October, 2000 
CD Reviews



(Pat’s Gold)

Signed by pop crooner legend Pat Boone to his new label foray, surf-rock greats The Ventures return with a new album featuring 20 rejuvenated versions of Ventures classics from years past. Concerning the group’s latest CD, founding rhythm guitar great Don Wilson claims, “We have, in fact, recorded 63 instrumentals - it really is a concise and in-depth survey of the rock instrumental field and The Ventures’ own recording history”. With more than 90 million sold and more than 150 albums released in over a hundred countries, The Ventures sound is a veritable musical trademark. Wilson also adds that their latest return to form is “an opportunity to return to our roots, to enhance and improve those classic songs with today’s technology.” Gold is the perfect opportunity to hear the original Ventures line-up of Don Wilson (rhythm guitar), Bob Bogle (the original lead guitarist, now on bass), Gerry McGee (lead guitar), long time member Nokie Edwards (lead guitar and bass) and son of the group’s late, great drumming ace Mel Taylor, Leon Taylor (on drums). Instrumental classics such as “Telstar”, “Secret Agent Man” and “James Bond Theme” are just a few of the 20 great tracks revived here. With more than 40 more tracks already recorded, Ventures fans should keep their eyes open for future Gold editions. www.patsgold.com / 877-PATSGLD


Tabula Rasa

Listen to RealAudio sample: Timbuktu 
To order Tabula Rasa visit: www.LyleWorkman.com 

As far as guitar-based instrumental progressive rock fusion music goes, it doesn’t get much better than Tabula Rasa. Conceived of and created by guitar wiz Lyle Workman, Tabula Rasa is a work of pure sonic genius. Throughout the album, Workman demonstrates his creative expertise on a number of instruments ranging from electric and acoustic guitars to mandolin, guitar synthesizer, bass, keyboards, kantele and drums. A master of musical genres - from rock to eclectic prog-fusion, Workman is further assisted by key players such as Toss Panos (drums), XTC member Dave Gregory (keyboards, strings) and guitar great Mike Keneally appearing as lead vocalist on the album’s only vocal track, “Inhale”. For those unfamiliar with the California native, Workman was influenced early on by greats like Hendrix, Townshend and later Yes and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Following his time in the pop group Bourgeois Tagg, Workman recorded a pair of early ‘90s albums with Todd Rundgren and later worked with the pop outfit Jellyfish and most recently with pop artist Beck. The follow-up to his mid-90’s debut CD, Purple Passages, Tabula Rasa is a mind-blowing musical statement from a guitarist who obviously deserves a great deal of praise and recognition. www.lyleworkman.com 


Hypnotic Safari

Fans of acoustic-electric jazz, World music and the currently hot Nuevo Flamenco guitar craze should check out the debut duo album from guitarists Wayne Wesley Johnson & Ruben Romero. Merging the finger-style performance and jazz guitar expertise of Johnson with the ultra-hot Flamenco guitar wizardry of Romero, the pair have come up with an intriguing new sound they appropriately dub “Jazzamenco”. Recorded last year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Hypnotic Safari goes the distance with a musical palette of breezy instrumental guitar-based jazz and engaging World Music inspired forays. Johnson and Romero employ multiple acoustic and electric guitars adding numerous shadings and timbres to their flawless performance. Reinforcing the full-bodied studio sound of the album are several gifted musical co-stars including Josef Martinez (Latin percussion), Ben Lucero (bass) and esteemed New Age composer Rusty Crutcher (sax). (editor - Crutcher's fine albums are also worth checking out). Additionally, Hypnotic Safari features gorgeous cover art and graphics, extensive technical track-by-track descriptions and bios of both Johnson and Romero. A rare meeting of two guitarists who, together reach a pinnacle of sound perfection, the 11 track CD flows effortlessly from beginning to end. Among the many highlights is the title track, a Johnson/Romero co-composition which opens the CD and which is revived again with a 19 minute extended play version. Spanning a wealth of guitar styles and musical genres, Hypnotic Safari is time well spent for guitar lovers of all persuasions. www.wannadu.com  / wjguitar@aol.com  


(Blue Note)

Acoustic guitar wiz Richard Leo Johnson has been described as a modern day union of Leo Kottke, John McLaughlin and Jimi Hendrix all rolled into one. Johnson’s spellbinding 6 & 12 string acoustic guitar work dazzled listeners on his ‘98 Blue Note debut, Fingertip Ship and now he takes his sound one step beyond with Language. While Fingertip Ship was the perfect showcase for Johnson’s solo guitar techniques, Language finds the Arkansas native joined by a number of top players who help flesh out his one of a kind guitar instrumentals. Featured throughout the CD are Oregon members Paul McCandless (oboe, sax) and Glenn Moore (double bass) along with Matt Wilson (drums), Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes and Andy Reinhart (accordion). According to Johnson, “The idea of having such high caliber musicians on my recording was quite a fantasy. We explore different means of communication on the CD, with me creating something and then allowing improvisers to come in and let themselves go. It’s open-ended and exciting.” Johnson’s influences really come into play especially on “Hip Hop Zep” (crossing Led Zeppelin and hip-hop music), “Freestone Peach” (written for Allman Brothers-Government Mule slide guitarist Warren Haynes) and “Sketches Of Miles” (for Miles Davis). Covers of Irving Berlin (“Cheek To Cheek”) and Rogers & Hammerstein (“Happy Talk”) tastefully blend in with the mix of Johnson originals. Acoustic guitar fans looking for innovative and exhilarating guitar instrumentals are strongly recommended to check out Richard Leo Johnson. www.bluenote.com 



With the release of Nevertheless Boston-based guitar instrumentalist Sal DiFusco establishes himself as a vital new force on the post-90’s electric guitar scene. Acknowledging the influences that both Jeff Beck and Al DiMeola have had on his own work, DiFusco takes flight with a number of fine, original, melodic guitar instrumentals that ignite and soar at the same time. The album features excellent support players such as Mike Mangini and Joe Santerre (bass) while the addition of Sal’s wife Jen DiFusco, who adds spoken word vocals on two tracks, is reminiscent of Annette Peacock’s work on the first Bill Bruford solo album. Cleverly mixing the melodic savvy of Euro-rock guitar great Jan Akkerman with the high tech wizardry of say, Alan Holdsworth, DiFusco comes up with an innovative new sound. A spirited CD filled with DiFusco’s spectacular electric guitar pyrotechnics, Nevertheless sizzles from start to finish. sdifu@aol.com  / www.cdfreedom.com  


Hell’s Canyon

Listen to RealAudio sample: Chant of the Fathers

After years of recording a number of brilliant instrumental albums for Seattle-based Miramar Recordings, guitarist/keyboardist Paul Speer reunites with drummer Scott Rockenfield for their latest venture into the realm of ambient instrumental rock. The pair scored high points among fans of the genre with their fabulous ‘98 soundtrack for the long form video, TeleVoid, and Hell’s Canyon continues their stature as trendsetting instrumental rockers. Much more than a guitar shred-fest, Hell’s Canyon is alive with sonic scenery. A daredevil journey that takes your imagination on a musical rollercoaster, Hell’s Canyon is a soundtrack for the never-ending movie in your mind. Speer’s spatial electric guitar work has never sounded better and Rockenfield’s stadium-size drumming skills drives the duo to new heights. A high-tech recording made possible with the Digidesign Pro Tools system, Hell’s Canyon takes listeners to new altitudes. www.paulspeer.com 


Jetty Subject To High Surf

Taking a cue from the continuing resurgence of the surf-rock sound so popular during the ‘60s, the Southern California-based Vara-tones are back with a reunion album featuring key members of the original band. The original Vara-tones made chart inroads with their hit single “Repeto” released on Kay Records way back in 1964. Still featuring founding members Bill Epps (guitar) and Rich Campbell (drums), the quartet’s new comeback album is a lively instrumental affair in the spirit of Surf-rock kings like Dick Dale, The Fireballs and The Ventures. Sort of history in the remaking, Jetty combines 14 rockin’ instrumentals including a set closing finale of their original big hit “Repeto” (‘64) along with a new remake of the track entitled “Repeto 2000”. Sporting shipshape cover art, Jetty Subject To High Surf is a rousing set of surf-drenched guitar rockers bound to impress surf-rockers of all ages. www.speakerrepair.com/varatones / email: varatones@yahoo.com 

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