Friday, October 13, 2017

Greg Howe - 2008 "Sound Proof"

Sound Proof is the eighth studio album by guitarist Greg Howe, released on June 24, 2008 through Tone Center Records.

Since the late '80s, guitarist Greg Howe has spiraled his way towards the créme de la créme of the progressive-rock/jazz-fusion elite. With his first album since Extraction (Tone Center, 2003), the guitarist spawns more of his melodically shaded, super-speed legato lines while honing in a tad more on the compositional element. This album also features a new band that is afforded ample breathing room to stretch. It's a democratic engagement but firmly rooted in an altogether unified line of attack.

Howe zooms into the cosmos during many passages, yet the program is largely, imprinted with briskly enacted time signatures and off-kilter rhythmic maneuvers as the artists embark upon a sinuous journey amid persuasive group-based interplay. On Stevie Wonder's "Tell Me Something Good," Howe's weeping funk-rock lines consummate matters via breakneck speed-riffing.

The band delves into Latin, fuzoid panoramas while tempering the flow on Howe's jazzy, acoustic guitar-driven ballad, "Sunset In El Paso," while letting it all hang out atop drummer Gianluca Palmierie's ferocious backbeats on "Child's Play," as Howe's climactic and multi-register phrasings makes it all seem like child's play. In other areas and movements, keyboardist David Cook stands as a strong foil for Howe via his dirty Fender Rhodes solos and fluid chord voicings.

Sound Proof is Howe's finest musical statement to date.

Whether you love or hate the genre of music he specializes in, you've got to give the man credit. Even during arguably the all-time low point for "guitar shredders" -- the mid- to late '90s -- Greg Howe stuck to his guns, issuing album after album of technically astounding guitar rock. And with the genre experiencing a resurgence circa the early 21st century, Howe is still all about showing off his six-string gymnastic ability, as evidenced by his 2008 release, Sound Proof. If you're seeking carefully constructed, melodic songs -- move along. But, if you're into all-instrumental prog metal with guitar at the forefront, then Sound Proof should meet your requirements. Look no further than the album-opening "Emergency Exit," which has some very heavy '70s fusion elements (especially due to the Jan Hammer-esque keyboard doodling of David Cook), while other tracks such as the Steve Vai-esque "Morning View" and the funky "Side Note" are also standouts. Musical trends may come and go, but you always know what's in store with a new Greg Howe release, and this veteran shredder certainly doesn't disappoint with Sound Proof.

Jazz-rock fusion, contrary to some reports, did not die. It just splintered off into various sub-cultural cul-de-sacs, appreciated by small, rabid fanbases. One of those is the rock-jazz (vs. jazz-rock), more-is-more school of guitar, lorded over by the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, and a bunch to which Greg Howe aspires. Howe is a nimble-fingered player who has been on the shredder scene for 20 years, when not doing day job duty with the pop likes of Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and NSYNC.

Duly abetted by a trio of powerhouse players, drummer Gianluca Palmieri, bassist Jon Reshard and keyboardist David Cook, the super-charged fret-mongering and tone-tweaking Howe stirs up a lot of nervous energy, from the super-charged opener “Emergency Exit” to the more harmonically intricate and vaguely Jeff Beck-like title cut late in the program. For cover material, Howe lends a distorted sassiness and slink to the great old Stevie Wonder tune made famous by Rufus in the ’70s, “Tell Me Something Good,” in a version both faithful and re-inventive. “Sunset in El Paso” is a rare respite from the onslaught, a cooler, more harmonically informed and acoustic head prevailing for four minutes and change. More, please.

Track listing:
All music composed by Greg Howe, except where noted.

1. "Intro" (interlude) 0:13
2. "Emergency Exit" 7:31
3. "Tell Me Something Good" (Stevie Wonder) 5:37
4. "Connoisseur Part 1" (interlude) 0:29
5. "Reunion" 5:53
6. "Morning View" 4:36
7. "Walkie Talkie" 6:13
8. "Rehearsal Note" (interlude) 0:16
9. "Side Note" 7:14
10. "Sunset in El Paso" 4:15
11. "Write Me a Song" (interlude) 0:30
12. "Child's Play" 4:23
13. "Sound Proof" 6:42
14. "Connoisseur Part 2" 2:29

Total length: 56:21

Personnel:

Greg Howe – guitar, spoken vocals (track 11), production
David Cook – keyboard
Dennis Hamm – keyboard solo (track 9)
Gianluca Palmieri – drums
Jon Reshard – bass

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