A selection of new and reissued guitar releases, including Album Of The Month
steve vai Modern primitive/passion and warfare 25tH anniversary edition Sony Legacy ✪✪✪✪✪
Twenty-five years ago, Steve Vai released an album that, to many, is instrumental rock guitar’s pinnacle; Passion And Warfare. Ablaze with astounding legato chops, rich melodies and bold arrangements it’s great to hear re-vitalised versions of Liberty, The Animal and the touching Sisters. There are bonus tracks too such as Lovely Elixir. For fans it’s a treat, more so that it’s coupled with a new release, Modern Primitive. Featuring music written in the 80s, Modern Primitive has been re-recorded to sound fresh for 2016. Devin Townsend (vocalist on Sex And Religion) features on The Lost Chord; a ballad brimming with effected guitars and a richly-exploratory arrangement. If you hanker for ‘chops rock’ Vai, No Pockets has thick rock tones, shred licks and Zappa-esque rhythms. If orchestral Vai is more your thing, check out the three-part closer, Pink And Blows Over; it might just be the biggest piece he’s ever recorded. Impressive indeed!
Jeff Beck Loud Hailer Atco ✪✪ ✪✪ ✪
This is Beck’s first studio album since Emotions And Commotions. It’s a song-orientated album written by Jeff, rhythm guitarist Carmen Vandenberg and singer Rosie Bones and brims with great urban blues tones and licks. The Revolution Will Be Televised with its pounding triplet beat provides the basis for Rosie’s vocal and Jeff’s screaming Strat. The bluesy feel carries into Live In The Dark with honky Strat tones aplenty. If you like Jeff’s guitar clean with tons of reverb then you’ll love Scared For The Children and the album’s only instrumental, Edna. If not, the James Brown inspired O.I.L. has Jeff syncopating crazy slide licks. Adding vocals to a ‘blues-rock guitar plus modern production’ approach continues to make the Guv’nor (© Brian May) stand above most other players!
Allen Hinds fly south Allen Hinds ✪✪✪✪✪
Allen Hinds is back with a new solo album and it’s infectious. His style fuses southern rock (Allmans), fusion (Landau, Holdsworth), blues (Jeff Beck, etc) and ‘adult pop’ (Joni Mitchell). This mixture makes for an appealing sound with some of the best guitar melodies and overdriven Strat and Les Paul tones around. Opener Springs Eternal is a vibrant Americana arrangement featuring legends Abe Laboriel and Vinnie Colaiuta backing Allen’s rich Strat, where every note and pick scrape carries weight. Buckley features a great Aerosmith-like groove with tasty changes, a killer organ solo and slinky legato flurries. If you’re a fan of tasty slide and syncopations, Yonder Hills is a must listen; arresting melodies with great band interplay. For Methenyesque beauty, June 15th is very touching, and vocalist Maxayn Lewis is breathtaking. The superb playing and arrangements make Fly South a multi-layered, sonic treat!
rainbow ffolly FFoLLow-up Footprint Vinyl ✪✪✪✪ ✪
When your first and only album was recorded half a century ago but still sells for hundreds of £££s on the collectors’ market, you all still play and haven’t fallen out over ‘musical differences’, there’s only one thing to do. Record a follow-up. Or, in this case, Ffollow-Up! With John Dunsterville on guitar, Roger Newell on bass (both in Rick Wakeman’s 70s English Rock Ensemble), plus Stewart Osborn on drums, this is a band that can still compose, sing and play great music. Given who they are it’s no surprise to hear influences like Pink Floyd, Genesis, The Byrds, CSN&Y, The Beatles, Traffic, and even Blur and Arthur Lee’s Love. Postcard, with its acoustic flurries, weaving auto wah licks and Eastern-scale solo sets the scene. My Love Has Gone has a real Byrds-like feel due to 12-string riffs and tight vocal harmonies, while Montgolfier has distinct Floyd overtones, but with Dunsterville’s vocals redolent of Peter Gabriel; more lovely acoustic licks, too. The playing is creative, often surprising, but always beautifully executed. There’s an Abbey Road vibe to the vocals on Noah, and the moving Sky Angels. There’s nothing to indicate that this is a bunch of veterans just having another go – it’s a fine album of great songs, played brilliantly.
Joe bonamassa Live at the Greek theater Provogue ✪✪✪✪✪
The blues titan’s relentless output continues, here honouring Freddie, Albert and BB King. Any fan could have drawn up the set-list: I’ll Play The Blues For You, Going Down, Oh Pretty Woman, Let The Good Times Roll and, of course, Freddie’s Hide Away, Albert’s calling card, Born Under A Bad Sign, and BB’s signature song, The Thrill Is Gone. It rounds off with a pluralised take on Clapton’s Riding With The King(s). Joe has all their licks and tones; not surprising, since he’s worshipped them since he was a kid. The playing is sublime, yet Joe resists the temptation to let rip, preferring instead to reflect the groundbreaking playing of electric blues guitar’s three most venerable souls. DVD bonus features include: Riding With The Kings official video, Joe’s Big Fat Greek Photo Album, and more. Fabulous!
nine Below zero 13 shades of blue Zed Records ✪✪✪✪ ✪
Dennis Greeves put NBZ together in South London at the height of punk. With Greeves on guitar and vocals and blues harp prodigy Mark Feltham providing authentic solos, the line-up, with Bryan Bethell (bass) and Mickey Burkey (drums), has remained consistent. Here they look to lesser-known blues tracks, from uptempo and upbeat to dark and moody. Señor Soul’s, Don’t Lay Your Funky Trip On Me is a great scene setter but Watch What You Do To Me allows Greeves’ powerful guitar space to breathe between Feltham’s sublime harp lines. Great Freddie King style licks on That’s What Love Will Make You Do, before Aretha’s, Don’t Play That Song Again gets the NBZ treatment. Other highlights include versions of Mayall’s Crawling Up A Hill and Slim Harpo’s, I’m Gonna Keep What I’ve Got. This is the funkier side of blues and fans who like things authentic will love it.