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Rock My World?

PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:40 am
by howard male
Rock My World?

Charlie's negative reaction on World Routes to the rock guitar on Malouma's new album 'Noir' rather surprised me. While I share, in principle, his aversion to this ubiquitous noise polluting the earthily real sounds of our precious world music, I suspected a knee-jerk response in this case. In fact I feel most of the guitar on the album is sufficiently controlled and rock-cliché-free, apart from the fact notes are bent and distortion used.

Let's look at the evidence: Guitarist Pierre Fruchard simply contributes an abrasive, ambient texture to the opener Khayala; some sweeps of controlled feedback on the bouncy Nebine and, on Lemra, he does an impressive Robert Fripp impersonation with an epic wall of sustained notes which comes and goes before you've fully enjoyed immersing yourself in its sonic loveliness; its 'otherness' of the guitar sound here which, for me, lifts the song above the ordinary. It's only on the rather generic blues track Yarab and the unforgivably bland rock-reggae track 'Casablanca' that things do get a little out of hand as Pierre switches to automatic pilot. But even here, at least on the blues track, he is admirably restrained and minimalist in his playing.

John L Walters said, in response to CG's comments, that he couldn't imagine electric guitar fitting in with vibe of the album suggested by the guitarless track CG chose to play. Well, it does fit in, and because it fits in, its use, to my mind, is not only legitimate, but integral to the pleasures this mostly excellent album has to offer.

So, to sum up, I'd even go as far as to say it's the electric guitar, along with the subtle touches of electronica, which add tension and urban grit to what might otherwise have just been a fairly average roots record. The accused managed to avoid any too obvious, or too oft stated licks of the dreaded rock genre, and actually contributed something which no other instrumentalist could adequately replace or replicate, and so, in this instance, should be allowed to continue to do his thing providing he continues to proceed with due care and doesn't ever let his rock guitarist ego (and they all have them) get the better of him.

But of course this question is a lot wider than this one guitarist on this one album. Why stop at the electric guitar? The first thing that sprung to mind when I started to think about the intrusiveness of western instruments on world music was the old James Brown sax man, Pee Wee Ellis. On 'Savane' he's perfectly reigned-in, mostly (as with Fruchard's guitar work) just adding texture. But on Cheikh Lo's 'Lamp Fall' his slick American stylings are totally out of place. Perhaps that was what Cheikh Lo wanted, but to me it was the aural equivalent of mixing oil with water.

So, are their any disastrous intrusions of rock guitar, sax, drums, or even vocals, into world music that you'd like to put on the stand for judgement?

Re: Rock My World?

PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:41 pm
by Charlie
howard male wrote:I suspected a knee-jerk response in this case.

I'm not quite sure what knee jerk response means here. If you mean, do all my bodily members reject the intrusion of guitar into an otherwise delightful soundscape, OK, lets settle for knee jerk reaction. But it feels like an ear-centred reaction. The same thing happens on some tracks on Telmary's album, and was almost the only weakness on the Free Hole Negro album last year. I say almost, because another was the trombone solo that took over at the end of one song.

So no, the problem is not confined to rock guitar, it's just that rock guitarists are the most likely to mess things up. The new Otis Taylor album has Gary Moore on the first track. Now why would anybody ever want Gary Moore on their album? I haven't got past that one.

I don't think it's to do with the instrument, but the mentality of the person playing it. Justin Adams has mostly been able to play the right thing in the right place, and of course Ry Cooder is the master of the delicate non-intrusive phrase. So much so, I don't think of Ry as a rock guitarist!

Mark Hudson wrote a funny piece in Songlines a couple of years ago suggesting that if soprano sax made an appearance, you could safely throw the album in the chuck out bin. I could think of a few exceptions, but I know what he meant.

I confess to having been unduly anti-rock-guitar when the Senegalese band Super Diamono came to play the Forum back in the 80s with rock guitar at the centre of everything they did, and I grumbled to everyone near to me that this was that we were running away from.

On the other hand, around the same time Zani Diabate and the Super Djata Band played the same venue, as recently mentioned by Ian Anderson in relation to Vieux Farka Toure's gig at the Barbican, and that was one of the all-time great shows. It was electric guitar but it wasn't rock guitar.

Can't explain the difference, but its always there.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 10:22 am
by howard male
Yes, I suppose one man's awful rock guitar, is another man's acceptable rock guitar. Though we're totally in agreement about Gary Moore, and probably a thousand other purveyors of distortion and sustain.

I remember you saying, Charlie, that part of the reason you liked the Russian band Volga so much, was their lack of guitars. I was therefore intrigued to notice that the new album has, not one, but two credited guitarists on board. Yet you couldn't really tell by listening to it. The guitars have been put through some kind of sophisticated electronic mincer and have just come out the other end sounding like any of the other sinister sounds the band are so adept at creating.

Regarding Ry Cooder. Now here's a thing. I have never owned a copy of the original Buena Vista Social Club album. I know, it's shocking, but I have my reasons. I was doing a lot of domestic cleaning when it became the huge hit that it did, and nearly every household I cleaned for had a copy of the damned thing (along with Sebastian Faulks' soppy, unconvincing war novel 'Birdsong') and the cultural snob in me (which I now have more under control) simply wouldn't let me purchase something so popular. The other factor was, that, although it sounded pleasant enough, money was in short supply and so kept for albums that actually excited me. But anyway, when it came to reviewing the band a few weeks back, I actually had to borrow a copy from my sister-in-law.

The point of this digression is that I was happily listening to the album as homework before I went to the gig, when this out-of-place guitar suddenly starts up in the left-hand speaker. Perhaps it sounded so out of place because I've subsiquently heard so many Cuban records without Ry Cooder on them, but it did trouble me. It just sounded like someone casually playing along to a Cuban record, which in a sense I suppose it was. But it didn't even seem to sit comfortably in the mix.

But anyway, I still like Chavez Ravine.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 10:51 am
by Rob Hall
Now there's a thing Howard. Who'd have thought I'd find myself agreeing with you in dissing Ry Cooder? However, I agree entirely that his slide work sounds out of place on that first BVSC album, something that struck me the first time I heard it.


Re: Rock My World?

PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:58 pm
by Gordon Moore
Charlie wrote:[Now why would anybody ever want Gary Moore on their album? I haven't got past that one.

Perhaps, because he is a superb blues guitar player?

Now if you were saying: "Why anyone would want Gary Moore on their wedding photograph..."

Still, we can't all be devastatingly beautiful and drop dead buff...

Image or Image

see what I mean!

PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2007 9:08 pm
by NormanD
Gordon Moore?

Gary Moore?

You calling him a superb blues guitar player?

The startling visual similarity of the photos?

It can only mean one thing.........'ve got a couple of his records!


PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 12:50 am
by Gordon Moore
Well, I've got one - Old, New, Ballad Blues, and a video of him on Guitar Techniques a playin' and a chattin'.

edit: In fact I think I saw him in Blackpool as a kid when he was with Jon Hiseman and Colloseum II - anyone recall that one?

Could you tell who was who?

Must be in the genes. He gets to play guitar and I get the looks. :)

Perhaps The Real Gordon might spot him in a shoe shop and interview him.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:14 am
by NormanD
Gordon Moore wrote:Could you tell who was who?
Easy-peasy. You're the one cradling the banjo like a baby.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:27 pm
by Adam Blake
Gary Moore a superb blues guitar player?

Oh dear.

I must go and have a lie-down.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:32 pm
by Adam Blake
I admire Ry Cooder's sincerity but the only time I ever really LIKED his guitar playing was on the first Captain Beefheart album and on the "Performance" soundtrack.

I hope you guys appreciate how hard it's been for me to NOT write a scabrous attack on Gary Moore's guitar stylings and on anyone who likes them...

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:00 pm
by taiyo no otosan
Adam sighed:
I hope you guys appreciate how hard it's been for me to NOT write a scabrous attack on Gary Moore's guitar stylings and on anyone who likes them...

Well, I can't say I've ever enjoyed anything at all by him, but I don't really know why exactly. If it's not just some weird kind of muso-snobism, what is it?

Adam, I'd really - no, really - like to hear you explain to me exactly why I'm right not to like his "superb blues guitar" stylings....

I'm sure Gordon can take it. After all, he is a maths teacher.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:25 pm
by Gordon Moore
I can take it, after all, I am a maths teacher!

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:50 pm
by howard male
Julian wrote -

Well, I can't say I've ever enjoyed anything at all by him, but I don't really know why exactly. If it's not just some weird kind of muso-snobism, what is it?

Don't put the blame on yourself, dear Julian. You're better than that!

It's because the man's playing adds absolutely nothing to the form. It's generic to the point of never ever surprising. Surely Gary Moore symbolises exactly why we're all here raving about Ngoni Blu and the like. The best music avoids cliche, and GM embraces cliche with every bone in his fingers. And then cranks his amp up to eleven.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:52 pm
by Gordon Moore

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:59 pm
by Con Murphy
I'm amazed that people who dislike Gary Moore's work so much seem to know enough about it to speak so authoritatively about him. The only thing I know him for is that song he did with Phil Lynott, Parisian Walkways is it? And I have you lot to thank for it being on a permanent loop in my head at the moment!