Though perhaps best (or at least better) known for his work with the Police, guitarist Andy Summers seems to be doing rather well for himself. He may not be filling arenas and attracting screaming teenage girls, but their mothers can scream pretty loud as well, and as it is to them that Summers now appears to be playing, his maturity and ability to look forward work in his favor. Backed by bassist Tony Levin and drummer Gregg Bissonette, Summers works well as a frontman. A captivatingly atmospheric voyage round Summers's bleached jazz roots. Dominated unsurprisingly by Summers's intricate fretwork, these 11 instrumentals comprise chiefly originals and homages to jazz maestros.
Many a guitar fan would have predicted that a summit between legendary guitarists Andy Summers (the Police) and Robert Fripp (King Crimson) would result in a guitar solofest. But the music on their first collaboration together, I Advance Masked, stresses guitar textures and moods over indulgent soloing. Although the recording sessions weren't entirely enjoyable for Summers (who was experiencing marital problems at the time), some very beautiful music can be found on the resulting album. The music for the track "Girl on a Swing" does an excellent job of conveying the song's title in one's mind, and the duo's guitars weave wonderful polyrhythmic guitar lines throughout "China – Yellow Leader." "The Truth of Skies" is an atmospheric piece, created by a wash of keyboard sounds and guitar dissonance, while "New Marimba" would have sounded right at home on an early-'80s King Crimson album. I Advance Masked has a dreamlike quality to it, and is definitely not typical rock music. It's highly recommended to fans of these two great and original guitarists. ~ by Greg Prato
This 19-track compilation focuses on Elmore James' crucial sessions recorded for the Modern Records subsidiaries Meteor and Flair between 1952 and 1956. At the time of these recordings, the distorted amplified sound of James' slide guitar with his unmistakable electrified Robert Johnson lick was helping map out the postwar blues idiom with such classics as "I Believe," "Blues Before Sunrise," "Wild About You," "Mean & Evil," and the extraordinary reworking of Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom" into "Dust My Blues." Even though roughly half of these tracks appear on the equally recommended 1986 Ace release Let's Cut It: The Very Best of Elmore James, this set is a great introduction to the dynamic slide guitarist's earliest recordings.
Weighing in at 19 tracks, Repertoire's 2005 collection Ayla: The Best of Flash and the Pan is the most generous compilation yet assembled of Harry Vanda and George Young's impish post-Easybeats new wave creation, Flash and the Pan. Not only is it four tracks longer than the previous best F&P comp, 1994's plainly titled Collection, but it's more carefully assembled too, boasting good liner notes from Chris Welch and eye-catching comic book artwork. If F&P didn't have any other song as immediate or memorable as "Hey St. Peter," their gloriously ridiculous new wave novelty, they did have a number of good oddities and robotic new wave pop before sinking into coldly slick anthemic pop at the end of the decade. While it's unfortunate that Ayla is sequenced so cuts from the early '80s are undercut by tracks from the late '80s, this nevertheless has the best of what the group recorded, and is presented in the best package Flash and the Pan has yet received. So, for anybody who's heard "Hey St. Peter" and wondered if Flash and the Pan has more songs that sound like it (and, yes, they do), Ayla is where they should turn to.
Andy Grammer returns with a new CD that may be the most rewarding and introspective recording of his career. The disc features 13 stellar performances, all of which Grammer is credited with co-writing. Bookended with singles "Smoke Clears" and "Give Love", the album features stellar grooves and the positive vibes that Grammer is known for, but there are plenty of tunes which celebrate the complexity of being a human being. Life is messy seems to be the message of some of these selections. On the stellar "Workin' On It", Grammer opines "we all got monsters that don't see the daylight, skeletons you're hiding ain't going to leave overnight", concluding that the best we can do is to be "workin' on it". The title song "The Good Parts" actually refers to the failures and faults that we hide deep inside, insisting that we need to be vulnerable enough to not "leave the good parts out". "Freeze" celebrates the good times in a relationship that feel so special you don't want to slip away and would freeze in time if only you could…