Don Schiff, NS/Stick player who has been a regular sideman of Erik Norlander, Lana Lane, and Rocket Scientists for many years, finally unleashes his first solo album Peering Over Clouds. This is an all instrumental affair that sees the musician handling the bass and guitar role on the NS/Stick (an eight string fretboard tapping instrument created by Emmett Chapman, who gave us the original Stick, and Ned Steinberger, who popularized the Steinberger basses and guitars), along with drummer Greg Ellis. Consisting of 13 tracks of intoxicating progressive rock, Peering Over Clouds is a winner all around, an audio lovers delight that sees Schiff not only emerge as a master player, but an excellent writer as well.
Don's style on the NS/Stick is very smooth and fluid, especially when he is playing lead lines like a guitar. On "Winds of Fire, Winds of Change", you hear the rumbling low end while soaring liquid lead lines flutter about, while the bouncy title track is a bubbling cauldron of funky sounds. A marvelous instrumental version of Lana Lane's "Under the Olive Tree" appears here, which is pure melodic bliss, with Schiff's lead lines taking over for Lana's vocals. "Tomorrow's Magic" is a dirty rock piece, featuring gritty electric guitar-like pluckings dripping with distortion, and "Talking in Tongues" is like a head on collision between prog and Southern Rock, as Schiff gets all sorts of wild slide guitar sounds out of the instrument while Ellis bangs away at his kit. The production on the CD is handled by none other than Erik Norlander, who always does a auperb job, and the booklet is filled with commentaries from all involved plus plenty of photos.
There's just too much good music here to cover all in one review. While you may think that an album of just NS/Stick & drums might be a little sparse, it's exactly the opposite. Schiff covers so many styles and textures here, that while listening, especially on headphones, you would swear that a full band of bass, guitar, and keyboards were present. Peering Over Clouds is an alluring, intoxicating brew of majestic progressive rock that just might raise the bar for instrumental music in the years to come.
1) Peering Over Clouds (7:15)
2) Winds of Fire, Winds of Change (5:27)
3) Under the Olive Tree (5:06)
4) Secret World (6:23)
5) Inside the Color of Dreams (7:26)
6) Tomorrow's Magic (4:27)
7) Reflective View (5:36)
8) From Where the Past Began (6:13)
9) The Eighth Wonder (5:14)
10) A Whiter Shade of Pale (4:53)
11) Talking in Tongues (3:58)
12) Between Sound and Silence (1:23)
13) Crossing the Lines of Reason (7:38)