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Various
Magna Carta Guitar Greats Vol. 1
Catalog #: MA-1012-2

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Guitar Greats Vol. 1
AUDIO CLIPS

1. Fate Speaks
(mp3)

2. Cat's Squirrel
(mp3)

3. Analog Kid
(mp3)

4. Roadside America Medley
(mp3)

5. Screaming Ahead
(mp3)

6. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be
(mp3)

7. Working Man
(mp3)

8. Cool Wind, Green Hills
(mp3)

9. Time Crunch
(mp3)

10. Anthem
(mp3)

11. Western Sabbath Stomp
(mp3)

dividing line

Various:
Magna Carta Guitar Greats Vol. 1
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1. John Petrucci - “Fate Speaks”
from Explorers Club - “Age Of Impact” MA-9021

2. Derek Trucks - “Cat’s Squirrel”
from the Jethro Tull tribute - “To Cry You A Song” MA-9009

3. Michael Romeo - “Analog Kid”
from the Rush tribute - “Working Man” MA-9010

4. Steve Stevens - “Roadside America Medley”
previously unreleased from Bozzio Levin Stevens - “Black Light Syndrome” sessions

5. Joe Satriani - “Screaming Head”
from Jordan Rudess’ “Rhythm Of Time” MA-9068

6. Steve Lukather - “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”
from Niacin - “Deep” MA-9048

7. Jake E Lee - “Working Man”
from the Rush tribute - “Working Man” MA-9010

8. Steve Morse - “Cool Wind, Green Hills”
from Steve Morse - “Major Impacts 2” MA-9070

9. Vinnie Moore - “Time Crunch”
from Jordan Rudess’ “Rhythm Of Time” MA-9068

10. George Lynch - “Anthem”
from the Rush tribute - “Working Man” MA-9010

11. Alex Skolnick - “Western Sabbath Stomp”
from Alex Skolnick Trio - “Last Day In Paradise“ MT-2312

 

It must have been difficult for Magna Carta’s Pete Morticelli to assemble this compilation of fine guitar driven performances. Probe him about his choices and he’ll divulge a tale about each of the creative aggregations featured on this album—aggregations that he fostered and nurtured. No question, to stand objectively, sometimes years after the fact, and single out ten tracks representative of the guitarist’s art must have been a chore—and a blast! Let’s look a little closer at each of these prime cuts.

“Fate Speaks” rumbles relentlessly forward. Culled from the first Explorers Club outing (Age Of Impact) on Magna Carta, it is distinguished by four-to-the-bar snare drum from Terry Bozzio and Yes-styled vocals from Bret Douglas and Trent Gardner. We’re listening to three guitarists here, la crème de la crème. For the solo, Dream Theater’s John Petrucci, at first almost audible in the shadows and then bursts forth, delivering his patent dancing, tugging lines with a dramatic resolution that sets up the vocal refrain. Don’t ignore the solid pad and sometimes-intricate contributions of James Murphy and Wayne Gardner as well as Derek Sherinian on keys! The ending is, again, a Yes-like (or maybe Crimson?) staggered eighth note figure that delivers the knock out punch.

Shades of Jethro Tull! This personnel configuration finessed together again by Magna Carta founder Peter Morticelli on the blues standard “Cat’s Squirrel” (from To Cry You A Song) is a real cracker! All that’s missing is Ian Anderson standing on one plaid leg. But Tull’s Clive Bunker and Mick Abrahams were members of the rhythm section that made Jethro Tull one of the biggest bands in the world circa 1971. There’s no mistaking Mick’s wet guitar textures or Bunker’s powerful and lumpy drumming. But here’s the real kicker. Then nineteen year-old Derek Trucks (notable now for his membership in the Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton’s band and his own Derek Trucks Band) meets the vibe head on with his slide work, best evidenced around 4:15, and then in the dual guitar with Abrahams. Nineteen years old! Derek wasn’t even born until well after Tull had peaked in popularity, yet he owns this track.

Michael Romeo (Symphony X) is up for a run at “Analog Kid” from Working Man. Only occasionally does vocalist Jack Russell reach up to stratospheric ranges of Geddy’s voice, but Romeo is more than willing to deal in the upper register, generating some palpable excitement. Portnoy is obviously comfortable interpreting the drumming of one of his main influences.

Here’s a treasure, an unreleased track from the Black Light Syndrome sessions: “Roadside America Medley”. Steve Stevens sets up a dreamy, slide-y vamp, broken only by an ostinato from Levin and light percussion from Bozzio. After a few minutes the trio steps up the energy, with Stevens alternating between sharing Levin’s ostinato and going into solo flight; meanwhile Bozzio mixes it up, displacing the backbeat and stating strict time. By the six-minute mark, Stevens has forgone the languid guitar texture of the intro and is full over-drive.

From Jordan Rudess we have “Screaming Head”, which may refer somehow to Joe Satriani’s amp and which is certainly howling off the top. As he is want to do, Satriani kicks up excitement with any means at his disposal: flurries of notes, bends, octave jumps, and so forth. Rudess’ baroque interlude at 3:20 is somewhat at odds with the preceding feel, and certainly respite from Satriani, who comes on like a freight train immediately following the keyboard spot. His “octavider” device is particularly effective and he negotiates the upcoming modulation with a guitar phrase that’ll give you goose bumps.

Time for a slow, six-feel and Niacin’s “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be”. Glenn Hughes is in his element; his range is wide and he is soulful. And Lukather is, well, Lukather. Whether comping, chording, or soloing, he is plain exciting—really at the top of his form. This is a track not to miss. It stitches a line between blues and rock, employing the full drama of each form. At times you wonder if it’s, maybe, Robert Cray lamenting about the man next door but you don’t dwell on the similarities because Lukather launches into one of the hottest solos on this album at around 4:20. At first glance you wouldn’t believe it, but that’s Dennis Chambers on drums and he’s digging in, sitting proud against the Hammond pad.

Hard to follow that one. So we take a left turn and re-visit “Working Man” (from Tribute to Rush of the same name). Sebastian Bach’s guttural vocals work a charm, while Mike Portnoy adds a playful drum track, filling holes with regularity. Then about two minutes from the intro comes Jake E. Lee’s guitar solo. For the most part, it’s in the upper register, which seems right for the song, as do his crazed bends, before he lapses into the ensemble figure on which the band fades.

Rarely has a track been as well named as “Cool Wind, Green Hills”, judging from the lush, open guitar intro. This is pleasant, tranquil stuff, well recorded, with the picking well articulated. Van Romaine constructs a drum part that is as Wertico is to Metheny—a marching travelogue. Steve Morse’s guitar part is a thing of beauty. Gradually, electric textures appear but never supercede the basic, acoustic vibe.

Relentless, over-driven fuzz guitar can add weight and glue to a tricky arrangement, especially one that fluctuates in terms of feel, time signature, and dynamics. Case in point: “Time Crunch”, from Jordan Rudess’ album Rhythm of Time. It’s precisely as the title suggests, a crunching of the numbers. The track could have been a mere series of exercises in manipulation of the basic quarter/eighth note tallies—were it not for Jordan’s overriding sense of melody. And you must check out the riveting solo by Vinnie Moore at 4:43: the Thinking Man’s flailing guitar! It’s unpredictable as all get out and pushes the composition along to its dramatic conclusion.

Another anthem from Working Man, in fact, “Anthem”. While we’re on the topic of time signatures, let’s vamp in 7/4, shall we, in this tribute to Rush. While Mark Slaughter gives Geddy a serious run for his money in the vocal department—a serious run—George Lynch is holding down the fort, until, he magically emerges from behind Slaughter’s trailing high register vocal line for a compelling solo. Deen Castronovo does a fine job of interpreting Rush without mimicking everybody’s drum idol, Mr. Peart.

The wait was worth it, speaking of the last tune on this excellent compilation. We have before us “Western Sabbath Stomp” (from Alex Skolnick trio’s Last Day In Paradise) and the haunting slide strains of Alex Skolnick’s guitar, first quoting a solo phrase from some lost backwoods broadcast and then with the full band center stage. This minor key lament is less the stuff of virtuosity than of superb taste and heaviness. These three musicians clearly listen: they nudge, probe, and shadow each other right to the last note, which, incidentally, comes all too soon.

Peter Morticelli has again assembled a collection that does two things: It provides a diverse selection of tracks of interest to guitarists, memorable for their overriding musicality. And it is a sign that perhaps Pete will free up more tracks from the Magna Carta vault and share them. That would be nice.

Liner notes by T. Bruce Wittet, Associate Editor Muzic Etc Magazine and contributing writer, Modern Drummer magazine. www.peoplewilltalkmedia.com



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