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Joe Satriani —Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock
Artist:
Joe Satriani
Album:
Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock
Genre:
Instrumental Guitar Rock
Rating:
3 Stars
Bottom
Line:

Joe branches out and explores some new territory.

On Satchafunkilus, Joe Satriani’s thirteenth studio album, he’s sure to raise a few eyebrows. Not a simple regurgitation of 2006’s Super Colossal, Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock is really an entirely different musical beast that shows Satriani branching out beyond his traditional musical fare. This time around, it’s definitely not all about shredding up the fretboard.

Funk is present in the CD opener, “Musterion,” and on “Professor Satchafunkilus,” but overall we found the vibe to be more slow groove thank funk. Unlike some of his other albums, Satrinai left bass chores to Matt Bissonette, while drums were performed by his usual sidekick, Jeff Campitelli.

There was obviously a lot of emphasis placed on the songwriting for Satchafunkilus — soloing really felt more secondary and supportive to the focus being on songs and grooves. Another big change was the greater use of keyboards on this album — Satriani played piano on a few tunes, and this really helped to broaden the musical palette. One of our favorite tracks was “Out of the Sunrise,” a tune that could just as easily have been a Joe Jackson song until it morphs into our favorite Joe’s instrumental section.

Other standouts for us included “Asik Vaysel,” a high-energy, studio jam, Satch burner with a cool guitar intro conceived as a tribute to the Turkish saz player, Asik Veysel, and the groovy swing tune, “Diddle-Y-A-Doo-Dat,” complete with organ and guitars that sound like a horn section over the chorus. “I Just Wanna Rock” will become a crowd-pleasing favorite combining AC/DC riffs, anthem-like group chanting, and… a talk box! Holy Frampton!

One other thing we noticed about this album was the quality of the production. Satriani’s tone sounds better on Satchafunkilus than we can recall hearing on recent CDs of his. And with less soloing overall, we got to hear more of his rhythm tones, both electric and acoustic. The tonal difference was enough to make us question if he recorded the CD with some different amps. We’ll find out shortly when we speak with Satch about the new album. Stay tuned!

— SK

 
Amanda Droste — Unfazed
Artist:
Amanda Droste
Album:
Unfazed
Genre:
Alternative/Pop Rock
Rating:
2.5 Stars
Bottom
Line:
Jagged Little Skater Girl.

New York rocker Amanda Droste released a CD this winter filled with up-tempo and catchy pop tunes mostly performed in the style of her most obvious influences, Alanis Morissette and Avril Lavigne. If you’re a fan of these artists as well as Michelle Branch, you’ll love this CD.

Though it hasn’t been long enough for Alanis to fall into classic rock categorization, you might find Droste’s music a bit retro style-wise. From the musical arrangements to her jaded lyrics (sometimes a bit too trashy) to the vocal delivery in a sometimes-spoken/angry/melancholy combination, our biggest concern is that she really doesn’t present us with her own personality or identity. Just who exactly is Ms. Droste?

Tracks like “American Idle” and the opener “I Won’t Know” could have been lost Alanis tunes, and the poppy “Unfazed” tune seems lifted from a Michelle Branch CD but with a little more of Avril’s attitude. Droste has a gift for writing witty lyrics, though. “Can I climb all over you like a jungle gym?” leads one of the many catchy chorus hooks, and I’m sure many of us can relate to lines like “the more we change, the more you stay insane.”

Standout tracks include “Stage Fright” featuring some cool Edge-like guitar delay lines and “Split Personality,” which blends cool electronic grooves with some great alternative rock guitar. These songs were among the few that weren’t overtly emulative.

Really, the CD suffers a serious identity crisis — is Droste nothing more than the singer from a pop tribute band? It’s as if she sat down with a producer and said, “Let’s record songs that sound exactly like my favorite artists.” One problem with this approach, though, is that Droste isnot yet as strong vocally as her favorite singers, but that might tie into our other problem with the CD — the production values are on the weak side. It may be good enough for the iPod generation and kids who don’t know the meaning of actually purchasing new music, and there are great musical ideas in the arrangements, but the overall sonic quality sounds more like a home studio production than a commercial release. Droste’s voice came through a bit too thin and whiny where we feel the right mic and preamp could have done better justice to her voice.

The drums were a particular problem for us. While we usually don’t pick apart productions to this detail, listening to this release felt more like critiquing a good demo rather than listening to a polished album. The drum sounds were just wrong for many of the songs — while the parts were performed well, they often sounded like a cheap drum kit with old, dull cymbals on most of the tracks where we wanted the snare to pop and the cymbals to sparkle. Overall, the entire CD lacked sonic brilliance and presence.

I guess we’re frustrated at the weak production because despite the emulative nature of this release, we find ourselves really enjoying the songs. If Amanda can focus more on developing her own voice and identity, there may be a big future for her — she does have a good voice and great lyrical skills. But it’s hard to make your mark when all you do is emulate what the established artists have already done, and your production doesn’t measure up sonically to those of your heroes.

—SK

 
Tiziano Zanotti —Gestire Lo Spazio
Artist:
Tiziano Zanotti
Album:
Gestire Lo Spazio
Genre:
Classical/Jazz
Rating:
3 Stars
Bottom
Line:
Bass. It’s not just for bottom end any more.

Italian bassist and multi-instrumentalist Tiziano Zanotti did something different on his latest recording effort: he created an entire CD of music played almost entirely on six-string bass. With the exception of only one or two pieces, where a piano (played by Zanotti) or some drums joined in the mix, all fifteen of the movements (they really aren’t all songs in the traditional sense) feature Tiziano performing unaccompanied.

If you’ve been looking for some inspiration to take your bass playing in new directions, there is plenty to experience on Gestire Lo Spazio. The songs are mostly of a classical or jazz nature, and Zanotti captured outstanding bass tones in the recording process. At times, you can hear his fingers sliding across the strings, and at other times you’d swear he’s playing an upright acoustical bass. On a few tracks, he gets down-right spacey with some very cool processing of the bass tone, too!

This certainly isn’t an album to rock out to – it’s not a fusion piece with slapping and popping, and it’s not a shred piece with blistering runs. Rather, it’s more like a classical acoustic guitar performance that has been translated to the six-string bass, and as such, it serves better as background listening music. But there is certainly no denying his talent and compositional skills. This Italian musician, with obvious orchestral performance experience, is also a noted music educator, both as an instructor and published author. Eccellente!

—SK

 
Jann Klose — Reverie
Artist:
Jann Klose
Album:
Reverie
Genre:
AAA/Pop
Rating:
2.5 Stars
Bottom
Line:
Another singer-songwriter tries to stake his claim.

Jann Klose is the latest singer-songwriter to try and make his mark in the music space catering to the Starbucks coffee crowd and young Manhattan hipsters trying to act swank and sophisticated. On Reverie, Klose delivers a finely-produced collection of jazz-tinged pop tunes centered around acoustic guitar, upright bass, and drums at the core, but augmented by violins, keys, and horn sections on various tracks.

Our favorite tracks included “Clouds,” a poppy tune that features some mariachi-sounding horns behind the chorus, while “Give In To This Life” features a cool fluglehorn melody line over a grooving rhythm section. How often do you get to say groovy and fluglehorn in one sentence? “Watching You Go” had great world flair, especially in the chorus, which seemed to come alive with voices of many accents and flavors.

Klose’s songwriting style seems influenced by the worldly adventures that comprise his life. Born in Germany, he was raised in South Africa and Kenya before coming to the USA as an exchange student in Cleveland, Ohio. After a brief trip back to Germany (to fulfill civic obligations), he found himself in the New York area recording and releasing Reverie.

The songs are well conceived, the musicianship is tight, and Klose’s vocal delivery is silky smooth. Lyrically, Klause is a storyteller, though after repeated listening of this CD, none of his stories really seem to stick in our heads beyond the chorus line in “You really got to hold me down” and “Walking in the clouds with you.” There are no big political statements, no big social commentaries, and only a handful of relationship-driven tunes, which begs the question “Just what is it that Klause is singing about?”

What we found missing in this otherwise well produced CD is… the hook! While wonderful background music for a social get-together, similar (style-wise) singer-songwriters that have reached commercial success have written songs with bigger choruses and some more up-tempo musical passages (Jason Mraz comes to mind). But if you just want some easy-listening music that blends into the background while you curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a book about using the latest digital audio workstation or the history of the vintage guitar market, this CD will fit the bill.

—SK

 
   
             
             
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