(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Itís been awhile since our reviews section manager Floyd sent me a batch of CDs to review. We get dozens every week in the PE mail box and every once in awhile itís fun to have him send me a few. This time I got a diverse mix stylistically and the one that sorta jumped out at me was this CD by guitarist Oz Noy. Being a one myself the name sounded vaguely familiar. Probably saw him in a guitar mag somewhere. And who could resist playing a CD with a big ball of old guitar strings wound up like it was twine?
While I am a guitarist I am not particularly excited by guitar driven albums as a rule. Oh, when I was a teen the typical shreddy, whiz-bang kinda stuff that so many instrumental guitar albums are made of was fun stuff. It seems to be aimed at people about that age, dosenít it? But as I grew older what I liked and looked for in music and what I listened to for enjoyment changed a whole lot. Somewhere along the way I really grew to love and appreciate good song writing and tasty harmonic development.
And unfortunately, the average guitar driven instrumental album is heavy on chops and light on good songwriting and usually close to anemic on harmonic adventure- to the point that itís often just plain silly. You wonder how someone could spend a life honing their skills only to tie it to lame compositions that exist only for the solo to arrive and jizz all over (usually over some mamby-pamby, tepid chord progression). So it was with a touch of hesitation and morbid curiousity I picked out Ozís CD to review. ďNot another instrumental guitar dude!Ē I thoughtÖ..
Luckily it wasnít one of those kind of instrumental guitar albums. One look at the other musicians on this album was enough to clue me that what was inside was going to have some depth. Will Lee (bass) and Anton Fig (drums) from Dave Lettermanís band are here, well respected studio cats in their own right. Keith Carlock (drums) of recent Steely Dan fame is also in tow. One of my fave drummers of late. The amazing, legendary Vinnie Colaiuta makes an appearance on a few tracks as well.
The music on the CD is engaging from the get go. Enjoyable with an optimistic vibe. Itís chock full of shimmery, single-coil Strat lines and some rad ring modulater blasts in a few tunes. Bubbly, delay drenched lines cascade across fusion-lite/blues/funk/jazz inspired pieces that sometimes recall some of Jimi Hendrixís grooves and choice of chords/riffs or even Medeski, Martin and Wood's work. Other tunes are a bit more laid back.
Noyís chops are quite uptown and tasty. You can tell he can really rip (and does in a few key spots when the time is right), but dosenít let his ego do the driving. Many tunes lack the typical shred factor and are the better for it. Some of these mellow tracks would almost fit in on a smooth jazz formatted station. Yeah, itís that polished. Though not that bland.
Musically this CD is enjoyable and tasty if a tad bit samey in tone and vibe from track to track. It would have been cool to hear him get a little more out there with the arrangements. A bit more variety in timbres would have mixed things up a tad too. A dash of keys, say maybe some phased Rhodes would have been nice. I realize there's organ and Wurlie on some cuts here, but it's mixed so low it just comes across as a trio regardless.
As it stands itís very well recorded stuff that dosenít exactly call for attentive listening. It meanders along nice in the background in an unobtrusive way even when the tempos rise. Mature! Yeah! Iíd call it that. Kudos to him for not making a typical instrumental guitar CD. This one would appeal more to fans of Steely Dan or Phish than typical (see above) instrumental guitar rock listeners. Though they could boraden their palettes a bit by getting into this CD as well. And that's a good thing because there aren't enough albums like this.