A selection of new and reissued guitar releases, including Album Of The Month
Latest guitar CDs reviewed and rated.
John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension with Jimmy Herr ing & Th e Invisible Wh ip - Live In Sa n Fra ncisco Abstract Logic ✪✪✪✪✪
John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra will always have a very special place in the history of jazz-rock music and this new release presents eight of the band’s tracks in a special live setting. Recorded at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre, John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension band and Jimmy Herring’s The Invisible Whip combine in a celebration to the music from the early releases of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Iconic ‘hits’ such as Meeting Of The Spirits and The Dance Of Maya are present as are Eternity’s Breath. With all tracks clocking in at over seven minutes plus, this is lofty music for concentrating on with wonderful performances from everyone. John McLaughlin is one of guitar’s most revered voices with a vocabulary and picking hand that is simply breathtaking but his invited guest, Jimmy Herring is outstanding too. Comparing the two is interesting; while John goes stratospheric with long and exotic 16th-note improvisations, Jimmy has a mournful bluesy quality that blends well with his blistering picking. While it’s hard to pick one track to marvel at, the soloing from both on The Dance Of Maya is really quite extraordinary.
Bert Jansch Just A Simple Soul BMG ✪✪✪✪✪
Tagged as the first comprehensive Best Of collection to span Bert Jansch’s five-decade career there’s plenty of music here to satisfy fans and new ears alike. With 39 tracks spread out over two CDs, the songs have been chosen by Jansch fan Bernard Butler (ex Suede) and the Jansch estate from ‘60s albums like The Blue Album and Jack Orion through to his last (23rd) release, 2006’s The Black Swan. In many ways it’s hard to overstate Jansch’s place in acoustic folk music - some claim he’s the Hendrix of the acoustic guitar - and his influence is incredibly wide reaching. His ability to weave improvisational passages into his chord progressions and
augment his vocal melodies with counterpoint lines endorses the view that he was a deep and very musical guitarist. To highlight just a few songs of merit is tough but his early Needle Of Death features wonderful chord picking and the dropped tuning of Reynardine is richly sonorous. Moving through to the noughties, The Black Swan shows he still had a huge amount to say and play. In summary, he was nothing short of a legend!
Ant Law Life I Know Edition Records ✪✪✪✪✪
After studying for a BSc in physics and music at Edinburgh, moving on to do a semester at Berklee, jazzer Ant Law is rapidly establishing himself a reputation as being one of the foremost jazz players on the current scene. Having secured himself a regular gig with Tim Garland’s band and touring extensively, this is his third outing as soloist. With an accompanying band comprising piano, bass, alto sax and drums, Ant manages to display both his compositional and arranging skills throughout. There’s more than a touch of Holdsworth on tracks like Aquilinus and Movies, which contrast with his beautiful solo rendition of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka.
Vandenberg’s Moonkings Rugged And Unplugged Mascot Records ✪✪✪✪✪
Adrian Vandenberg is probably best known for strutting the stage armed with a Les Paul, but here he takes a look back over his career with an acoustic in his hand. “For me, the sign of whether a song is good or not is whether it stands up when it’s completely stripped down to the bare essence of it,” he tells us. Recorded in the relaxed atmosphere of his home studio, and with Jan Hoving providing vocals, Vandenberg re-examines tracks like Whitesnake’s Sailing Ships and Moonking’s One Step Behind, offering a completely new perspective as he does so. The acoustic playing is impeccable throughout, never more so than on the album’s one original track, the instrumental Sundown.
Eric Cl apton Happy Xmas Bushbranch/Surfdog ✪✪✪✪✪
We’ll admit straight away that when we heard about this album a few months ago, looks were exchanged here in the office. It seemed a very strange idea, after all: Slowhand becomes Snowhand on this bluesy yuletide release. But you know what? It kinda works. From the opening notes of the first track, White Christmas, you see what Clapton means when he says, “I had in my head that these holiday songs could be done with a slight blues tinge…” There are some great performances here, with the original track, For Love On Christmas Day an outstanding example of EC’s contemporary songwriting. For sure, some of the material sleigh-rides ever so slightly towards the cheesy, but there’s some great guitar playing jingling along the way, too!
Monte Pittman Between Th e Space/Better Or Worse Metal Blade Records ✪✪✪✪✪
Monte Pittman is a hard-working musician; when not playing guitar for Madonna (yes, that Madonna), he’s a busy solo artist who’s just released two albums at the same time. Between The Space is a metal album of eight tracks and Better Or Worse is acoustic based, also offering eight tracks. As well as writing all 16 songs, he played all the instruments too. Between The Space opens with a raging detuned riffer Evidence, that blends Metallica-esque heavy production with dashes of the quirky and evoking bands like Soundgarden. Monte is a precise guitarist; the riff on Changing Of The Guard features lots of double picking (Zakk and Randy spring to mind here) with a great solo section. For sheer mosh, the title track is hard to beat. With Better Or Worse, Monte’s vocals are more on the mellow side with almost exclusive acoustic guitar playing ranging from strumming to arpeggiating. It’s a great, strippedback presentation and about as close to the description of ‘camp fire songs’ as it gets.