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DeGeorge, Rod: Cosmic Playground

Pennsylvania-based guitarist and bassist Rod DeGeorge opens Cosmic Playground not with a blast from one of those instruments, but with the sound of a violin. From there, DeGeorge's furious riffing collides with a wall of orchestral sounds created by DeGeorge and keyboardist Marty Mellinger to deliver an effect similar to that of Metallica's S&M. The symphonic swirls continue, especially on "Mr E. Train," a massive song that makes it easy to imagine Dennis DeYoung singing, and you can almost hear lyrics on the ballad "Reflections." Elsewhere, "State of Flux" indulges DeGeorge's fusion fancy, and a world-music element on "Hungarian Foothills" segues to a war march and a violent battle between DeGeorge's guitar and Mellinger's orchestration.

It's difficult to imagine what Cosmic Playground written, arranged, produced, engineered and mixed by the man whose name appears on the cover would have sounded like without Mellinger and drummer Tony Mora. Together, with guest bassists and additional programming, DeGeorge's ensemble creates a full-sounding, song-oriented guitar-rock record that's crisp and clean. Somebody get this guy a singer...

Track Listing:
1) Dance of the Dragonfly
2) Cosmic Playground
3) Mr. E. Train
4) Reflections
5) Hyperspace Cowboy
6) Hungarian Foothills
7) Techno Difficulties
8) Dawn
9) Morning Sun
10) Rondo Alla Turca
11) State of Flux

Added: December 10th 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Rod DeGeorge Web Site
Hits: 1651
Language: english

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DeGeorge, Rod: Cosmic Playground
Posted by Scott Ward, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-12-10 20:44:01
My Score:

Do you remember the old Vincent Price movie The Fly? Something like that happened south of me in the state of Pennsylvania. Near the town of Reading, three of the worlds premiere guitar players got together. Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen and John Petrucci met in this place to discuss a possible G3 tour. Little did they know, there was a plot to rid the world of this trio of guitar masters. While they were having lunch, henchmen from the evil Dr. Steve Vaienstien grabbed the three and whisked them away to his laboratory. Here he planned to put them into his transporter and send them off to the middle of Antarctica.

When the group arrived, the evil doctor loaded them into the transporter for a test run. He didn't realize what might happen sending them all off at once. As he energized the capsule, it hit him that the molecules might get interchanged. But it was too late to stop it. He watched as the process finished and the second pod door began to open. Fearing what might be on the other side, he ducks behind the desk. What kind of monster might emerge? As the smoke cleared, a foot appeared and started to climb out. As it exited the capsule, the doctors worst fears were realized. He had created a monster! For there before him stood the new king of the six string.....Rod DeGeorge!!

No, I don't think that this is how he come into being. But for those that don't know his work, Rod is one of the premire guitarist in America. Combining the songwriting and melodic skills of Satriani with the neo-classical influences of Malmsteen, then add the techincal abilities of Petrucci, you now know just how good he is.

He unleashes all this talent on his debut album Cosmic Playground. This collection of instrumental guitar pieces will make you wonder just where this guy has been hiding! I guess it was at the top of Mt Penn in his hometown.

The thing that will draw you to this great album is the diversity in the music as well as the ability of Mr. DeGeorge. He has a perfect sense of melodic structure and his use of exotic scales in his music makes for a most interesting blend. As in the opening song "Dance of the Dragonfly". Starting out with a very Eastern style, you might even think of a snake charmer with a six string, Rod gives you a taste of how the East meets the West as rock and roll emerges through this tangled web of mystery and intrigue that the underlying theme produces. Rod told me that his music is about "self exploration, realizing that we are all one, all connected and taking a journey through inner and outer space". You can easily see just how much we are all connected as he puts it, when these diverse styles blend together to produce a sound that unites both cultures with a dynamic style that is pure magic.

As profound as the first song off the album is, I am still drawn to the title track "Cosmic Playground". Satriani might be surfing with the aliens, but DeGeorge gives them a place to settle down and have some fun. With a glorious melody and a feel good vibe, this song is one that I have been humming continuously. It has a similar style to Eric Johnson's Cliffs of Dover and the same kind of spirit. The melody is unforgettable and destined to become one of the instrumental guitar worlds greatest pieces. The terrific orchestration backing his brilliant guitar work will whisk you off to that place where all worries are forgotten. Sometimes you just want to let the music carry you away. This song carries you to that place where you can forget about everything except the smile it puts on your face. Besides, how can you not love a song whose title is taken from one of my favorite songs by one of my all time favorite bands. Sweet Loraine by Uriah Heep. I think that there is one more song that will be played at the next Magician's Birthday and Rod DeGeorge will provide it.

I asked Rod where he gets his inspiration from and with his great sense of humor he told me "If I knew that, I'd go there everyday and get a new one". Well wherever that place is, I hope he vacations there because his unique ability to create a soundscape for the imagery his music produces is something that few can accomplish. As I listen to the two acoustic pieces on here, "Dawn" and "Morning Sun", the melding of the music with the pictures in my mind is just magnificent. As an experiment, the other morning just at day break, I went outside and watched the sun with both these songs looping on my player. Not only did Rod capture the moment, his music was the motivation to get out there and have the greatest day possible. Rod told me that the emotional theme to his music is Peace, Love and Happiness. I thought that sounded a little corny until my morning experiment. Then I realized just what he meant! I was at peace watching the rising sun, loving life as I saw and heard it at that moment and enjoying the happiness of all that surrounded me.

I think that Mr. DeGeorge would agree with me that the most important thing in his music is to heighten the listeners own creativity and awareness. Like in the case of the stunning "Hungarian Foothills". This song with it's Eastern tinged melody makes me think of being at the bottom of a mountain in Tibet and climbing up to reach Shangri-La. Now I know my geography is off but I bet that Rod would be happy that his music evoked any kind of imagery and each person will see it in a different light. That is OK as long as the light is ON!

But if there is one song on here that conjures up a clear picture in your mind, it has to be the beautiful "Reflections". Imagine sitting along side a lake whose surface is like a sheet of glass. Think about how as you meditate there, thoughts about your own life go through your mind as you see the water reflecting back the world around you. Then think about what happens as a stone is cast upon this peaceful scene and the havoc it creates. Then as the waves subside, you have the clear reflective pool once more. This is "Reflections". It is amazing to me what Rod can do with his guitar. It is as if he is reading my thoughts and he is trying to make me remember the good ones!

Mr. DeGeorge also knows that all of life is not calm and serene. Sometimes you have to get out there and let your hair down and just blow off a little steam. He and his trusty six string gives you ample opportunity to do so when he decides to rock out. Like when he takes you for a ride on "Mr. E Train", which is more of ride on the mine car from Indiana Jones than on the subway. With a flair toward the dramatic this one is a hellish ride that will leave you drained by the end. Or there is the futuristic "Techno Difficulties"where he interplays with keyboard player Sigma to create a sonic structure that depicts the high tech world in which we live. If that isn't enough, he goes into Petrucci mode to show you just how well he can shred with the best of them on the demonic "State of Flux". On this one he even enters the world of jazz with his multi-layered approach. Lets just say that you will be enthralled by what you hear.

There is still a couple stops on the DeGeorge express and the next one is right close to his home. "Hyperspace Cowboy" is a frantic bit of Charlie Daniels meets Star Trek! This is a very cool song and I would pity the Devil if he ever made his way from Georgia to Pennsylvania cause as bad a time as he had with Charlie, he would just be thrashed by Rod!

As we reach the end of the tour, Rod has one more treat in store. Mozart might have been one of the first true rock stars and Mr. DeGeorge gives him a nod with a totally electrifying version of "Rondo Alla Turca". Yes, sit down Yngwie, it is Rod's turn to show you how it's done! You will swear that Rod must have received a couple extra fingers in the story I started out this review with as you listen to his playing here. This is not a simple piece and he really nails it. His fretboard magic is beyond anything that I ever could hope to achieve. Of course, being a lover of classical music doesn't sway my mind on this I am sure.

There you have it. One of the best instrumental albums I have found. And it was hiding down in the state of Pennsylvania! I cannot say how much fun I have had and will have with this album. I put it on at work and the time just flies by. His style, his ability and his songwriting are nothing short of amazing. If you want to give yourself a treat, this is the tiramisu at the end of the meal. Not just your ordinary dessert but the one that you wish would never end and a continuous supply was at hand.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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