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GuitarGarden: China Rose

Remember that yuppie new age character played by Tim Robbins in the film High Fidelity? I'm sure he would flip his lid over China Rose, the latest effort from GuitarGarden, a relatively new instrumental recording project headed by Pete Prown. China Rose resides firmly in new age territory but with the addition of electronic percussion and "world beat" rhythms to lend a more contemporary spin.

As one would expect, each composition has a Chinese theme carried forth by synthetic flutes, violins and stringed instruments geared to accompany your next cup of orange pekoe. Songs like "Erhu", "Cloudburst" and "Lotus" are pretty without exception but they also suffer from being a little bland, ideal for background music or a romantic dinner but precious little else.

China Rose would probably be a more convincing experience if it wasn't for the hit or miss quality of the sampled instrumentation. Too often I am reminded of a stack of digital synthesizers in a recording studio and not the serene Chinese topography and mythical Eastern imagery conveyed by the song titles.

I don't want to seem unduly harsh as there are some interesting ideas going on here. But the saccharine feel good tone sometimes interrupts what is otherwise a warmly enjoyable album.

Track Listing

  1. Erhu (5:06)
  2. China Rose (5:14)
  3. Green Mountains (5:43)
  4. Cloudburst (5:57)
  5. Lotus (5:03)
  6. Bird of Paradise (5:37)
  7. Blue (5:15)
  8. Ashes of the Pagoda (2:45)
  9. Erhu (bonus track and extended remix) (6:23)

Added: November 10th 2005
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Related Link: Official GuitarGarden Homepage
Hits: 2515
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

GuitarGarden: China Rose
Posted by Ryan Sparks, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-11-10 15:33:40
My Score:

Guitar Garden is the musical alias of guitarist and multi instrumentalist Pete Prown who was born and raised in Connecticut but is now based out of Philadelphia. China Rose is a sublime and delicate meeting place where Asian influenced motifs dance harmoniously alongside various other ethnic themes and hip hop grooves. Prown is joined on this disc by Rich Maloof (guitar), Brett Bottomley (bass), Steve Puglia (keyboards) and John Gannon (percussion).

The textures are lush throughout the whole CD as Prown uses the guitar synth and various patches to great effect, achieving a myriad of different sounds to set up the required mood perfectly for each song. The use of the synth adds so much depth to the music and you get glimpses of how effective it can be in something as simple as in the song "Cloudburst" where he allows the piano to double his acoustic solo lines in perfect unison. There are other moments on the CD where you hear what could appear to be a kyoto, a tin whistle, a pedal steel guitar and even the sound of birds chirping, it all adds to the musical pallet upon which Prown is painting his pictures of sound. The music and nature of the songs on China Rose call for restraint in the guitar playing and when he does venture out to add a solo he does so with great care and respect for overall feel of the song, carefully choosing each note. This is never more apparent than in a couple of the last tracks on the album, "Blue" and "Ashes of The Pagoda". "Blue" starts out with a nice keyboard intro with bongo's added in for the percussive back beat as the bass picks out a few notes before Prown slides his melodic soloing ever so delicately into the song. The soloing on this track sounds as if it was recorded with different effects during different takes and then pasted directly into the mix, it all works so perfectly to create the illusion that the listener may actually be listening to more than one soloist, and maybe you are, who knows. The last song before a remix of track 1 is "Ashes of The Pagoda", which is a song where Prown finally gets a chance to release some of those pent up chops that he had been holding back, as he solo's melodically over a hip hop style beat. This is a very enjoyable CD and if like music and guitar playing with a touch of ethnicity and world flavor then you're going to absolutely love this CD. Highly recommended.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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