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Keneally, Mike: You Must Be This Tall

Though it's been well over 20 years since Mike Keneally played alongside the late Frank Zappa, the spirit of the innovator still permeates much of the material that this multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer creates. You Must Be This Tall is Keneally's 24th solo release...yep, you read that right, 24 solo albums to his ever expanding discography. As is generally the case, Mike offers up a wide variety of sounds and styles here, though fans of his virtuoso guitar skills will be happy to know that much of the CD is very guitar dominated and filled with plenty of intricate progressive rock/jazz fusion/avant-garde styled arrangements.

The opening title track echoes the ghost of Zappa with some wild guitar excursions over complex jazz rhythms, with Keneally providing all the guitar, bass, keyboards, and programmed drums while the human drum machine Marco Minnemann adds his mighty talents as well. It's a great way to start the CD and is a sign of things to come. "Cavanaugh" is moody, jazz fusion/pop with some engaging melodies and a great chorus, while "Cornbread Crumb" is a fun, smooth jazz-fusion piece featuring some Keneally buddies like Joe Travers (drums), Bryan Beller (bass), and Rick Musallam (rhythm guitar). Frank Zappa-meets-Gentle Giant-meets-Dream Theater on the complex rocker "Kidzapunk", as Mike's zany vocal arrangements collide with herky jerky musical passages for a truly exciting listening experience. The menacing "Pitch Pipe" contains some insane guitar work, and "The Rider" is a Beatles styled pop number with some solid hooks. On "Popes", Keneally goes for a rootsy, folky vibe, and "Indicator" sees him reunited with his Wing Beat Fantastic partner Andy Partridge (XTC) for a fun little guitar based ditty that is a leftover from their 2012 sessions. Closing out the album is "Glop", an aptly titled quirky fusion piece drenched with distorted guitar that once again recalls vintage Zappa. Mike is all over the place on this one, proving yet again what an immense talent he really is.

Throw in a few brief keyboard instrumentals that are spaced in between the main songs, and you have a very varied and fun collection of material from the always dependable Mike Keneally. You have to love how he always makes sure to give the listener more than enough musical virtuosity to go along with some engaging and catchy melodies, both of which in his hands ultimately make for a winning combination.

Track Listing
1. You Must Be This Tall 4:52
2. Cavanaugh 3:51
3. Plum 0:40
4. Cornbread Crumb 6:32
5. Kidzapunk 4:45
6. Pitch Pipe 4:19
7. The Rider 6:47
8. Bolarius 0:43
9. Popes 2:51
10. Indicator 1:26
11. 5th Street 1:56
12. Glop 5:27

Added: February 4th 2014
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Exowax Recordings
Hits: 5082
Language: english

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Keneally, Mike: You Must Be This Tall
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-02-04 20:44:18
My Score:

It is a tough thing this; defining a Mike Keneally album. Keneally is like a magician, able to pull musical ideas out of his hat at will. He makes it sound easy which of course it is not, especially for us non musicians. He offers such a diverse range of styles and sounds it can almost be overwhelming at times. Such is the life of a music reviewer; trying to make sense out of the nonsensical. However, in Keneally's case it does perfect sense, you just might have to take a few detours along the way to get to the end. As with any Keneally album, at least the ones I have heard, never will you find a dull moment and his new release You Must Be This Tall is no different.

The album contains twelve tracks of pure Zappaesque quirkiness. If you are new to Mr. Keneally come in with an open mind and just enjoy the ride. Keneally plays many of the instruments himself but does have some help including Marco Minnemann on the drum kit.

The album begins with the title track, a song steeped in Zappa zaniness and contains so many twists and turns your ears won't stop spinning. Even though the complexity level is sky high and the song is inundated with intricate details and superb musicianship, it is still relatively easy to listen to. That is the beauty of a Mike Keneally album. In "Cavanaugh" Keneally's laid back singing style offsets the chaotic instrumentation while "Cornbread Crumb" just might have the hippest groove here with its Steely Dan vibe and Keneally's crystalline stabs of guitar bursting from the mix in breathtaking fashion. "Kidzapunk" is another exercise in complexity as many instruments combine with a riveting vocal collage and Minnemann's drumming holding it all together seamlessly mending the different segments into one complete whole. Very creative indeed. "Pitch Pipe" is all Keneally as he plays everything himself complete with Middle eastern accents and background voicings adding an orchestral feel whereas "The Rider" is a densely layered beauty with an ultra-catchy vocal arrangement. The back half of the album includes some shorter, mellower tracks like "5th St." and "Indicator", the only track to feature Andy Partridge (XTC) adding guitars and drum loops. The XTC feel is not surprising. The album ends with the guitar dominated "Glop" featuring Keneally at his creative best. His fuzzy tone and feedback forays will have guitar buffs coming back for more.

You Must Be This Tall is so complex and multifaceted it will take more than a listen or two to fully comprehend its creative madness. It is a beautifully layered and detailed work that can only be the product of a musician completely in tune with his craft. This is the genius of Mike Keneally…

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