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Mantel, Eric: The Unstruck Melody

This one is next to impossible to categorize, therefore the inclusion of a "general track style" listing aside the 20 tracks that make up this 78 minute plus musical journey. Suffice it to say that Eric is an obvious musical genius and a true guitar virtuoso in a veritable smorgasbord of styles. His tremendous dexterity and wicked chops are more about accompanying his musical palette than about "shock and awe" shred technique. That having been said, there are plenty of moments here that will boggle the mind of even the most accomplished of players.

Eric has been a guitar legend in the Midwest since the early eighties when at the tender age of nineteen he unleashed his first riff barrage Montage on an unexpecting and frankly unready public. In 1990 he issued his second album The Politics of Experience to great critical acclaim and heightened public visibility courtesy of mention in both Guitar Player and Guitar World magazines. Around that time the kudos from Eric's heroes and mentors started rolling in. Check out that incredible list under the "Quotes" link on his website! Unfortunately for Eric, the height of his public marketability coincided with the advent of "grunge" and so the coveted and deserved major label deal was unfortunately not in the cards. Eric, rolling with the punches, established the Midwest's premier guitar instruction service in 1992, and since that time has taught over 3500 students all the while continuing to write, record and release music of various styles and ultimately culminating in this, his sixth full blown album.

The singular artist I would most closely associate Eric with is Andy Timmons. Both possess an uncanny pop sensibility, melody, phrasing and above all tone in addition to their jaw dropping six string technique displayed in a multitude of styles from hell bent country picking to Wes Montgomery type jazz progressions. Whether ripping out Hendrix/Marino type riffs like on "Wings of Fire" or the Eric Johnson (obviously a huge influence) type lines all over this CD, it is always with a keen respect to proper phrasing and never to the detriment of the melody and vibe of any particular piece. This is a skill that very few truly master but that Eric possesses in spades along with his obvious songwriting talent. Let's hope this stellar release garners Eric the celebrity he so richly deserves and ensures that he will continue to grace us with his music for years to come!

Track Listing: (including general track style)
1. The Unstruck Melody / Intro Guitar & Sitar
2. Tribute / Rock Instrumental
3. The Simple Things / Vocal Jazzy Pop
4. The Real You / Rock Instrumental
5. Tai-Chi / Jazz Fusion Instrumental
6. Shine On / Vocal Pop
7. Under a Different Light / Jazz Rock Inst.
8. Merry-Go-Round / Vocal Pop
9. Why So Lonely / Vocal Ballad
10. Exit 10 / Rock Fusion Instrumental
11. Intermission / Sitar & Tablas
12. Gloria / Vocal Pop
13. Affectionately Yours / Classical Guitar Piece
14. There Are No Words / Jazz Rock Inst.
15. Wings of Fire / Blues Rock Inst.
16. Only Want Your Love / Vocal Pop
17. True Home / Vocal Pop
18. Finger Pickin' Country / Country Instrumental
19. The Unstruck Melody (Reprise)/ Sitar & Tablas
20. Don't Let The Day Go By / Vocal Rock Ballad

Added: March 12th 2006
Reviewer: Mike Blackburn
Related Link: Eric Mantel Website
Hits: 2442
Language: english

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Mantel, Eric: The Unstruck Melody
Posted by Keith Hanaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-03-12 07:01:57
My Score:

Ok where in the world do I start with Eric Mantel? The Unstruck Melody offers up 20 tracks covering everything from rock, classical, pop, blues, jazz…well lets just say the man does not leave a musical stone, or note as it were, unturned. I must say straight away that this is one of the most refreshing and interesting albums of 2006 thus far.

One of the first things I noticed is the similarity of his playing to that of Eric Johnson. That is not a bad comparison to hang your hat on if you are a guitar player looking for an audience and a shot at the big time. Mantel is one serious six-string slinger and he characterizes his own style and approach throughout this album regardless of any comparisons to any other artists you feel so inclined to make after hearing this, which may be relevant in the big picture but not something that defines who he is. He is surely not a fly by night or clone of anyone else I have heard. The fact that a lot of this is instrumental is significant in that he can let his guitar do all the talking however he does not, he can sing as well, which is most unusual for an artist that relies mostly on stunning instrumentals to get your attention and get that overall wow effect.

The presentation of the entire package of The Unstruck Melody is outstanding. The CD booklet folds out into six panels with two sides. One has a lot of eye candy featuring various types of guitars traveling at the speed of light through space with stars twinkling in the background, and the other has many pictures of Eric and the people that helped him with the album, including the lyrics of the vocal tracks. It is not an everyday thing that I take such interest in anything else besides the music but this time the entire package got my total attention.

I found it difficult to pick any one track as my favorite and honestly enjoyed every one at varying degrees for different reasons. I am partial to instrumentals, which is no secret to anyone that knows me but I can certainly appreciate some finely crafted lyrics and vocals that express the words in a way that allows me to remember what the purpose of the song was. He accomplished all of this with the addition of tremendous variety and expertise on the guitar; it really just blew me away. It does not seem to matter what the dude plays, he does it with passion, grace, and a technical expertise that is indeed rare, and above all else, he makes you feel that you just had a grand tour of the guitar and all its capabilities, tones, and nuances. Besides rock, the main driving force of the album, Mantel pulls a few rabbits out the hat, like a country instrumental ditty "Finger Pickn' Country" and the next track is an Indian Middle Eastern trip titled "The USM (Reprise)." That is an example of what to expect while listening to this CD. Actually, the only thing you should expect to hear is something different on each track, all 20 of them, that in and of itself speaks volumes for the talent of this man. It is as if he took his entire life, all of his influences and everything he has learned, went into the studio, and put it all on this recording. Yes, this is Eric Mantel, and what a package it is.

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