Michael Harris: Sketches From The Thought Chamber
|2001, IMF REcords, IMF-2278|
Michael Harris sets out to cover a lot of ground and establish himself as a diverse, multi-genre guitarist in Sketches From The Thought Chamber. Harris does in fact cover several genres coherently and with skilled axe-manship, including progressive, metal, fusion, and neoclassical. Though I am not sure how widely the appeal will be to a general listening audience outside of progressive guitarists, the collage of genres that Harris jumps between across and even within his compositions is probably the most interesting and unique aspect of his music. Harris clearly has some wide-spanning musical interests and isn't inhibited about bringing them all into his compositions in his own, definitive manner.
Initially, the album required some adjustment for me to digest because of the unusual combination of styles and the sometimes abrubt transitions between these styles. But, this constantly shifting soundscape actually works to Harris' advantage once the listener adjusts because it helps keep the listener's attention and gives the listener a good variety of rhythms, tonality, and tones to absorb. It is kind of like going to an buffet of international cuisines and having the opportunity to sample many different flavors at the same meal. If you are the type of person (like me) who likes this type of variety then you will probably warm up to this album. But, if you are the type of person who likes more consistency, stability, and would rather not have a lot of change or variety too fast, then you might be unsettled by Harris' concept on this album.
Harris opens the album with the hard-edged track "Prognosis" that sets a metal feel that is contrasted by some cleaner toned, progressive-ish sections that are worked into the metallic frame for contrast. The ensuing track, "Neuro-Tranzmitter", follows a similar concept, thouth the next track, "Regroovination", marks a departure from this format to a more mainstream rock, groove-based tune with a Hendrix-like riff forming the baseline. "Shibboleth" marks a break from the heavy-textured tone that characterizes the first five tracks on the album. This acoustic track ventures outside the diatonic sound with some Mediterranean / Middle-Eastern sounding harmonization and rhythms that are voiced in a clean acoustic tone. "Voyage To Xyrethius" follows with its six part epic that further stretches Harris' stylistic boundaries while demonstrating his unique compositional perspectives, as well as his aptitude for composition. My favorite from the album, "Ideo Symphony", is a full-blown, neoclassical composition complete with classical structuring and shredding neoclassical fret work in a style that is different from other neoclassical artists that has a sound unique to Harris. My only complaint with this track is that I would like to see more neoclassical from Harris because this piece has only whet my appetite for Harris' potential with neoclassical.
Harris' definitely has an impressive command over the fretboard that will merit the interest of axemen of all levels of playing. The diversity in technique, feel, and styles that Harris covers will also make this an interesting album for guitarists. For those of you already familiar with Harris, I am sorry to say that this is the first album I have heard by him, so I do not have a relative comparison to his other works to offer to you. But, as far as my personal tastes are concerned, I found most of the album interesting and some parts of it appealing to my preferences. If you are a guitarist with a taste for hard-edged, instrumental music, the guitar playing is definitely worth checking out.
|4) Two Worlds Beyond|
|6) Voyage To Xyrethius|
|7) Ideo Symphony|
|9) Eat Your Words|
|10) A Soul's Torment|
~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com
This review featured in:
Michael Harris: Distorted Views (CD, 51:51); IMF Records DV2 (CD-R demo) The immediate feel is David Chastain on "Transmigration of Souls" which follows an acoustic intro-snippet. This is an interesting massive guitars assault with Tony MacAlpine styled keys- classique inserted as needed. Harris is an excellent axe shredder and this track's composition is varied enuff to more than hold interest. It almost has that "adventure soundtrack" essence but the multifaceted guitar attacks. "Identity Crisis" follows with a fast and jazzy funk blues number that even Ron Thal would get off on. Harris' chops are faultless. Limited liner notes with this CD-R give no clue who is drumming, who is on bass, and who handles keys. They, he, she, all do a great job letting Harris fly over fretland. You sense Ronnie Montrose and Andy Summers giving a nod to Harris on "Centurion". Say hello Satriani and Wishbone Ash to Harris' acoustic and electric lead on "Questions". Very smooth, an impressive ballad. Now "Axcalibur" nearly blew my woofers. I think back to "Leper Messiah" from Master of Puppets. What low-end! This is wicked witch and winged monkey horde dancing tunes with a Metallica meets Anthrax. Fun, fun, fun, and most huge. Not for weenies! Enter the Adams Family on "Mozart's Ghost". More weird fun in that Middle Eastern/ Classical guitars after Chastain. "Winterlude" was screamin' Randy Rhoads and again in that riffs over a classical theme. Some folks knock "Bach Rock" but it can be done right, with acoustic interludes, soaring leads, delicate fills and monster crescendo -- you have Harris. The pinnacle piece is "The End of Forever" with 6:01 of the kind of guitar that is ignited with heartfelt, sensitively exuded majesty. It is the magic of "soul fire". Recommended. ~ John W. Patterson
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