Coming to Your Senses
As the first offering from Favored Nations, a new label founded by guitar hero Steve Vai and entrepreneurial partner Ray Scherr, Frank Gambale's Coming to Your Senses (Favored Nations Entertainment I-N2001-2; 63:30) sets the bar high with heady, visceral fusion and stylish, witty romps. Backed by a rock-solid band, including bassist Ric Fierabracci and keyboardist Hans Zerhuelen, Gambale spins his trademark sweep-picking guitar work into a variety of settings-from the pumping rock-fusion of "The Italian Job," to the slow burning, bluesy stark arrangement "Up in Beachwood." Gambale's work can cut straight to the heart (the soft-strum uplift of "Salvador Once More") or draw on pop-culture and humor (the tricky electronics of "Cybernaughts," inspired by the sci-fi series Dr. Who), but always maintains a standard of detail and challenging timing that's hard to match. Wit, wisdom and pure chops come together particularly well on "Loch Ness Monster," a jumping, rock-inspired Celtic fusion piece. Grooving and jamming on circular bass and Gambale's ragged-edged, dancing guitar licks, "Monster" shows why the veteran guitarist remains at the top of his class, setting the standard.