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Tracklist: 1. The Guitarsonist 7-08 2. Psycho Sam 5-56 3. Kill Max Kill 5-15 4. Dance Floor King 3-15 5. Mr. Cooper 6-02 6. Caution Flammable 3-36 7. Domestic Terrorism 6-19 8. Dance of the Particles 2-03 9. The Weasles Bite 3-09 10. We All Fall Down 2-57 11. Of Your Own Design 3-23 12. Guitaren't You Surprised 2-52 13. The Battlefield 4-13 14. The Climb From Sheol 2-28 15. Out In the Street 5-16 16. I'm Sorry 3-41 All tracks: written & arranged by Rick Ray, except 2 & 15: by Rick Ray & Rick Schultz. Line-up: Rick Ray - guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals, percussion, drum-programming Rick Schultz - various clarinets All music arranged by Rick Ray, except - reed arrangements by Rick Schultz & Rick Ray. Recorded, mixed, & produced by Rick Ray at "Neurosis" studio, Euclid, Ohio, USA.
Prologue. It is time to enter Rick Ray's name into The Red Book. I am not joking. His creative activity is truly phenomenal. During the last three years, Rick has released 23 albums (most of which, by the way, feature Progressive Hard Rock of a good quality). In this way, he holds a real world record, which is recognized at least by this reviewer.
The Album. Unfortunately, and unlike most of Rick's previous CD's, "The Guitarsonist" is not an integral album both stylistically and compositionally. (Rick's performing skills are always excellent, though.) While most of the best compositions are located closer to the end of the album, its stylistic palette is on the whole very motley. Perhaps this happened because of a major novelty employed by Rick on this album, namely, there are lots of keyboard parts on "The Gutarsonist". Indeed, on previous albums, the keyboards were hardly present and that only episodically. Well, it's time to describe the contents of the album. Kill Max Kill, Caution Flammable, and Dance of the Particles (tracks 3, 6, & 8) are openly weak (at least from the progressive standpoint of view). Kill Max Kill contains only slow moving monotonous passages of synthesizer and acoustic guitar that, in addition, are surrounded by an incessant and idle saloon-like talk. Caution Flammable is quiet like a placid river. Consisting of interplay between passages of synthesizer and solos of guitar, all of which are fluid and, as before, rather monotonous, it sounds just a bit better than Kill Max Kill. A strange set of riffs and solos of electric guitar that aren't supported by the rhythm section is all that is heard on Dance of the Particles. Psycho Sam, Dance Floor King, Domestic Terrorism, The Weasles Bite, We All Fall Down, and Of Your Own Design (tracks 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, & 11) present either traditional Hard Rock songs (4, 7, & 9) or a blend of Hard Rock and ballad-like instrumental and vocal structures (2, 10, & 11). Most of these six songs contain the parts of keyboards, among which are notable the violin-like passages on Dance Floor King, the electric piano solos on We All Fall Down, and passages of synthesizer on Psycho Sam. On a couple of songs, Rick uses both of the high and low timbres of his voice. There is only one song among all six of the remaining tracks on the album: Mr. Cooper (5), though, for the most part, it consists of wonderful and very diverse interplay between passages of acoustic guitar, fluid and 'flying' solos of electric guitar, and lush passages of two synthesizers. The brilliant, outstandingly diverse and virtuosi passages and solos of acoustic and classical guitar are also featured on I'm Sorry (16). The album's title track (1) and Out In the Streets (15) are the real Progressive Rock masterpieces. Both of these instrumentals are filled with most of the essential progressive ingredients, such as complex and diverse arrangements, frequent changes of tempo and mood, odd meters, etc. Apart from the virtuosi solos of guitar, Out In the Streets contains also some masterful solos of synthesizer and Hammond organ. If these solos were really played by Rick, he can be regarded as a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist. Stylistically, both of the said instrumentals represent a true Prog-Metal, despite the fact that they aren't as heavy as most of the typical works of this genre. While the solos of guitar are very tasteful and virtuosi everywhere on the album, Rick Schultz really shines with his wild solos on various clarinets only on the said Out In the Streets and on The Battlefield (13). Stylistically, the latter is a purely Art-Rock instrumental and one of the best tracks on the album as well. The clarinet solos by Schultz are also featured on Psycho Sam (2), though here, they're mostly mellow and melodious. Very impressive contrasting interplay between solos of electric and bass guitar, that are mostly fast and harsh, and passages of keyboards, all of which are symphonic and slow, are presented on Guitaren't You Surprised and The Climb From Sheol (tracks 12 & 14).
Summary. Certainly, it is praiseworthy that Rick Ray is searching for new ways in his creation, which is clear from the contents of "The Guitarsonist". However, I have the impression that Rick was in a hurry while working on this album. Not only because there are only six compositions on it that are strong by all means. Only the earliest albums by Rick Ray were marked with such a poor sound quality as that of "The Guitarsonist". Considering it as the first step in a new stylistic direction in the creation of this remarkable musician, I hope his following albums will be excellent from the first to the last note.
VM. April 1, 2002
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