Summer 2001
CD Reviews



Natural Timbre

Listen to RealAudio sample: To Be Over

Recently recorded at Langley Studio in England, the acoustic guitar-based sound of Natural Timbre takes Howe out of the electric guitar world into an equally fascinating acoustic setting. Howe points out, "A record without electric guitar seems like it might be restrictive, but I found it wasn’t. When I write music it’s nearly always on acoustic anyway. I didn’t have to transpose it to electric, it just stayed on acoustic and became more accessible to me." Acoustic Howe classics date as far back as The Yes Album and his neoclassical-rock solo debut, Beginnings, back in ‘75. A fitting reflection of Howe’s ability to amaze listeners with his masterful, subtle acoustic guitar work, the all instrumental Natural Timbre is an assortment of recent music and several tracks that date back to before the ‘70s. Howe explains, "Sometimes I take an old piece of music I still love, put something new with it and it comes alive." Mixed in with the purely acoustic solo cuts are several tracks that also feature Steve’s son Dylan Howe on drums and ‘70s Yes collaborator Andrew Jackman, who adds some tasty recorder and piano parts to new Howe covers of three Yes tracks including "Your Move", "Disillusion" and "To Be Over". One of the most diverse, eclectic and competent guitar figures of the 20th Century, Howe describes the album as "my most personal and private album ever, because I didn’t get together with a group and work the songs through - I damn well played it on my own and only recorded it when I was really finished." Complete with futuristic cover art and detailed track notes by Steve, Natural Timbre is a welcome addition from Long Island-based Spitfire Records, a label known for it’s roster of hard hitting rock acts including Enuff Znuff, Ted Nugent and Masters Of Reality. 


Out Of The Past
(Free Will)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Tomorrow Never Knows

Based up in Syracuse, New York, guitarist Mark Doyle returns with an arresting new guitar-based instrumental set that fulfills the promise of his ‘99 album Guitar Noir. On that album, Doyle revealed a fascination for vintage ‘60s and ‘50s jazz and pop songs and on Out Of The Past, Doyle bounces back with a flashback to 1966. Among the songs covered are two Beatles tracks from Revolver and the Rolling Stones’ evergreen "Paint It Black". The Doors receive accolades from Doyle who covers both "Moonlight Drive" and "The Crystal Ship". Other heavies given the instrumental treatment by Doyle & Co. include the Cream classic "Politician" and The Yardbirds’ chestnut "Still I’m Sad". Doyle further peppers the proceedings with several originals that also exude a ‘60s paisley-pop vibe. A compelling showcase for Doyle’s inventive guitar work, Out Of The Past also spotlights several percussionists and drummers while the album is further seasoned by Doyle’s added performances on Wurlitzer piano, Chamberlain strings, Moog Bass and Mellotron flutes. The psychedelic color cover art further underscores the intentions of the musical content within. A well chosen collection from a guitarist who knows that greatness comes from taking chances, Out Of The Past is a real gas, indeed. 

The Transmutations Of Supposed Angels

Listen to RealAudio sample: Jack Palance The Ninja

Subtitled Or Beings That Were Once Girls, the second album from Maximum Indifference makes for an intense yet ultimately rewarding listening experience. Hailing from the SF Bay area, the band has opened for top guitar slingers like Alan Holdsworth and Steve Morse and clearly anyone into those kings of electric instrumental guitar fusion music should check this disc out. Described as edgy and ethereal, dense and dimensional, TTOSA (the most uncanny title of the year) pins you to the wall with it’s maximum intensity approach and just barely allows your mind to up and wander as the high octane sound rolls on through. Into their second decade together, Gustaf Fjelstrom (bass), Mark Bladek (guitars) and Rich Duarte (drums) strike gold on a CD that’s sure to become a favorite with disciples of progressive instrumental guitar rock. 

You’re Never Alone With The Rapiers
Guitar Heaven

Lead guitarist Colin Pryce-Jones and his band The Rapiers have been touring around Great Britain for years and have earned their status as one of the leading guitar instrumental and ‘60s-style pop groups of their time. Inspired by Hank Marvin and The Shadows, Jones and The Rapiers fondly revive the time honored sound of the Euro-style instrumental guitar beat. You’re Never Alone With is a tasty 15 track platter of instrumental guitar cuts and assorted vocal tunes including a classic cover of "Stay Around", a vocal track from The Shadows’ mid-60s Lp Shadow Music. On his ‘99 solo album Jones, John Tuck (drums) and Steve Rushton also on drums) enter the kingdom of guitar heaven with a 13 track, all-instro disc of spiritual gems like "Jerusalem", "Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho" and "Amazing Grace". Incredibly, all the tracks sound fabulous and truly lend themselves to the guitar instrumental genre. Both of these excellent CDs feature an abundance of photos and in-depth liner notes. 

The Supertones Are Go!!!
Surf Side Twang

During the ‘90s, The Supertones emerged as New York City’s best guitar-based instrumental surf-rock quartet. Guitarist Tim Sullivan leads the ‘Tones through all the right moves on a recent pair of CD compilations. Packed with classic covers like "Telstar 61", "Hawaii 5-0", "Runaway" and "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)", Supertones Are Go!!! features a great selection of 28 tracks recorded between 1990 and 1996. Gauging from the retro-active cover art you just know you’re in for a truly ‘wayback’ experience from seasoned surf-rock hands. The group’s other recent CD release, Surf Side Twang!!! - Live And Wet NYC captures 18 live Supertones tracks from the early ‘90s mixed in with various live cuts from ‘89, ‘99 and ‘93. Also decked out with imaginative cover art and another intriguing audio mix, Surf Side Twang - Live And Wet NYC succeeds from start to finish. Unlike many of today’s guitar beat albums, these Supertones CDs really sound like they were recorded back in the early ‘60s. Credit must go to the crafty remastering which helps to get that vintage audio experience. The group cites influences like The Ventures and The Shadows while also paying tribute to the many colorful sights and sounds of the ‘60s. E-mail: 

(Surf Waves)

Guitarist John Blair recently released a new album of instrumental covers with the appropriate title Undercover. One of the most celebrated bands of the modern surf-rock era, Jon & The Nightriders have wisely chosen to revive fourteen far-out tracks that even long time fans of the genre will have trouble placing. That shouldn’t be too surprising to those who know of Blair’s wide knowledge of the surf-rock genre. Blair was one the main producers of the acclaimed Cowabunga! box set released on Rhino in the ‘90s. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Undercover is the savvy with which Blair and his group pull off the entire affair. Kicking off with "Sea-N-Shore", a 1964 track originally done by Jerry & The Diamonds, Undercover goes on to revive a wide range of surf-rock instrumental curios recorded between 1959-1965. Thanks to some sharp recording techniques, Undercover really sounds like it was recorded way back then. Undercover finds Blair assisted by key players such as Dave Wronski (guitar), Pete Curry (bass) and Dusty Watson (drums) to name a few. For those fans who’ve followed Jon & The Nightriders since the early days of Surf Beat ‘80, Undercover is a yet another validation of the group’s wide ranging charisma. email: 

Shadows Workout 5+

Guitarist Ian McCutcheon is a devoted Shadows fan who’s been releasing a CD series with the name Shadows Workout. On each of these ‘workout’ CDs, McCutcheon serves up flawless covers of Shadows song classics from years past. Each track is then followed by a ‘music minus one’ cover of the same song. These ‘backing track’ versions, minus lead guitar, gives guitarists the chance to play lead guitar on the same song. From a guitar student standpoint that’s a great idea, and from a collector’s standpoint it’s also great to have Ian’s completed Shadows covers. Supporting McCutcheon’s vision are top players including former Shadows’ bass player Alan Jones and keyboardist Dave Prickett. McCutcheon has released five Shadows Workout CDs with each CD offering at least 28 tracks, 14 complete tracks and 14 backing tracks minus the lead guitar figure. McCutcheon’s outstanding interpretations of the music by Hank Marvin & The Shadows makes this a series of CDs to be enjoyed by all fans of the guitar instrumental genre. 

New Dark Age

Amazingly, the same four members who formed Djam Karet back in 1984 are still together and have released their latest disc New Dark Age. A swirling mass of instrumental prog-rock layered with a heady dose of free form fusion, New Dark Age is a potent brew and is maybe the group’s most amazing CD to date. Recorded in California in the midst of that state’s severe power crises, New Dark Age demonstrates the full force of the Djam Karet sonic assault. Djam Karet are still fueled by the sonic interplay of guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson with the surefooted assistance of Henry J. Osborne (bass) and drummer Chuck Oken Jr. They’ve been compared to all sorts of prog icons - like King Crimson, Porcupine Tree and Ozric Tentacles - yet on New Dark Age Djam Karet transcend mere attempts to categorize their sound. So far, six of the group’s many fine recordings have been issued by Maryland-based Cuneiform Records. Breaking new musical ground has always been a hallmark of the Djam Karet sound. With New Dark Age, Djam Karet hit the bullseye again with yet another progressive masterpiece. 

Space Island

Compared to his earlier solo efforts, which focused primarily on his solo electric bass work, Rob Wasserman’s recently released CD is unlike anything he’s ever done. According to the bass wiz, "To me, the big challenge was to emulate the sound and feel of guitars, keyboards, percussion and horns and to create new sounds." On Space Island, Wasserman combines his fantastic electric bass work and occasional vocals with a series of catchy drum loops and grooves that have more to do with hip-hop and electronica than with jazz or rock. Wasserman adds, "Space Island was a great challenge for me: to take the electric upright bass to new places." Assisting Wasserman on his latest CD is album producer and co-composer Dave Aron. Several percussionists and drummers including Aron, Stephen Perkins and Carl "Butch" Small add fuel to the fire, but for the most part Space Island is Wasserman’s trip. Having already released a trilogy of bass albums, including Solo, Duets and Trios, Space Island is a unique, worthwhile and mostly instrumental set from one of the best bass players on the music scene today. 

(Blue Blimp)

L.A.-based guitarist Pat Thomi follows the release of his Summer 2000 album Remote Control with his latest CD Pyramids. While Remote Control was clearly more of a jazz-rock fusion effort, complete with several fine session players, Pyramids is Thomi’s new venture into the world of guitar-based ambient electronica. Steeped in hypnotic atmospheres, and layered with Thomi’s tasteful work on electric /acoustic guitars, samples, loops and sitar, the all instrumental Pyramids was conceived by Thomi as a five song "quintology". Complete with intriguing cover art and far-out song titles such as "Dunes", "Time", "Passage" and "Ascension", Pyramids is shrouded in an aire of mystery. Produced, performed and engineered by Thomi, Pyramids not only sounds remarkable, but it maintains a mesmerizing musical flow from start to finish. More meditative sounding than his earlier efforts, Pyramids will inevitably introduce Thomi’s music to an entirely different audience than before. In addition to Pyramids and Remote Control, Thomi has also released the progressive pop/jazz instrumental CD Night Of The Coral and the atmospheric, acoustic collection Fairytales. 

Say No More

The new album from Minnesota-based guitarist Randy Casey takes in so many guitar-based genres of instrumental music that it boggles the mind. Described as a cross between ambient trip-hop sounds and bluegrass music, Say No More is one of the most satisfying guitar albums of 2001. Casey is clearly a fretboard master and on his new album he unleashes a veritable arsenal of stringed instruments including National steel guitar, acoustic and electric 6 and 12 string guitars, baritone guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin and bass. A number of fine players help to further scope out Casey’s vision including Eric Heywood (pedal steel), Tom Peterson (fretless bass) and drummers David J. Russ and Mark Wirtz. Produced and engineered by Casey, the album features all original music with the exception of Casey’s cover of "Bron-Yr-Aur", written by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Say No More is a splendid CD that will please guitarists of all persuasions. 

Alien Guitar
(Alien Guitar)

A guitarist clearly on the cutting edge where music meets technology, Denis Taaffe recently released his second solo album. The results mirror the astounding sonic depth and futuristic musical altitude so apparent on Taaffe’s ‘99 album, Modern Rock Guitar. Vol 1. - Abducted By Aliens. More than merely a soundtrack to a prophetic sci-fi flick, the newly released Modern Rock Guitar. Vol 2. - Alien Guitar picks up where Vol. 1 leaves off and then some. Concerning his new album Taaffe adds, "I was hoping to find some new guitar sounds and wanted to do a CD that was really different than my first CD. Most of the tracks on the CD are improvised with a worked out underlying structure. I really feel it has let me grow musically." The addition of an array of new guitar technology has further opened up Taaffe’s sound which he still simply describes as "mood music". Taaffe’s been compared to legends like Jeff Beck, The Edge and David Gilmour and not without good reason. Few guitarists bridge the gap between smart guitar playing and modern technology as well as Taaffe. Performing everything himself with just one guitar, guitar loops on the fly and drum programs, Denis Taaffe brings electric guitar music a giant step further into the 21st Century. 

Warmth In The Wilderness
(Warner Bros.)

Stricken down with the insidious disease ALS at age 19, guitar prodigy Jason Becker was barely able to complete his last album Perspective before his illness began to cripple him. The album was completed in ‘95 when Becker was just 25. Now at 32, he has lost the ability to play and perform. That fact comes as no small jolt upon hearing the complex musical dynamic at work on Perspective. A soaring, multi-faceted work by a masterful guitarist and composer, Perspective is an album of well-crafted instrumental jazz-rock and neoclassical symphonic rock pairing Becker’s guitar and keyboards with talented side players like Matt Bissonette (bass) and brother Gregg Bissonette (drums). Guitar great Eddie Van Halen can take some credit for instigating the CD’s recent reissue on Warner Bros. The album offers fascinating liner notes from Becker who describes how he painstakingly recorded these tracks as ALS was sapping his strength. It’s clear that Becker was taken out of the game way too soon, but nevertheless, he can take great pride in knowing that Perspective is a significant work by a supremely gifted musical mind, an album that will surely stand the test of time. Still alive, Becker is able to communicate with an elaborate computer generated speech program. For an illuminating introduction to Becker’s ongoing saga go to 

Finland-based Lion Records is also helping keep Becker’s name in the limelight with a new double tribute CD honoring the fallen guitarist. In addition to Gregg and Matt Bissonette, other musicians appearing on Voice In The Wilderness - A Tribute To Jason Becker include guitarists Lasse Mattsson, Steve Morse, Paul Nelson, Alex Masi, Marty Friedman, Mike Campese, Chris Poland and Vinnie Moore who appear along with a slew of other outstanding musicians. All the artists here have donated their time while all profits from Voice In The Wilderness will go to the Becker family, who are doing their best under incredible duress. Lion Music are one of the premier heavy metal rock and guitar instrumental labels in Europe today and they clearly have done the right thing by honoring Becker’s musical legacy with this well crafted 31 track double disc tribute album filled with new versions of Becker’s music. 

Strong Like Bull ...But Sensitive Like Squirrel
(HMG / Hightone)

Listen to RealAudio sample: Bells Of Madness

The latest album from steel guitar wiz Joe Goldmark has plenty of pizzazz running right through it. Goldmark, who appeared on several albums between 1979-94 with Mike Bloomfield and David Byrne, now returns with a full-blown instrumental pedal steel album that blends country-rock, jazz and mood music. Strong Like Bull features track by track notes by Goldmark and jocular cover art. Another nice surprise is Goldmark’s cover of a rarely heard Brian Wilson song called "Bells Of Madness". The one vocal on the album finds Goldmark singing the Charlie Rich country rave-up "Lonely Weekends". Nestled in between the Goldmark originals is a well-wrought instrumental cover of the Blind Faith oldie "Presence Of The Lord" complete with the dexterous interplay of Goldmark's pedal steel and the fine electric guitar of Garth Weber. Strong Like Bull ...But Sensitive Like Squirrel is an excellent choice for pedal steel guitar and instrumental guitar fans alike. 

Guitarra Romántica

A collection of tracks from his two latest Virgin Records Spain albums, Aurora and Remolino, Guitarra Romántica confirms Encinas as one of today’s rising Spanish guitar masters. Encinas made fans very happy with his other Narada World CD, entitled Duende, and his latest one is even better. Encinas was born in Spain and early on was drawn to the sound of Flamenco. Encinas has technique to burn and on Guitarra Romántica he skillfully combines his incredible nylon string guitar skills with a palette of Flamenco, pop and World Music sounds. More than just another smooth pop/jazz album, Guitarra Romántica features an array of players on exotic percussion, electric/rhythm guitar, synth programming, various horns, strings and woodwinds. Bringing the world of pop and Flamenco guitar music together on one delightful album, the all-instrumental Guitarra Romántica makes for some truly sublime listening. 

Journey Into Amazing Caves
(Ark 21)

L.A.-based Ark 21 Records recently released a live album from rock legends The Moody Blues and now the label follows up with a film soundtrack showcasing symphonic adaptations of classic Moody Blues songs. The IMAX film Journey Into Amazing Caves features breathtaking film footage of some of the planet’s most amazing caves and is the follow-up feature to the last IMAX film, Everest (which was tastefully scored with orchestral / instrumental versions of George Harrison songs). Deploying the classic music of The Moody Blues as part of it’s auditory back drop, Amazing Caves also debuts two new Moodies’ songs and the CD is further represented with orchestral renditions of favorites like "Question" and "Your Wildest Dreams". Long time Moodies’ guitarist Justin Hayward is featured throughout the CD, adding his guitar and occasional vocals to the mostly instrumental soundtrack. Assisting Hayward is a full orchestra and the soundtrack’s orchestraters and arrangers Daniel May and Steve Wood. Even without the movie, Journey Into Amazing Caves stands on it’s own as an inspiring listening experience.  / 


With the release of their second full length CD Suspension, The Travis Larson Band hits a musical bullseye with an admirable album of guitar-based all-instrumental jazz-rock. An electrifying studio effort from the California-based trio, Suspension is the work of a band that has already garnered acclaim as an opening act for Trey Gunn (King Crimson), Gary Hoey and Dick Dale. Larson’s guitar is tastefully mixed right up front for maximum impact, and he receives some kindred assistance from his bandmates Jennifer Young (bass) and Dale Moon (drums). Also appearing as a guest artist on a TLB cover of the old soul chestnut "Georgia On My Mind" is Bela Fleck bassist Victor Wooten. That cover and eleven more Larson originals makes Suspension an all-around winner for fans of jazz-rock guitarists like Steve Morse, Steve Howe and Steve Vai. 

The Sign

When he isn’t rocking out with his pop-soul fusion group Soul Provider, guitarist Danny Johnson is making his own kind of guitar music. Perhaps the most amazing thing about his most recent solo CD The Sign is that Johnson writes, arranges and performs everything here. In his credits Johnson cites guitarists like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, yet on The Sign he also achieves a new proficient sound. Performing electric and synth guitars, acoustic and electronic drums, keyboards, bass and horn sequencing, Johnson creates a veritable fusion sound on his own. After checking out The Sign, you may want to investigate the self-titled 2000 release from Johnson’s group Soul Provider. Still layered with Johnson’s ace guitar work, songs and arrangements, the self-titled Soul Provider CD also benefits from the smooth vocals of "Fast" Eddie Davis along with a number of other fine players and guest artists. Smooth jazz-rock with shadings of Gospel and the blues that at times evokes groups like The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, Soul Provider hits an original rock groove.




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