GHS stands for Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm, and Steve Smith. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few decades, these three musicians should be very familiar names to you based on their respective solo careers as well as time spent with the Chick Corea Elektric Band, Jean Luc Ponty, Journey, Vital Information, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and others. Since 1998, when Mike Varney established Tone Center Records as the jazzier alternative to Shrapnel Records, one of the signature acts on the label has been GHS, comprised of these three monster players. They've recorded three albums since that time, Show Me What You Can Do (1998), The Light Beyond (2000), and GHS 3 (2002), and this is a 'best of' collection bringing together some of the highlights from those three releases.
The first three tracks come from the debut, and they are gut wrenching, no-holds-barred fusion barn burners of the highest order. "Bad Intent" sees Gambale letting loose with some lightning sweep picking runs over Smith's intricate drum fills and Hamm's bounchy grooves. "Dangerous Curves" is an even more incredible piece, the trio working together to create some tight rhythms but then firing out some impressive solo spots, Hamm flying all about the mix with some stupendous lead bass lines while Smith kicks into plenty of tricky fills. When Gambale and Hamm churn out some complex unison lines, be prepared for your jaw to hit the floor. On "Sink", the band goes for a more laid back approach and deliver some moody yet melodic jazz flavors, with Gambale's warm 'Wes Montgomery-meets-Mike Stern' styled technique really driving the song until Smith's acrobatic fills finish out the song. It's then off to The Light Beyond tracks, starting with the drum solo "Spirit of Dun Dun" and then moving into "Katahdin", a piercing fusion number with some great walking bass lines and Gambale's searing, lyrical guitar work. His blazing solos during the songs middle section are absolutely amazing. "Yang" brings to mind classic Bruford, and features some nimble drum work, tons of melodic lead bass lines from Hamm (in a great tribute to Jeff Berlin) and layers of Holdsworthian chords from Gambale. Hamm gets his solo spot on "Nostalgia", which is more impressive for its compositional aspects than a display of chops, and the dark, rumbling "The Throne of Savitar" is an intricate fusion monster, Smith laying down complex drum patterns over which Gambale & Hamm let loose with plenty of fire and finesse. Gambale's solo spot comes on the lovely acoustic piece "Isle of Few", a tune that shows that he can also craft some lush acoustic beauty as well as shred on the electric.
The final three numbers come from the GHS 3 release, kicking off with "All In Your Head", a loud, in your face jazz-rock piece, with Gambale's guitar leads piercing the mix over solid rhythms, his sweep picking technique in full swing and taking no prisoners. By the time this one's done, you'll be taking a deep breath and looking for a quick break before the near 10-minute groover "Geo 100", a real melodic number that again has some Bruford/Holdsworth elements throughout. Featuring stellar solos from each member, engaging arrangements, and memorable melodies, this is one of the highlights of this CD. The collection ends with the Latin tinged partially acoustic number "The Challenger", a real swinging, bouncy number with some serious grooves and solo spots, Hamm blazing on the bass while Gambale's acoustic guitar and Smith's rock solid drum fills do battle.
This is about as incredible as modern fusion gets. The only reason The Best of GHS doesn't get a perfect score here is that, if you are familiar with this trio's three albums, you know there's possibly another song or two they might have squeezed on here, or, if time constraint is a problem, add another disc to this collection. Steve Smith has contributed a nice essay for the digipack release talking about the history of the band, yet there's no info on the future of GHS. If you are new to Gambale-Hamm-Smith, and you get your hands on this collection, chances are you'll want to hear all three full releases, and will be begging the trio for some new music. This band is that good folks.
1. Bad Intent
2. Dangerous Curves
4. Spirit of Dun Dun (drum solo)
7. Nostalgia (bass solo)
8. The Throne of Savitar
9. Isle of Few (guitar solo)
10. All In Your Head
11. Geo 100
12. The Challenger