Brown, Charles - Earth Voyage

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Fossil Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 38:16:00

Charles Brown's Earth Voyage is your atypical guitar rock album, mainly because it isn't just a demonstration of Brown's skills on a "conventional" electric guitar. His instrumental arsenal includes a Roland GR-30 Guitar synthesizer - with which he creates the brassy horns that feature in "Into The Storm" (and the trumpet that starts the track off) - classical and acoustic guitars, Fender Stratocaster, and a Les Paul Standard. Aside from a few guests here and there, this is all Brown. Those guests are Matt Bassano on keyboards ("Nuclear Burn," "Snowblind Hell") and drum programming ("The Phoenix"), Bill Boerder on lead guitar fills ("Snowblind Hell"), and Bill Lawrence on bass ("Take No Prisoners"). Brown is one of those quick and fleet fingered guitarists who can let loose with a flurry of notes at a breakneck pace and yet can also play a nuanced acoustic guitar.

Many of the tracks begin in the same manner - mellow, atmospheric, synth-driven intros that seem right of out the Narada/Hearts Of Space catalog before launching into muscular and hard driving instrumental rock. One of my favorite pieces is the epic, open and airy title track "Earth Voyage." The "brass" that began the album returns here, and does so wonderfully. The tone is bright and sh iny without being tart, adding just the right amount of warmth. Otherwise this juxtaposition of styles does seem a tad overused and makes for a disjointed listening experience. One other place the contrasts in style work is on "Celestial Horizon" bridging into "The Phoenix." The first part has that shimmery Gilmour-esque feel that Pink Floyd used. It's like we've come in at a moment frozen in time and something happens to break the spell. That leads us into the percussion driven "The Phoenix," a piece that features a vaguely Middle-Eastern guitar motif. Drums may be a little too dominant, as even though Brown is playing some searing leads, the percussion is what draws the attention.

The drum machine reveals itself plainly on "Snowblind Hell," too, but here it's because its rhythmic pounding just a little too consistent. "Flight Of The Eagle" has all the grandeur of a solo Wakeman piece, Brown's acoustic guitar recalling Steve Howe, if only by association (that is, Howe's with Wakeman). "Take No Prisoners" is your typically blustery, bullish, heavy guitar piece, full of bravado and swagger. A breathy keyboard features in the mellower, and in the end unsatisfying though brief , "Cantata #67" (J. S. Bach); this followed by the Hendrix-esque "Nuclear Burn" - if Brown didn't have bloody fingers after the monster riff that opens the main part of this track, his must be made of steel! (she said, not without some hyperbole). Brown's guitar shares the lead spot with Bassano's fiery keyboards - without sounding like either, Bassano attacks them with the same ferocity as Emerson or Sherinian, his tone closer to the latter.

"Take It On Home" brings in a southern rock feel, with slide guitar twang and a rhythm that'll have ya kickin' up yer heels in some instro-prog version of squaredancing. Or would that just be squares dancing? (the square asks). Not for any specific reason, but Stevie Ray Vaughn popped into my mind... This southern feel continues in "Tears Of The Lost Angel," an acoustic guitar based piece that defies expectation by not having the quick paced arpreggios launch into powerhouse rock. Thus it retains its laidback feel - though there is a great deal of tension, as you do expect something to explode. Shades of "Can't Find My Way Home"

In the end, Earth Voyage is a good album, but one will find that the rock portions of most pieces stand fine on their own without the intros... and the intros would work just as fine as separate, contrasting, pieces ... maybe. Making them single units makes the whole thing feel disjointed. But, what you will remember is the blistering guitar playing.

Into The Storm (3:42) / Wind Of The North (4:36) / Flight Of The Eagle (3:32) / Take No Prisoners (2:41) / Cantata #67 (J.S.Bach) (0:53) / Nuclear Burn (4:24) / Earth Voyage (3:12) / Snowblind Hell (4:05) / Celestial Horizon (1:30) / The Phoenix (3:30) / Take It On Home (4:07) / Tears Of The Lost Angel (4:41)

Charles Brown - Roland GR-30 Guitar synthesizer, classical and acoustic guitars, Fender Stratocaster, Les Paul Standard
Matt Bassano - keyboards (6, 8) and drum programming (10)
Bill Boerder - lead guitar fills (8)
Bill Lawrence - bass (4)

Mystics (1999)
Earth Voyage (2001)
Mystic Vision (2002)
Thru The Flames (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 19th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 791
Language: english


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