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Al Di Meola — Consequence of Chaos
Al Di Meola
Consequence of Chaos
4 Stars
Instrumental fusion showcasing extraordinary guitar compositions in contemporary Spanish/Latin genres.

In his latest release “Consequence of Chaos,” guitarist/composer virtuoso Al Di Meola set out to return to his roots, writing and performing solid-body electric guitar compositions. Though Di Meola fans may not hear the exact edge/fire and flurry of musical lines found in earlier compositions, there is no mistaking his passion for music and writing techniques that combine elements of his past and present. Hey, most of us mature musically over the years, right?

Consequence of Chaos is a compilation of fifteen tracks that take the listener from one state of musical feel to another. The diverse range of songs flow from one to another in an exceptional manner as though made for each another, creating a story of emotion.

In reading the liner notes for select pieces, Al Di Meola includes a one-line statement regarding his muse, vision, and personal emotion resulting in the creation of that composition. Having read those notes, the listener has an inside view of Al Di Meola’s passion not only for music and guitar, but also for his family, friends, and world.

The opening track, “San Marco,” opens with a very prominent, almost techno, drum and bass line layered with a sparse piano line and keyboard pad forming the foundation for a singing electric guitar melody. The feel is contemporary, yet contains some very traditional composition that is evident in the trading of melodies between electric guitar and nylon string leads. The song “Red Moon” is an excellent showcase of Al’s virtuosity as he floats between multiple feels and guitar application that resembles his earlier years – not to mention an exceptional piano solo performed by Chick Corea.

It would be a sin not to acknowledge the long list of supporting professional musical icons featured on this CD – Chick Corea/acoustic piano, Steve Gadd/drums, and John Patitucci/electric and acoustic bass to name a few! This album is a truly great example of professional musicianship at its best. Be prepared to listen to this album in its entirety multiple times – you’ll hear something new with each listen.

– DD

The Beatles — Love
The Beatles
Progressive Pop
4 Stars
Brilliant psychedelic concept album from a band you should get to know.

Forget whatever you think you know about the fab four and instead imagine if this were a new band releasing a record today. Here’s what we would have to say:

On Love, The Beatles deliver an outstanding kaleidoscope of sound that takes the listener on a journey that falls somewhere between Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, but with a touch more pop and a tad less complex musicianship.

The collection of twenty-six tracks are at once moody, melodic, psychedelic, pop-minded, and rocking. The band has a decidedly retro ‘60s sound, and influences range from Oasis to David Bowie to Tears for Fears to Queen to Jellyfish to King’s X to The Beach Boys.

From the dark vocal a capella opening of “Because” that leads into a drum solo and then into the start of “Get Back,” The Beatles establish a mood that screams of soundscapes and concept records.

The music borders on progressive rock at times as songs venture into 7:8 and 3:4 time signatures (with extra beats thrown in here and there for good measure) – it’s definitely not your typical pop or rock and really qualifies as “alternative rock” by today’s standards.

Especially noteworthy is drummer Ringo Starr who provides very atypical drum parts for the songs, while George Harrison provides a wide range of guitar sounds from the beautiful acoustic playing on “Here Comes The Sun” to the perfect vintage fuzz and distortion sounds on rockers like “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Revolution,” a song in which vocalist John Lennon clearly expresses his frustration at the Bush administration’s handling of the War on Terror. Paul McCartney delivers very cool jazz-inspired bass lines throughout.

The songs feature great orchestration performed by actual classical musicians as opposed to a keyboard player with a sample library. Songs like “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yesterday” showcase the depth of emotion that real strings offer.

Production values are excellent, and anyone inspired by the sound of vintage tape echoes, room-sized plate reverbs, and other classic analog effects would do well to study this release.

But wait a minute… is this just some compilation of the music our parents used to listen to? Nope! It’s an entirely different beast. For the new Cirque Du Soleil show running in Las Vegas, a collection of Beatles material was selected to provide the musical backdrop – songs that span the band’s entire career (but mostly their later years) and some solo efforts. But rather than just serve up a typical greatest hits collection, legendary Beatles producer George Martin (81 years old and retired) was tapped, along with his son Giles Martin, to produce the “new” record.

They remixed the collection of songs from the original master tapes, even working in the legendary Abbey Road studios, and created fresh new mixes of classic material you thought you knew by now. Thanks to the age of digital editing, parts were lifted from different songs and spliced together, other tunes were sped up or slowed down, and new interpretations of the material were created that suited the show as well as the compilation itself.

Listening to this album is like reveling in a newfound sonic adventure – the audio quality for mixing and mastering is superb (you won’t even notice that many of the old masters were simple four-track recordings), and the songwriting provides a lot to draw inspiration from. We wouldn’t be surprised if this album generates a newfound interest in hallucinogens, too!

– SK

Winger — IV
Hard Rock
3 Stars
She’s Not Seventeen Anymore!

Kicking off the new year in the category of big surprises, late ‘80s superstars Winger return with their fourth effort (aptly entitled, Winger IV). Following a few excellent solo records, Kip Winger reunited with guitarist extraordinaire Reb Beach and drumming legend Rod Morgenstein to deliver a new CD in healthy musical condition, giving the listener a solid recording with great production, good songwriting (some great songwriting) and moments of excellent musicianship from these studio veterans.

In general, Winger doesn’t necessarily break down new doors nor enter uncharted territory throughout the CD, but listeners may witness slightly more progressive tendencies in this new recording with crunchier riffs, more musical creativity, as well as an edgier and more serious tone throughout. The quality of the songwriting on IV could arguably represent Winger’s best band effort to date.

From the start, music fans will latch on to the heavier/intricate riffs and pleasing choruses of the opener, “Right Up Ahead.” In general, there’s a good balance between heavier songs mixed in with real melodic ear candy throughout the recording. Following the opener is the epic, melodic rock ballad entitled “Blue Suede Shoes,” comprised of acoustic verses (check out the 7:8 riff against the 6:8 time signature of the song) coupled with an outstanding pre-chorus and an even-more-outstanding chorus. Another great moment found on the CD is the up-tempo “Your Great Escape,” combining the more energetic rock elements of Winger with another really superb pre-chorus/chorus combination (perhaps Winger’s finest creation on the CD). In addition, slower, ballad-like tunes such as “On a Day Like Today” and “Can’t Take It Back Now” round out the melodic elements on the CD.

A few members of Winger have experienced unfortunate bouts of personal tragedy in the past few years, and the private issues surrounding them more than likely inspired the deeper, insightful lyrics heard throughout the majority of the songs.
On the other hand, however, there were a few less memorable tunes on the CD that didn’t inspire us. Though this CD contains songs that represent some of Winger’s finer recorded moments, there seems to be a consistent characteristic that pervades each Winger release. There has yet to be a Winger CD that really shines throughout every minute of the recording. The listener always manages to find a “throw-away” song or two.

Regardless, the majority of the songs are, in fact, considerably good on IV, and this could (perhaps) be the most influential compilation of songs in their twenty year band history (though we think Kip’s finest hour is exhibited on his first solo record, This Conversation Feels Like A Dream).

As mentioned earlier, Winger makes no outlandish strides to redefine who they are as a band. And although the CD (fortunately) contains clean, more current-sounding production qualities, the band respectfully stays true to who they are and who they have always been with a powerful return back into the listening public. Take THAT, Beavis and Butthead!

– JG
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