Brooks, Chris - The Master Plan

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Indpendent
Catalog Number: CB1001
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:23:00

Australian guitarist Chris Brooks has released his debut solo album The Master Plan. You won't find anything new here. That is, Brooks isn't taking the guitar-based-rock format into new territory -- he's emulating Vai, Satriani, Johnson, etc., not Fripp (for example). But, on the other hand, I don't feel he's taking the tried and true artists' songbook and repeating it. The well known troika are but three pillars of his launch pad -- though I'll interject here that that Brooks names John Norum, Kee Marcello, Paul Gilbert, Brett Garsed and Vinnie Moore as his main, and early, influences, adding that later it was Richie Kotzen, Frank Gambale, Allan Holdsworth, Joe Tafolla, Vai, Jon Finn, Shawn Lane, "and groups like Garsed/Helmerich, Liquid Tension Experiment, The Johansson Brothers, and Dream Theater." You'll hear all that here, though I can only speak specifically to the LTE and DT elements as being in his sound.

Brooks' main instrument is guitar, but here he plays everything else as well. Even though he details the recording process, I'm still not quite certain whether he recorded real drums and percussion elements and manipulated them using the sounds available from the Yamaha SW1000XG sound card ("which has about 1200 pro sounds," Brooks notes), or he just used those sounds to create the drums and percussion. From a techy point of view, it's important, but from a listener-only point of view, it isn't. The drums sound and feel real, so whichever is the case, they are successful. Brooks' playing is impeccable... he isn't just some guy who picked up a guitar, figured out he could play a few licks, and recorded them. Quite the contrary. You can tell Brooks has worked at his craft.

Brooks' guitar style and sound will, more often than not, recall Johnson and Satriani, specifically -- at least for me. The middle section of "Inner Light" made me think of Neal Schon's work with Journey ... not that it recalled any specific Journey song, but Brooks wails away in a manner similar to Schon's. For the most part, these are high energy pieces, that zip along. They aren't just shred fests -- the songs have a beginning, middle, and end -- structure and direction. The dips and dives and diversions take you on a sonic journey. Though I have not had the chance to do so myself, it is the kind of album you want to take on the open road. There are a few phrases at the end of "Crack In The Hourglass" that sound familiar, a nod perhaps to another well-known instrumental -- that I wish I could name (it may be "A Summer Place").

"The Master Plan Suite" is a three track suite, that begins with "Theme For The Next World" which is a keyboard - acoustic guitar piece, that lasts barely a minute. It leads into the driving "Axiom." On this track, Brooks acheives the feeling of twin leads, he playing each on a different guitar. The tools in his kit are "an Ibanez RG550 (early 90s model with DiMarzio Evolution in bridge position), Ibanez SC420 (with DiMarzio Air Norton and Steve's Special pickups), Ibanez JPM100P4 [...], Ibanez SR405 5 string bass, Washburn solid top cutaway acoustic with Fishman pre-amp, no-name classical with pickup (no preamp) and cutaway [...amps are] Mesa Dual Rectifier Solo head (1996, two channel version), Marshall 1960A 4x12 quad box [] very few [effects] ... a small amount of Boss delay on the lead tracks only. Other delays and reverbs were added during mixing." There were points where I thought of Dream Theater - with the keys, guitars, percussion sounding very much like the interplay between Petrucci and Portnoy (though I'm not sure its Rudess as keyboardist I'm thinking of here). "The Master Plan" finishes of the trio of tunes, and it is a punchy, metallic workout. (Again, you'll think a bit of DT). Brooks mixes it up with some acoustic passages; some artier, solidly guitar-rock passages; and some passages that seem right out of the prog-metal-double-bass-and-all school. Just about a tour-de-force performance.

"Blue Sky Odyssey" takes a different approach, beginning with a rather nice, though fairly standard, keyboard intro. Brooks brings a different tone into this by playing a few passages with a loose-feel steel string acoustic (yeh, Chacquico comes to mind), before returning to the electric. "Funksion" feels a bit like Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein," though not quite as heavy. It's short, but fun. You can almost guess that Brooks has a good time playing this.

"Only Time" has a romantic feel to it; it's slower paced that the other pieces on the album. It's the kind of piece that comes at the end of the picture, when the protagonists have made up, and come to some resolution about their relationship and looking ahead. It's contemplative and reflective... oh, you know, I thought a bit of Guns N' Roses "November Rain," but I know there's a much better reference. Perhaps it's the inclusion of piano that recalls that track. This does it much better as it doesn't go into over-the-top theatrics (though I'll admit I like the GnR track anyway). Brooks' "Only Time" is, however, quite an effective and affecting track, very well played. Brooks mixes the acoustic and the electric nicely, each able to make certain statements within in the piece.

You'll think Tony Levin made a brief guest appearance on bass in "Tales From A Distant Sky," which closes the album. But it's Brooks for this brief passage. The track fades out, then fades back in in a rather spacey manner.

All in all, Brooks' debut is a winner. If you like guitar rock with a metallic edge, then, like me, you'll like this release. One suspects that with a few more albums under his belt, we'll be adding Brooks' name to the "guitar god" pantheon.

[Huh. I see, in re-reading Marcelo's review (as I was adding a link back to this one), I nipped a phrase or two from him -- purely subconsciously, of course.]

Kryptica (4:51) / Inner Light (4:05) / Crack In The Hourglass (5:42) / Blue Sky Odyssey (5:00) / Funksion (1:40) Master Plan Suite (Tracks 6-8): / Theme For The Next World (0:45) / Axiom (2:28) / The Master Plan (6:08) / Only Time (3:44) / Tales From A Distant Sky (8:00)

Chris Brooks - Guitar, all other instruments

The Master Plan (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin AU

Added: June 26th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 947
Language: english


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