26 July 2015

The Aristocrats - Tres Caballeros

Occasionly, Ultimate Guitar posts a few interesting polls, and here's a big puzzler for you all and one question that I'm sure will get the debate house rocking to its timbers. Who in your opinion is the most underrated guitarist? Jimmy Page, Kirk Hammett or Pete Townsend perhaps? Or maybe someone gone way before their time, like Randy Rhoads or Tommy Bolin? Couldn't sustain from opining of course, so I posted on UG's Facebook page that for me it was a toss up between Joe Satriani and John Petrucci, but I guess like thousands of others, I was missing the point. An underrated guitarist really should be relatively unknown to the public but enough to have remonstrated his or her credentials.

So hereth enter Essex axeman Guthrie Govan. When I was flicking through the comments, I saw his name crop up at least 20 times in the 150 or so suggestions This was about 12 months ago and I didn't read too much into his details, until I felt desperate to find out more and by happy coincidence his latest project has a new album out. Ok, so maybe I shouldn't get too excited, but if The Aristocrats' brand new offering is a peach, then all my expectations will be met. Unlike the band in my last blog, Animals As Leaders, The Aristocrats are classified as a three piece supergroup. Along with GG, there's bassist Bryan Beller who's worked with a few notable musicians including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, the drummer is Germany's Marco Minnemann, he was once touted as a natural replacement for Mike Portnoy in Dream Theater.

So yet another act with a point of proving that the creation of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this Hispanic titled album, Tres Caballeros (or if you want Three Gentleman) is their third and a hint that this is more than just a little side project. Not too sure about the pixelated graphics on the sleeve however, still, never judge a book by its cover etc... They open proceedings with Stupid 7, certainly has a West Coast feel about it, but also seems to alternate that with some ZZ Top zaniness, well, actually, that's their fourth track title which I'll come to in a moment. It's then followed by Jack's Back, the light tapping and pull offs are the order through its six minutes, it's a lighter affair on the whole.

Now onto Texas Crazypants, terrible title, great track. Very pacey lively number I must admit and another 'Top inspired tune, there are the occasional volume swells and police sound effects which give it a much clearer illustration about the whole tale. Marco labours his audio cues a little but immediately we're straight into tune number 4, ZZ Top, and strange, it doesn't feel Texan at all and Govan's leads seem a lot more straightforward than I anticipated. Sounds very inviting and very much well stacked, the compulsion to listen to it again is there for me. Next, we have Pig's Day Off which starts on a very gentle note and odd lick or two are added throughout, but the tone throughout the mid section takes a rather dark path until the original hook comes in to end proceedings.

We're straight into Smuggler's Corner, it's a basic Shadows pastiche in that mould, maybe some whammy swells, but it's an eight minute piece, surely it's not going to run like that all the way through? Thankfully no. The twists and turns may be few and far between, but there one or two interesting snippets, for instance what sounds like a Spaghetti Western choir, and his pedalwork is more apparent here. Pressure Relief incorporates more jazz, still a light airy feel, but Guthrie's dexterity is more apparent although if you're used to listening to more heavier backdrops, you really have to strain your ears to appreciate the effort the trio put in.

Things are getting a tad too lightweight, but thankfully there's The Kentucky Meat Shower, again not very distorted, but there's more emphasis on the fretwork before the next hookline opens up to a much rockier theme, interesting to note that Govan's efforts run in line with Bryan Beller's basswork. The final track is the eleven minute Through The Flower, starts with a test exercise on alternating the tone switch, (Jimmy Page adopted this technique for the live How Many More Times) and feels like the Danelectro is the dominant force throughout what feels as rhythmic as a Rickie Lee Jones number. He uses the same riff structure throughout before an extra layer of leads is thrown in towards the last two minutes of the track.

I'll say it here and now was never one of my fortes, but I'm sure it'll become a more enamoured affair. Interesting to see that Guthrie, Minnemann and Beller spent only 10 days recording this, certainly the production is at its most simplistic. Jazz Fusion? Well, it's an acquired taste that comes with a methodical approach and even though Tres Caballeros is an instrumental throughout, it does feel very inviting and teasing. Mind you, if I had to judge on the choice of song titles, the mark would be zero. Seriously though, no reason why this shouldn't mature gracefully but a few more listens are in order and certainly a must have album if you're a hardcore non vocals fan.

8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Best Track : Kentucky Meat Shower

Buy the album here on Amazon
Listen to Tres Caballeros here on Spotify
Deezer listeners click on this link
Official Aristocrats Website here
Official Aristocrats Facebook page here

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