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Charles Brown - 2008 - "Journey in a New Land"

(52:02, Fossil Records)


TRACK LIST:                                 

1.  Journey in a New Land 18:08
2.  Into the Unknown 15:22
3.  The Great Explorer 12:08
4.  The Forbidden Frontier 3:55
5.  Morning Light 2:29


Charles Brown – guitars, guitar synth
Steve Espinosa – piano; bass; violin
Matt Bassano – keyboards 
Rick Milo – drums
Mr X – percussion

Prolusion. Charles BROWN is a guitarist and composer based in the US town of Denver, Colorado and he has steadily released new albums from 2000 and onwards. "Journey in a New Land" is his seventh production so far, issued on Fossil Records in 2007.

Analysis. Starting with the commercial breakthrough of Joe Satriani back in the ‘80s, instrumental releases by guitar heroes and people who'd like to be considered as such have been released in ever increasing numbers. Charles Brown, thankfully, isn't exploring the same territories as most others in this field though, so anyone tired of guitarists showing off technical abilities, shredding every 2 seconds and trying to break the sound barrier while playing might find this artist to be something of a sweet relief. The guitar and guitar synth are the central elements to the five compositions on this release, naturally enough. And Brown does know how to shred, but has chosen to subdue that part of his register as an instrumentalist. The few instances where shredding does occur are dampened and on many occasions placed back in the mix as a secondary musical element. Melodic and atmospheric soloing is more of a key element on this creation, often going back and forth between regular guitar and guitar synth. With a keyboardist as a part of the setup, additional soloing from this musician is a central part of the soloing too; but to how great an extent is hard to tell. Noticing the difference between regular keyboards and the ones produced by the synthguitar is taxing at the best of times. Guitars and keyboards are the central instruments in the passages where soloing doesn't occur too, the keyboards providing mellow and ambient themes, probably sharing duties with the guitar synth there as well, and the six-stringer is also utilized to underscore the soloing as well as dominate some parts with heavy riff patterns of hard rock origins, verging on metal at times. In addition, acoustic guitar licks underscore in many passages throughout this album, and are given the limelight on a regular basis in some highly distinct sounding parts which is a red thread on this release, mellow sounding theme-like passages featuring the aforementioned acoustic guitar and soloing by the trumpet. This latter element probably provided in synthesized form, though. These parts have a certain Spanish sound to them and are nice additions to the tracks in providing some variation to the explorations. The end result is a highly mixed affair though. The title track, which opens this production, is a well-made composition where Brown and his musicians create a compelling atmosphere, exploring several quite different sounding moods and managing to contain these in a setting where the musical flow is upheld by careful passages leading the listener from one part to the next, and where repetition of central themes throughout serves as a musical red thread in the composition. The other explorations come across as more average though; some slightly disappointing. There's not really much to discover in terms of compositional entities following the opening track. The second and third tracks strike me as variations over the opening one, with a more simplistic approach and a select few stylized additions in the theme department; the fourth a brief atmospheric exploration with some nice percussion going on in a tune which is okayish but seems to lack a slight nerve to it, and the last song is a steel guitar and fiddle composition which is okayish without impressing much one way or the other.

Conclusion. Dreamy, atmospheric guitar-dominated hard rock with art rock leanings and a few slight nods towards new age music is the name of the game here, a facet of music not overly explored by guitarists. Besides being of interest to fans of the somewhat less adventurous side of progressive rock, fans of guitar-dominated music – bored of the standard “faster than the speed of light” chops with shredding and neo-classical explorations – should find Brown to be a refreshing artist to check out.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 26, 2008
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Charles Brown
Fossil Records


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