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Flyin' Ryan Brothers, The: Totality

Holy Guitar Mayhem Batman!

There once was a time when it seemed that only the Steve Morse Band could churn out instrumental guitar rock this good, but, as evident from their last few releases, The Flyin' Ryan Brothers are out to prove that tasty, guitar oriented music is still relevent today. Totality is the latest platter of majestic riff magic from Jimmy & Johnny Ryan, along with the always dependable William Kopecky on bass and drummer Johnny Mrozek, and it sports material that is well written, honing in on many styles and textures. From the yearning, jazz-fusion of "The Choir of Eden" (anyone remember the band Elements?), to the raucous guitar monster "Escape Velocity", to an almost Celtic sounding "The Crosses Of Annagh", there's much to take in here. Those Ryan guys certainly know how to put together some memorable melodies, and their ability to show restraint during the more mellow and progressive pieces, letting the overall atmosphere and character of the songs take a precedent, is very admirable. Sure, there's plenty of shredding here, like on the brawny "Big Shotz", a real crunchy rocker, and the majestic "Spirit's Call", where the two trade off some complex harmonies, but the lighter pieces are just as compelling. Kopecky's bass work is simply marvelous throughout, his Jaco-ish lead lines on the lovely "Wes Is More" need to be heard, and his powerful, melodic phrasing helps drive the grand closer "Heritage Reprise" to lofty heights.

At just about an hour, Totality really gives you your money's worth, and shows a band that really is on the top of their game. If you've yet to discover The Flyin' Ryan Brothers, and love instrumental music with an emphasis on guitar yet containing lots of melody, check this out.

Track Listing
1 Totality
2 Escape Velocity
3 Heritage
4 The Choir Of Eden
5 The Crosses Of Annagh
6 Aeolian Rhapsody
7 Big Shotz
8 Free To Fly
9 Spirit's Call
10 Wes Is More
11 Cosmic Calypso
12 Now And Forever
13 Heritage Reprise

Added: July 23rd 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1729
Language: english

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Flyin' Ryan Brothers, The: Totality
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-07-23 18:14:09
My Score:

I am really ambivalent about The Flyin' Ryan Brothers's Totality. On the one hand, the musicianship, the guitar playing, the rhythm section and the music itself are all excellent. On the other hand, there is something huge missing from this music - vocals. Compositionally, these tracks are much closer to your standard rock format than they are to any of the sub-genres that usually contain all-instrumental music - jazz, fusion, progressive rock, electronica. You can tell that almost from the song timings alone, bearing in mind these are stand-alone compositions without a thread of continuity as you get in a lot of progressive rock instrumental music. As such, I kept waiting for the singing to start, but it never came. A big hole. For all the enjoyable guitar playing that there is on Totality, I never lost the sense of that "something missing" and ultimately became frustrated.

The most successful musical moments on the album for me came when the two brothers amalgamated a few more instruments into the musical textures and developed the melodic lines in contrast to relying on the lead-guitar duelling: "Free to Fly" and "Now and Forever" are closer to the type of compositional demands of successful instrumental progressive rock.

Musically, what you have here is a sort of 21st-century Shadows, or a modern-era Wishbone Ash without the vocals. Sure, bands like Wishbone Ash will do instrumentals, and very successful ones too, but always within the context of a sung album. Put some of Totality's compositions into an album of mainly sung music and I would be raving about how good it all was - but about an hour's worth of it makes it feel very unbalanced.

If I can use an analogy - and I apologize if it's sexist; girls, feel free to adapt your own feminist example - listening to Totality is like having a very beautiful girl flirting outrageously with you when she has no intention of allowing you within six inches of her. Very pleasant but, ultimately, also very frustrating.

Flyin' Ryan Brothers, The: Totality
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-07-06 16:57:04
My Score:

By now, in a perfect world, the Flyin' Ryan Brothers would be as much of a guitar-hero name brand as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. The fact that they are not only makes this expressive double-lead-guitar-playing duo from Illinois even more charming.

On the siblings' fifth album, Totality, Jimmy and Johnny once again are impeccably backed by bassist William Kopecky and drummer Johnny Mrozek. With an ever-expanding sound that now includes piano, accordion, lap-steel guitar, glockenspiel and theremin, the Flyin' Ryans move way beyond guitars here, going for broke by cramming as many musical styles as possible into 60 minutes. There are the soft and lush sounds of "Free to Fly" and "Aeolian Rhapsody," jazzy and world-music pieces such as "The Crosses of Annach" and "Wes Is More," heavy and retro tunes like "Cosmic Calypso" and "Big Shotz," and the technical and progressive wizardry of "Escape Velocity" and "Spirit's Call."

But the results of all this are far from the sloppy hodge-podge of half-ass compositions you might expect from lesser musicians. In fact, each of the 13 songs on Totality is a highlight, playing like a mini-masterpiece and able to stand entirely on its own merits. Bound together by crystalline production, these songs rival those on 2006's solid and mighty Blue Marble and prove that independent artists with little more than a cult following can make some of the most exciting and accessible music on the planet and not sacrifice artistic integrity.

Commercial success may forever elude the Flyin' Ryans, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to sell every CD they can.

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