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Larry Carlton: Fingerprints

For his 20th solo album, Larry Carlton puts his Fingerprints (GRP 9 47338-2; 55:15) on a variety of styles-from stinging retro-blues to bustling hip hop. The effect is a showcase of styles for the noted guitarist, but an album that wanders without a unified vision. At his best, Carlton synthesizes contrasting genres to create a unique vibe. For example, the heavy modern shuffle lying beneath the album’s title track contrasts with Carlton’s blues-rock threaded guitar warbling for a melodic, mysterious effect. Ominous percussion and horns create a busy, dizzying effect on “Slave Song,” another highlight. Through the years Carlton has also balanced his adventurous side with a weakness for pop ballads-represented best here by “‘Til I Hurt You,” a slightly over-arranged, but still appealing duet with the wonderfully incomprehensible, gruff vocalist Michael McDonald. Less appealing tracks follow the lumbering, dull grooves of light R&B or surround Carlton’s solos with a thick insulation of ringing keyboard layers, further dimming the album’s focus.

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