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Michael O’Neill: Never Too Late

Another veteran guitarist, and featured player with George Benson’s ensemble, Michael O’Neill brings his gentle, jazzy riffs to Never Too Late. O’Neill’s fleet, bubbly lines have a bit of Benson in them, but are often covered by heavy keyboards and effects. The quiet, urban mood of the album’s title track, for example, is interrupted by a few too many synth waves and crackles washing around the guitarist’s pretty refrain. Likewise, O’Neill’s thoughtful, introspective lines on “For You” are submerged in sticky keyboard goo, slowing the song’s pace irreparably. Not surprisingly, the best cuts here showcase the guitarist in more organic settings: where the brightly whirling, Spanish-toned “Echoes of Seville” finds the band smartly getting out of the way to let O’Neill’s masterful licks shine through, the pulse-racing “I Ain’t Lyin'” builds a framework of bustling horns and drums around O’Neill’s blue-jazzy runs. To really get a feel for O’Neill’s talents, check out his remarkable solo treatment of “Yesterday.” He reinvents and wrenches new emotion from this oft-covered Beatles classic in a breathtaking single instrument arrangement.

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