Dedicated to the guitar legend Les Paul, the next two volumes in the Guitar Masters series are set to hit store shelves on June 1st. This is not a release that is easily classified in terms of genre, simply because it’s made up of a few different styles of music. Diverse would not be an inappropriate way to describe this 2-CD set.
Despite differences in musical style from one track to the next, the one thing all of the tracks on this set have in common is guitar playing by names well-recognized as being some of the best guitarists of all time.
Of interest to readers who land here are probably the players whom we recognize through some connection to classic rock. In this case, those names include Jeff Beck, Hal Lindes, James Ryan, Alex De Rosso, Steve Vai and Allan Holdsworth.
Obviously, this release is one that will appeal to guitar players in particular, and may be a bit too diverse for a lot of music fans. With just a few exceptions, I found this set enjoyable to listen to, not only for the above-average ability of the players, but also for the tasteful selections that make up most of the material.
In fairness, I am not able to say a lot about some of the tracks, since they are just not the kind of music I enjoy listening to. This would include the Les Paul work, and even one of the Jeff Beck tracks that had more of a 1950’s-style rock and roll feel to it. Great guitar work, but just not my kind of music.
Delving a bit deeper into the volume 3 CD, “El Becko” features Gary Hoey, a guitarist who may not be as recognizable as some of the others featured on this set, but obviously someone who demonstrates the skills that make him eligible to be included on a set entitled Guitar Masters.
It was kind of fun to see that the Steely Dan hit “Peg” was included and featured Jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb. A respectable instrumental version resulted, but fell a bit short of the original version for me. I suspect it’s not an easy task when measured against the legendary attention to detail Donald Fagan and Walter Becker are known for.
Taking things in more of a harder rock direction, James Ryan, formerly with Men At Work, leaves no doubt about his skills on guitar, as he rips his way through “Psycho Cycle.” I’m quick to admit that I’m not a guitarist, but for me, this was some of the most impressive guitar work on the whole set.
Track number 11 on Volume 3 highlights Alex De Rosso’s skill, and was quite subdued compared with what I might expect from a Dokken guitarist. I can’t speak with much authority regarding Dokken, and perhaps they have to their credit some more mellow material than I would expect.
Hal Lindes, who was with Dire Straits for a time, seems to be the most well-represented on this release, appearing on a total of four tracks. From the soaring runs on “Bettie” to his lightning riffs on “Aphrodite,” Lindes turns in worthy performances that suggest his presence on Guitar Masters is justified.
Steve Vai, joined by bassist Randy Coven is featured on “Funk Me Tender,” an up tempo arrangement with fusion overtones. Backed by tight, precision drum work, there’s nothing boring about this track, and I’d suggest that it should find favor with guitarists, bassists and drummers alike.
My apologies to Allan Holdswoth, but as good a guitarist as he obviously is, I usually just don’t “get” his stuff. “Antillia” is a different story, however. Holdsworth is not as “out there” as I’ve heard him on some of his other material. By no means have I heard everything he’s done, so there may indeed be more of his work that I could connect with. This is another track that has a fusion feel to it, with more amazing work turned in by the rhythm section.
Overall, I’d have to say that this new set has a jazzy feel to most of the material. There are notable exceptions, but if someone forced me to classify it, I’d have to say jazz.
There will no doubt be other reviews of this new double-CD set by people more qualified to take up the matter of Guitar Masters than I, but from a classic rock fan who has a healthy respect for other genres such as jazz, and particularly fusion, I’d say this is a set well worth adding to the collection of just about any guitarist as well as other music fans who just enjoy listening to outstanding musicianship.