Guitarist Chieli Minucci’s solo CDs have tended to be lyrical, while his projects with Special EFX have been more worldly, percussive statements. Now that he’s announced that all future CDs will carry the “Chieli Minucci & Special EFX” moniker to avoid confusion, it seemed a good idea with Sweet Surrender to create an eclectic project representative of the many styles Minucci’s encompassed over the years. The CD title is probably misnamed, as the music within is anything but yielding and sweet. It’s raw, energetic and captures—more than anything Minucci’s done lately—the feel of his rousing live performances.
Minucci’s a fusion-guitar hero at heart, and that part of him is well represented. “Ascension” is a mélange of solos and spurts by the band, while “Astralcats” captures the essence of the drugged-up, peeling guitar lines of the ’60s. With “Rush Hour,” Minucci finally records what has been a concert staple for years, a trippy bass-and-guitar jam between himself and Jerry Brooks. Minucci returns with another guitar-and-bass jam with “Au Naturale,” with Wayne Batchelor on double bass.
Minucci’s lyrical passions are explored on the title track, with the pop rock of “Play With Me” and with “Mystical,” an updated version of an early Special EFX tune. Minucci’s worldly influences come into play with “Chant,” a tune where he rearranged vocalist Philip Hamilton’s vocals from a musical called River Deep; and with “Children’s Day,” a let’s-hold-hands romp with real handclaps that’s a real party.