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Brown, Charles: Earth Voyage

When experiencing instrumental guitar-virtuoso recordings, the primary concern is whether anything new has been brought to the table—or has it all been done, already? Frankly, guitarists who are content to demonstrate how many notes they can squeeze into a bar, with or without the aid of axle grease, are downright boring. If speed is combined with unorthodox phrasing, muting and/or picking/tapping combinations, while emphasizing melody, only then might things begin to get interesting. Not everyone addresses the importance of melody over speed because a worthwhile melody isn't as easy to come by as it might seem; some players are just looking to impress, with a capital I. Charles Brown, who makes his home in Colorado, instructs guitar and guitar synthesizer applications—let his name be added now to the list of those who have also recorded with guitar synths and/or MIDI guitar, like Lee Ritenour, Al Di Meola, Adrian Belew and Bill Berends. Atop his fondness for new modes of execution, Brown's compositions brandish a certain maturity.

The selections on Earth Voyage run the gamut of classical (Bach's "Cantata #67"), cinematic rock ("The Phoenix") and full-burn prog-metal ("Nuclear Burn"). "Into The Storm" opens with a classically-flavored guitar synth flourish before [well-programmed] percussion and a swift Strat lead break in; the Strat lead evokes the lyrical style of Blue Oyster Cult's Buck Dharma, and a second guitar synth bit tempers this engaging cut. Yes, there is no real drummer on this album—fret not, great care has been taken to make the percussion sound very natural. "Wind Of The North Star" isn't quite as exciting as the opener: locomotive riffing and synth chords which sound like a keyboardist's modal warmups are passable, so long as the ears are relaxed and the sounds are taken for what they are. In terms of volume, "North Star" is a huge track.

Flight Of The Eagle" is a delicate acoustic composition with a synthetic backdrop, in a nutshell. "Take No Prisoners" features a real (as in human) bassist in the form of Bill Lawrence; this track sounds like a sequel to "Into The Storm" with some of the same synthtones, and the Dharmaesque lead—to have combined these two into one longer seven-minute track may not have been a bad idea. "Nuclear Burn" finally crosses the yellow tape into prog-metal territory with guest keyboardist Matt Bassano. The auxiliary intro (by Brown) could have been done away with, to highlight the [guitar] crescendo. More of a jam, with trade-offs aplenty, both players wail away in the context of Petrucci/Rudess, Berends/Johansson, Groom/West, and all that jazz. Bassano also appears on "Snowblind Hell," along with lead fill contributions by second guest, guitarist Bill Boerder. Technically, nice showmanship, but more of the same. The hi-energy pieces are balanced by the lush beauty of midline tracks like "Earth Voyage" and "Celestial Horizon."

The bottom line on Earth Voyage is a guitar-synthesist who makes things interesting by combining his grass-roots love for six strings with advanced electronics. These sort of albums don't pop up too often, so this one is easily worth a look.

Added: June 22nd 2003
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Fossil Records Dot Net
Hits: 3026
Language: english

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