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December 1998

James "Blood" Ulmer
Harmolodic Guitar With Strings
DIW

This stark recital definitely finds Ulmer in an intriguing setting. Without the usual backdrop of rock steady backbeats, muscular basslines, and controlled cacophony, this record allows the listener to zero in on Ulmer's rich chordal strumming and angular phrasing. Unfortunately, the bare environment also reveals all the sonic eccentricities that sometimes makes Ulmer unbearable.

The album is actually a five-part suite with no name and apparently no focus. Like Ornette Coleman's ponderous Skies of America, this amounts to a self-indulgent effort whose overarching ambition resulted in pompous pap. From the chamber music meets Jimi Hendrix muse on "In The Name Of. . ." to the frighteningly banal, "Maya" where Ulmer's coarse voice sounds like a cross between Buckwheat and Alfalfa, this lofty program is noteworthy only for its quirkiness. And the quirky charm begins to wane after the third track.

Originally published in December 1998
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