the throat, kick you in the stomach, or inspire various forms of mayhem. There’s too much missing here, and the project collapses almost by design. I applaud Chaim’s commitment to his vision, but in the brutal and grossly unfair business of music, devotion is simply not enough. You need chops. cdfreedom.com.