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McGill/Manring/Stevens: Controlled By Radar 2-CD 2002 [PS: the cover art is by Glenn Barr and is called "Cortex of Desire".] (a gut-level, cerebral review) First off . . . Disk 1, (electric/ "Right Brain"), of this 2-CD, 6-day-long jam session excerpta/collection. Well, hmm, ah, err, it seems -- no, in light of, considering the -- oh crapola, this is a difficult disc to easily approach. I'll attempt an objective systematic approach. Point 1: This an improv disc in its purest sense. Point 2: This is free jazz fusion aka thought-flow-moments of genius interconnected with random-branching fibers of amorphous yet focused noodling. Point 3: This is introspective, rainy day in mid-March, sonambulistic wanderings in a dark cellar with Lovecraftian slitherings shifting unseen in the black corners type of music. Point 4: This is not extended high-energy, unison lines, steel-melting fusion but is a viscous wall-of-notes and twisted echoes from a fever dream spiced with myriad lightning-strike solos. Point 5: This is experimental fusion leaning towards that progressive rock-in- opposition realm but I call it freeform-fusion-in-opposition aka "FFIO" pronounced "Phfee-Yeeoh" Point 6: This is Scott and Michael playing with various effects-toys to warp their instruments' voicings into many odd-ball languages that show great technique but will weird-out many folks quickly. Point 7: This disc shows McGill in a more textural, soundscape, reactionary setting to Manring and Stevens interacting. McGill leads less obviously but is more a supportive, symbiotic, synergistic player this go round. In fact, I felt that Manring's long-standing jazz sense and singular style drove most all the disc's flow. Think Thonk II with McGill special guesting. Yeah, I said it. Point 8: This is not a power trio but instead a 3-headed "FFIO"-welding monstrosity spouting forth a brain-twisting, neuron-overload, and gut-wrenching volley of threateningly obscure din and drone. Point 9: This disc 1 will challenge many an ear and disappoint those out there seeking typical Holdsworthian heavy-fusion flourishes of riffage and eclectic chordal bliss. Point 10: This disc may be declared "genius" and birth a new school of jamming some day years later but for now consider it a vague echo of the weirdness factor that T Tech got into a huge way on Rocket Science. Point 11: This is a great disc for bass players to study and see Manring excel as he always does. This is a great disc for drummers to see what a challenge this type music is and how well Stevens pulls it off. This is a disc for McGill completists or Fripp/Frissell fans to hear an unheard side of this fine Irish axe-man. Point 12: I hope disc 2 (acoustic/"Left Brain") is more focused and accessibly structured as disc 1 left me in dire need of such. Whew! Did it . . . PS: Scott, I hope this was your final experiment in freeformjazzimprovcuttingedgeavantgarde fusion. Your fans like me want more kick-arse fusion rock with terraforming power and glory. I know you had fun playing this ruinous raga to ye gods of the smoky mirror but please come back to our dimension soon. McGill/Manring/Stevens: Controlled By Radar (CD #2/ "Left Brain") "cerebral/soul travel" review . . . This was much easier to approach than disc 1, as acoustic guitar is always straightforward, immediate, and holds nowhere to hide, WYHIWYG. Anyway, think of Shakti raga-ville, 3.5 tracks worth, think of Windham Hill and Will Ackerman w/Manring, think of ECM/Narada label circa mid-80s jazz- inflected, yet atmospheric, gnu-agey instrumental guitar releases. Capeesh? Don't get me wrong, I don't mean sappy, limp-wristed whanking for inner peace but I think of that era's better works offering us the likes of Bensusan, Hedges, Ackerman, and De Grassi . . . ahhh the bliss . . . Again the majority of the aforementioned pieces are introspective and angst- laden as on much of CD 1. Yet a certain dreamy forlorn meander down lost- childhood's memory lane, misty mornings hangovers, late afternoon ennui, spider webs aglisten with dew, wind gusts and mini-vortices of harvest's-end, dust in Autumn, crimson leaves racing across the backcountry trail, a certain chill circles one's bones . . . you get the picture. I preferred the Indo-acousto-world fusion moments on disc 2 as the most soul- fire and intensity was here. McGill approached McLaughlinesque/Coryellian sacred grounds on track three, a jazzy Shakti-ish excursion. Oh for more of that Scott -- please! But alas only 3 tracks offered such fire. Track 4 follows the fire with contemplation and lotus petals amongst the drones -- a great raga with the highest soul-travel quotient. Don't tell me our bodies are not temples of worship -- been there, done that, and have known His presence of Shekinah glory, ever-looking forward to seeing the throne of the Eternal One, YHWH. (Now you see what the right-frame-of-mind music can do to one's head!) Synopsis, CD 2: Laid-back with occasional outbursts and offerings of "Wow!" . . . and herewith McGill clearly and deftly shows his widening breadth of guitaristry and expression. Say, "When's the last time Holdsworth dared record anything acoustic?" Think about dem apples! This is a bold step for McGill and for that alone, he gets my two-thumbs-up salute. This eclectic review is now immortally recorded on un-named servers and thousands of hard disks to be regurgitated ad nauseum ad libitum ad infinitum . . . Thanks for your patronage and patience with my purple prose and mental angularisms! EER-fully yours, John W. Patterson, EER-MUSIC.com Addenda/Final thoughts: McGill used to play in a very different style prior to Manring. He gained most of his current fanbase apart from Manring's influence. Controlled by Radar is a not what most of his fanbase expects of him. Yet we don't want nor need another Holdsworth/Connors clone CD release by anyone! Good Lord! Our collections have enough of that already. We all expected McGill to grow and mature his sound. But we fusion folk are very human, habit-driven animals. We simply remember a different McGill fondly and perhaps awaited more clear references to his past releases. If McGill has found a new way to answer his Muse then, "Hurrah! Go for it!" If it is commercially successful then that's even better. This phenomenon of artists "branching out" and fans being less than thrilled has been happening in the music biz for decades. So what if fans/critics don't dig the evolutionary step. It's no big deal. Artists expect it. Fans know it happens. Life goes on. Disc 1: 1. Umkhonto We Sizwe 7. Cash from Chaos 2. Argentine Scalp Massage 8. I Am Totally Controlled by Radar 3. (In Walked) Bogus Boy 9. Puff Johnson 4. Have Sex Get Paid, Pt. 2 10. Babbar Khalsa 5. Cortex of Desire 11. Cryptology 6. Lumumba 12. F. E. S. Disc 2: 1. Darkness Falls Upon Us 6. Lucious en Fuego 2. Chicago Hot Plate 7. Matrix 3. Madinat Ash Sha'b 8. Montana Realty Company 4. He Is Invisible He Cannot Be Seen 9. Winter's Tale 5. Hyacinth 10. Seven Are Her Sisters Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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McGill/Manring/Stevens: +/- Addition by Subtraction; (CD, 70:22) Free Electric Sound FES4001, 2001 Cyberhome: http://www.scottmcgill.com I have known of Scott McGill's amazing guitar wizardry since 1998, finally got to see him live, (front row), then enjoyed an impromptu lunch with him. I have tortured him with sending him demo cassettes of my whacked fusion and guitar tunes, and discussed certain nuances of the fine art of guitar. Besides being a great guy, with nary a trace of that "look-at- me/worship-my-skill" ego, he is open-minded and kind. I hear him gaining ground in this new release and pushing boundaries, (sample the surreal, 9:27 "Purging Mendel's Beasts"). For this growth, I am pleased for him. He deserves a wider recognition of his daring hang-tuff, fusion art. McGill crafts a playing and compositional beast that most fusion fans will quickly say, "Ah, yeah he's a Holdsworth man", and I see their reactions clearly. But McGill approaches that Holdsworthian arena with more meat, more crunch, heavier chops, in a near prog-metal/jazz rock vein at times. McGill's jazz can be very clean, very pristine, and even ethereal in its bridges and intros but expect the fusion bombs to fall all around you when you least expect it. McGill enjoys densely-voiced fusion with a solid punch vs. tickles of legato. McGill is a high-class fusion monster that does bite and your ears will fear his chain might snap in the midst of maddening howls of riff-storms. (Sample the CD's first seven songs.) Strangely enough, on "Vicodin Shuffle" and "Purging Mendel's Beasts", (I sent McGill a song of mine by that name long ago but this McGill "V.S." version bears no resemblance), we will finally hear McGill, Manning, and Stevens get very free and weird. McGill reminds me in his axe voicings of Scott Henderson's insane antics on Rocket Science but this avant garde free jazz fusion will serve to challenge many listeners. If you want to quickly sample McGill's impressive chops of an intense and a most complex nature just skip to "Conflict Resolution" and also hear Jordan Rudess on keys, (as he jams as a guest on this release). Hear McGill on acoustic axe on "Euzkadi" and "The Execution of Veit" evoking an early Coryellian presence. And for those of you buying this for Michael Manring, you will love his E-bow bass work on "Four Fields"! A dream-fugue ECM/Windham Hill brand of new age, jazz fusion track happens here with Stevens going world percussives and McGill waxing Ackerman-ish. I did say McGill was expanding his horizons, right? My fav cut, "KVB Liar", reminds me very much of some of my own open-chorded rolls and whole-tonal solos I practiced over the mirky madness of ageless days with Maya looming across my dimly-lit past musicks. When I heard this cut I first thought, "Wow, that is exactly the kind of stuff I would be recording if I had a studio and the time . . ." I did send McGill and other axe-man my own crazy tunes and told each of them to please borrow, be inspired, or re-work anything. Maybe it worked? Hmm . . . Well, this song's dark saunter is like Fripp meets McLaughlin meets Holdsworth and Zappa in the catacombs of ancient fusion's forgotten song sheets . . . Be assured, I am in no way saying that any of this CD's songs are from my own compositionally-challenged head and fingers. I just love it, however, when I hear perfect echoes of the tunes I have carried in my soul for decades -- it is a sweet deja vu of sorts. Folks, this CD is a keeper and a must-have for those wanting to see the future of fusion. One day the heroes will pass into the valley of mists and those such as McGill will be the new Highlander with a mighty axe of legend. It will be a good century for fusion. Thank you, Scott for putting flesh on dreams of the olde one. Hail the green hills and rocky highlands of our ancestors my Caledonia brother! ~ John W. Patterson, EER-MUSIC.com Tracks: Zimparty, We Are Not Amused, KVB Liar, The Execution of Veit, The Voyage of St. Brendan - Abbot of Confert, Sile, +/-, Vicodin Shuffle, Euzkadi, Conflict Resolution, Purging Mendel's Beasts, In-A-Gadda DaVinci, Four Fields, Post Hocto-Proct Fusion dudes: Scott McGill - all axes, Michael Manning - fretless bass and E-Bow, Vic Stevens - drums and percs, Neil Kernon - loop tech Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Scott McGill: The Hand Farm (CD, 50:22); TR79602, 1997 Train Records Inverse Entertainment P.O. Box 1240 Langhorne, PA 19047
If I had received this CD without liner notes or the disc itself
unlabeled and had to name the guitarist, my vote would have been Bill Connors
doing one of his finest tributes to Allan Holdsworth. Chord
phrasings, song structures, legato leads yet edged with furious picking brought
to mind Connors' Step It or Assembler release. The
virtuosity McGill explodes with over and over is my kind of guitar
work. McGill burns the frets closer to Holdsworthian modes than anyone I have
ever heard. His execution stands inseparable from Bill Connors' and
goes beyond Shawn Lane's. I heard snatches of Eric Johnson bleed through in
places but McGill cranked up the speed, mixed up his lead phrasings and
he went right back into jazz-rock fusion. You'll also hear superb Andy Summers
tone and styling in many places.
Don't be misled, McGill isn't into jazzy, "out there" abandon. He knows
how to kick out some serious rock jams in the midst of complex stop-n-go
time signatures. In speaking with Scott by phone I was amazed to find
out he was more a picker than left-hand legato runs predominately.
You'd never know it by the seamlessly smooth flow of notes.
Hand Farm is graced by the expert musicianship of Kevin Woolsten
and Matt Cantwell on bass. Anthony DeSimone drums right up there
with the likes of Wackerman, Chambers, Husband, and Weckl.
File this future classic under favorite, killer fusion right next to
Connors and Holdsworth. McGill is a musician's musician and a nice guy
too. Highly recommended. -- John W. Patterson
NOTE:Scott McGill's Hand Farm: RIPE (CD, 61:22); The Laser's Edge LE 1031, 1999 Hand Farm, this incarnation, is McGill, (ex-Finneus Gauge), on electric and acoustic guitars, Chico Huff, (Mistaken Identities), on bass, Vic Stevens, (Gongzilla, Mistaken Identities), on drums, and Demetrios Pappas guesting keys on two tracks. This is McGill's second offering. It loses no momentum from the first fusion locomotive that monstered past with his self-titled debut Hand Farm. You'll find all the rockin' jazz fusion you dug in Hand Farm and more. There are two solo acoustic tracks and an acoustic lead in "DDR" that is perfect for the song's mellow moment. The short acoustic songs have that Bill Connors/ Theme To The Guardian and Larry Coryellian feel. Pappas' keyboard leads are a nice change up too. His synth work on "Skwerbie" is brazen, brash but definitely fusion cool. Think Corea, Hammer, or Holzman. Some folks may say Ripe is a nebulous cloud of notes, meandering chords, and too enigmatic for their proggy tastes. Such is a typical reaction to Holdsworth, Connors, Freeman, La Greca, Garsed, Helmerich, Lane or so-called "out-there" fusion. It requires massive neural remapping by years of intent listening to correctly appreciate such. McGill expertly honors Holdsworth's matchless legacy, leaning towards a rockier, overdriven-voiced, sharp-edged crunch in his delivery. Ripe echoes Holdsworth's Road Games, Metal Fatigue, Heavy Machinery collaboration, and I.O.U. You'll even find some Fripp moments in "Ong's Hat". Still no vocals. One minor complaint, Vic Stevens' drum solo intro on "Industrial Blowout", smothered the song's dynamic flow. My head fell into a gigantic Florida pothole after doin' 85 mph on I-95. The song screamed for a Tony Williams/ Billy Cobham stick-burst. Stevens took too long in getting there. Save for that one subjective complaint, superb musicianship ruled. Highly recommended fusion. ~ John W. PattersonListen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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