(All Album Reviews by Reginod)
Rick Ray is a rather prolific musical artist hailing from the Euclid, Ohio area; the literature accompanying this CD (on the independent Neurosis Records) indicates that Ray has made no less than 17 albums prior to The Guitarsonist, all since 1999! One might assume that these albums provide aural documentation of the development of Ray's art.
A quick audition reveals this album's biggest flaw: it is definitely NOT a high-budget recording. A better aural clarity would serve Ray well, as the music turns out to be a rather clever home-brewed blend of several influences, notably the Hendrix/Trower/Marino axis of guitar heroes; the album-opening title cut immediately establishes this influence.
The next two cuts, "Psycho Sam" and the nightmarish "Kill Max Kill", have more in common with Beatle-esque psych than guitar-heroism, proving that Ray is not a one-trick pony. "Dance Floor King" begins with another taste of Ray's singing before developing into another intense display of guitar fireworks.
A definite highlight of this album is the 5th cut "Mr. Cooper", which begins in a keyboard accompanied, acoustic singer-songwriter mode before gracefully concluding with a languid volume-swell landscape.
"Caution Flammable" indicates another of Ray's particular propensities: slower paced instrumentals painted on keyboard canvases. This is also done to great effect on "The Climb From Sheol", another of the album's more excellent displays.
"Domestic Terrorism" is a hard-rocking vocal tune with a riff reminiscent of Jethro Tull's "Hunt By Numbers"; Ray takes another burning solo on the outro to this one. "Dance Of The Particles" is an exercise in overdriven guitar experimentalism, and "The Weasles Bite" seems to mine similar territory to that of Big Elf.
Ray also has a taste for jazz, as evidenced on "Out In The Street", where Ray and collaborator and clarinetist Rick Schultz juxtapose a Montgomery-like swing with rocking, more aggressive passages.
The album's end piece, "I'm Sorry" is another highlight, a somewhat melancholy acoustic-guitar-and-keyboard driven instrumental.
Mention should be made of the frequent use of taped material on this album. Often taken from rather chilling speeches and lectures, these are peppered throughout the album and add to its surreal aural karma.
The Guitarsonist shows Rick Ray to be an artist worthy of support and promotion; aside from the need for less hiss-inducing recording equipment, and perhaps a "real" drummer (Ray is his own rhythm section), there is nothing to complain about here. Lovers of spacey, sometimes quirky, guitar-driven rock should give him a listen.