In a time where there are so many instrumental shred guitar albums being released, it's refreshing to hear an album where the focus is the guitar, but the end result is more about substance, mood, and melody, rather than flash. Martin Barre is one of rock's greatest treasures, being a part of Jethro Tull since the late 60's up to the present, the guitarist has recorded a few solo albums over the years, Stage Left being his third and perhaps most enjoyable.
There's a welcome mix of rugged hard rock, blues, intricate acoustic, and medieval folk numbers here, all played with the fire and charm that have made Barre one of the most popular axe players of all time. "A French Correction" is a nifty little complex ditty featuring acoustic and electric guitar, and a song that could potentially find a home on any Jethro Tull record. The same can be said for "Murphy's Paw", a blistering hard rocker that is all about melody and tone, played on Barre's P.R.S. guitar. Heavy and technical blues can be heard on "Count the Chickens" , and the folky bouzouki is featured on "Favourite Things", a tune that will have Tull fans screaming with delight. More chunky riffs and screaming solos pop up on "After You, After Me", and Barre's flute accentuates the hard rock/folky flavor of "Stage Fright." Lovers of the mandolin will get a kick out of the medieval sounding "D.I.Y.", with its dizzying melody line, and along those same lines is the flamenco influenced "Spanish Tears", truly a lovely tune. There's some classical leanings on the tender "Winter Snowscapes", and symphonic rock with strong legato lead guitar work on "Nelly Returns." "Don't Say a Word" closes out the CD, and is the only vocal piece, featuring singer Simon Burrett. It's a nice hard rock piece that has Barre's lead work singing with passion and conviction.
Joining Martin on this album are two Tull bandmates Andy Giddings on keyboards and Jonathan Noyce on bass, along with drummer Darren Mooney (Gary Moore, Primal Scream.) It's obvious that they all had a blast recording this album, as there is a sense of looseness and fun to all the 14 tracks. The CD booklet is a real treat as well, as it breaks down each song and tells the listener what guitar Martin used for each song, much like Steve Howe used to do on his releases.
A wonderful album-check it out!