(All Album Reviews by AdmKirk)
Allan Holdsworth. That's the first person that comes to mind when hearing Alternate Realities, the second album from Al Garcia.
Before even reading his biography I knew Holdsworth was an influence and that thought was indeed supported by his bio, which also tells us that ELP, Yes, Eric Johnson and Bela Bartok were also inspirational.
Garcia is equally at home on bass and his work on that instrument is reminiscent of another of his influences, Jeff Berlin.
As for the music it is solidly fusion and has a more American feel than European. Garcia is listed as playing electric & acoustic guitars, 4 & 5 string fretted and fretless basses, guitar synthesizer, drums on 3 tracks, congas, bongos, udu drums, timbales, hand percussion and voice. Chris Garcia handles drum duties on 4 tracks. Dean Rohan tackles the kit on 1 track. Fred Ramirez adds piano on one track as well.
Nine cuts are on the album with my favorites, so far, being "The Red Queen's Race" and "The Pleasures of Progress". Red Queen is a roller coaster ride of soaring guitar lines that shows off Garcia's playing to full effect. Another strong tune, "Secret Correspondences", opens with Ramirez's piano before giving away to Garcia's guitar synthesizer and more Holdsworthesque playing and some lovely bass work.
Every cut is a good, solid slice of fusion. It's obvious the man can play, and play well, but the album seems to be missing something. It could be that, while extremely capable on bass and guitar, the music would probably come alive a bit more if Garcia had another musician who could swap bass and guitar duties with him. I think it would open up the record a lot more with another musician to with. He obviously couldn't do both in a live situation, so why not have the extra musician in the studio as well. I also think the album would benefit from one drummer for the entire record rather than three.
Garcia is certainly in control of things. In addition to all of the instruments he plays, he wrote all of the tunes, produced, engineered, arranged, mixed and mastered the record and designed the cover art.
Despite some reservations about the record, it's very enjoyable and anyone interested in fusion will be pleased. It will be interesting to see how Garcia develops over the next couple of albums, to see if he is able to find a voice that is more uniquely his own.
(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
(originally written for www.prog4you.com)
Alternate Realities is the sophomore release from California based multi-instrumentalist Al Garcia.
And on this release, instrumental fusion is what's offered to the public at large. Garcia's approach to fusion is to make it accessible. There are no 10 minute-long droning improvisational pieces here, no dissonance experiments that will turn your mind into jelly, no rhythmical experiments sounding like an industrial machine going amok on LSD.
Instead, Garcia takes a very mellow and melodic approach here. Quite a few of the pieces here are actually more jazz than fusion, as the element of rock music is almost mellowed into non-existence in places. And unlike many artists making fusion records, Garcia's soundscapes are of the dreamy and floating kind, making them an easy listening experience.
In the name-dropping department, the music here kind of reminds me of a lighter and mellower version of what Meola produced in the early to mid 80's.
The downside to this release for me is that few of the songs mange to captivate me. Sure, all instruments are played flawlessly, the soundscapes are spacious and inviting - every instrument is well heard in the mix, and the music is pleasant and clever. But it neither captivates nor grabs me.
Still, for fans of fusions and fans of technically impeccable recordings this one is surely worthwhile checking out. But for me, this ends up as being an ok release, with pleasant being a key word in describing it.
Track recommendation: “The Red Queen's Race”
My rating: 60/100