Thursday, October 29, 2020

Marc Bonilla - 2019 "Celluloid Debris"


Marc Bonilla is an American guitarist and composer. He has worked with Keith Emerson (including on 1995's Changing States and in 2006-2016 was featured in the Keith Emerson Band), Ronnie Montrose, Glenn Hughes (on Addiction (produced, co-written and performed), The Way It Is, 1999, also playing keyboards), David Coverdale (late 2000 live band) and Kevin Gilbert (Toy Matinee live band). He also appears on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer tribute album Encores, Legends & Paradox (Magna Carta Records, 1999) and a spoken word album with comedian Bobby Gaylor for Atlantic entitled "Fuzzatonic Scream" including the controversial single, "Suicide" in 1998.

He has released a number of solo albums. Among them, EE Ticket (Reprise, 1991), and American Matador (Warner Brothers, 1993), which includes covers of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and "I Am the Walrus" with guest Ronnie Montrose. Bonilla currently plays in California Transit Authority, a project led by former Chicago drummer, founding member and Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Danny Seraphine, featuring some updates to early Chicago songs as well as new material and has currently completed the follow-up album of all original material. He has also produced, co-written and performed with the Keith Emerson Band's new album. In addition, he tours with Eddie Jobson's UZ Project as singer, guitarist and bassist.

Marc Bonilla has enjoyed a musical career unlike anyone else. Based out of Los Angeles, he initially made a name for himself, playing guitar with Toy Matinee, Edgar Winter, and Ronnie Montrose, before graduating to solo work. In the early 90s, he released EE Ticket and American Matador. Both were predominantly guitar instrumental albums, with  vocal contributions from friends like Kevin Gilbert and Glenn Hughes, as well as himself. Film and TV work kept him busy. Then he met Keith Emerson and Terje Mikkelsen, and his musical palette widened beyond measure. Bonilla’s first solo effort in over 25 years, Celluloid Debris is the culmination of the guitarist’s growth as a musician, player, orchestrator and composer.

To call Celluloid Debris an instrumental guitar album is a gross mischaracterization. It is more of a delectable collage of sound with guitar as its nougat center. At the same time, the record overflows with emotion and sentiment as Bonilla weaves allegories around sonic pinnacles, defiant and congruently sublime in the same cycle. That’s why the opening salvo of “Alpha Male” melts so easily into the pastoral expanse of “Westwood.” Once, you wipe off the dirt from “Fleshwound,” you begin to appreciate the record’s balance of bursts and bouquets. Meanwhile, covers of Stephen Stills’ “4 +20” and Kevin Godley and Lol Creme’s “Sailor” allow Bonilla to layer, orchestrate, and mold a range of guitar lines into the recognizable melodies of each.

After the dust settles around the tactile assure of “Prisoner,” Bonilla gets down to business with the epic two-part “The Eruption Of John Minimum.” He gets in his one and only vocal before pointing the spotlight on Keith Emerson’s 22-second Hammond solo that ominously falls off into the piece’s second part. Here’s where Bonilla builds a dense wall of musical tension around one man’s boiling point. It’s enough to make anyone shutter with wonder and curiosity. Certainly by the end, you’re left with a hanging feeling, like there’s more to come.

“Arclight” lets Bonilla climb the scales before settling down for a restful night on “The Long Awakening” and, by extension, Johnny Cowell’s “Our Winter Love,” a song the guitarist cherishes from his childhood. The melodic swings of Celluloid Debris offer an unparalleled view of one man’s quest for aural diversity. Steadily supported by a crack cast of players, including drummers Troy Lucketta (Tesla), Joe  Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa), and Gregg Bissonette (Ringo Starr), bassists Mick Mahan and Bob Birch, keyboardists Steve Porcaro (Toto) and Phillipe Saisse, and brother Tom on percussion, Celluloid Debris was eloquently mixed, meticulously engineered, and magnificently co-produced with Bonilla by Ryan Greene. Throw in Balance of Power, a new book, and 2019 is seemingly the year Marc Bonilla is tapping into a creative wellspring and sharing it with the world.

Track listing:

01     Alpha Male     5:06
02     Westwood     4:35
03     Fleshwound     5:37
04     4 + 20     3:30
05     Sailor     5:35
06     Prisoners     4:57
07     The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt. 1     3:13
08     The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt. 2     5:27
09     Arclight     5:45
10     The Long Awakening     7:58
11     Our Winter Love     5:36


Marc Bonilla : Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin, Bass, Keyboards, Harmonica, Percussion, Lead Vocals on "The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt.1"
Troy Lucketta : Drums on "Westwood ", "4+20 ", "Prisoners", "The Long Awakening"
Joe Travers : Drums on "Alpha Male", "Fleshwound", "Sailor", "Arclight", "Our Winter Love"
Gregg Bissonette : Drums on "The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt.1", "The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt.2"
Steve Porcaro : Piano on "The Long Awakening"
Philippe Saisse : Piano on "Our Winter Love"
Mick Mahan : Bass on "The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt.2"
Bob Birch : Bass on "The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt.1"
Jim Gammon : Trumpet on "Sailor"
Tom Bonilla : Percussion on "Our Winter Love"
Dan Reddington : Whistler on "Westwood"
Blind 'Sussex' Emerson : Organ on "The Eruption Of John Minimum Pt.1"



  2. Excelente guitarrista, lo tengo de cuando toco con Emerson y Hughes, buenisimo !!!!!!!!

  3. Great album - - thanks for this Crimhead. Much appreciated. Burt

  4. Thanks for this. Have enjoyed his other 2 albums mentioned for a long time, but this one escaped my attention somehow. Discovered him through the Kevin Gilbert connection. Gilbert's 'Thud' is an absolute masterwork, IMO, one of my all-time favorite albums bar none. Check out it's track 'Goodness Gracious' for a look at the current state of politics, presciently recorded back in 1995.

  5. Marc was teaching on the other side of the Bay, and by the time I looked him up, he'd moved south. Then I heard Afterburner.
    Great guitarist (under-appreciated!) composer, singer and producer!

  6. Based on the review, I'll give this a go.
    Thanks mate
    Cheers from Down Under

  7. Having finished listening to this masterpiece, I'm super impressed. With strong similarities to guitar greats Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, Marc Bonilla will now join my list of regular playlists. Thanks so much for the introduction to this talented axeman.