Mike Martin, guitar slinger for hire, has been playing his instrument of choice for more than two decades — and it shows on 2 of 5, his first solo record featuring material written over a period of several years. He's applied his rock, classical, metal, jazz, folk and world-music influences into a series of bands and side projects, including Fozzy and Stuck Mojo, but he's never really had the creative freedom to simply play what he wants. Until now. The all-instrumental 2 of 5 is a musical melting pot of ideas that showcases Martin's clean playing and extensive reach. In fact, in the liner notes, he calls the record "my declaration of independence."
The album kicks off with the crunchy, fat sound of the heavy title track, and then merges into the melodic patriotism of "Salute" and the lovely sonic impressionism of "Lavender." "Living the Good Life" rocks with happiness (and a dash of fusion), "The Trouser Trout" engages in some sonic wit, "Peace Be With You" boasts the sound of guitar-driven Mellotron, and the companion pieces "Prelude" and "Epiphany" sound darker and more mysterious than any other track, climaxing with a soaring solo that's the best piece of guitar playing on the whole record. Martin sums up his hefty style by mixing power chords with massive shredding on "Infection."
Throughout, the guitarist is accompanied by a three-piece band that gives each of the nine tracks on 2 of 5 a full sound, yet his dexterous playing takes center stage. The album's title apparently comes from the fact that Martin is the second of five children in his family — a personal fact that, coupled with his revealing song-by-song history inside the booklet, gives would-be listeners some indication of how honest and real this music sounds.
1) 2 of 5
4) Living the Good Life
7) The Trouser Trout
9) Peace Be With You