Aspiring guitar hero Steve Adams works in the primarily instrumental area of thinking man's rock-fusion. The obvious comparisons are to fellow Southern California names Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. To my ears better comparisons would be Eric Johnson and Ronnie Montrose. Adams has a similar knack for the melodic guitar phrase that effortlessly moves into sophisticated (non-bludgeoning) rifferama, similar to Montrose circa Diva Station and At The Speed Of Sound, and when he opens his mouth to sing the feeling is very much that of vintage Johnson pop-jazz-fusion, especially on "Fragile". While this is clearly a rock-based album, it would not be hard to imagine Adams stretching into jazz-fusion territory a la Jeff Beck on Blow By Blow.
Astutely, Adams' never lets the tunes overstay their welcome, serving up nice vignettes in the 3 to 6 minute range with plenty of room for tasty soloing -- without ever triggering the is-he-ever-going-to-shut-up feeling. Which is smart since there's not really enough variety in style and approach to warrant lengthier workouts – other than the excuse for big-time axe-monster blowouts. Better to leave 'em wanting more I say.
Proggers will probably gravitate towards the more hyperactive and chops-driven of the instrumentals, so album opener "In A World With No Sky", "Car 333", "Seven Four", "Jacuzzi", "Gnomes Uncombed" and "Diminished Capacity" will trigger immediate investigation. The bluesy, sultry stripper-slow-groove, "The Door Stays Open" also gets high marks in my house, blessed with a stirring old-fashioned organ solo full of 2am baby-are-you-lonely hunger. Of the vocal songs (which are all good) I'd rate "Silent Divide" as the top of the class – an effortless Camel-esque pop-progger that would have made an excellent single 20 years ago. Which makes sense since Adams was the guitarist for (and friend of) Camel keyboardist Peter Bardens in the short-lived Mirage project.
Filling out Adams' band are two women. Both seem more than competent, filling the subordinate roles assigned to them professionally, never getting in the way of the boss. The guests offer nice turns to offset Adams' guitar pyrotechnics. But Camera Obscura is always the mainman's show, a display of articulate fretwork and precision phrasing. And there's mellotron strings and flute on several tracks. Or (unless my ears deceive me) sampled 'tron. Rich and lush, adding just the right hint of color and retro undercurrent that moves this away from being just another high-tech gunslinger effort.
Next time out I'd like to hear Adams sing more. He has a good voice and a nice lyrical turn of phrase. Doing so would help separate him further from the pack of instrumental guitar warriors. He has all the ability in the world, and more singing might help to get him up the next rung on the popularity ladder.
01. In A World With No Sky (5:00)
02. Car 333 (4:40)
03. Quicksand (5:53)
04. Seven Four (5:00)
05. The Door Stays Open (4:18)
06. Silent Divide (4:57)
07. Jacuzzi (4:18)
08. Perelandra (5:36)
09. Gnomes Uncombed (3:37)
10. Fragile (4:56)
11. Diminished Capacity (4:56)
12. Wisteria (4:54)