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Various Artists: Jam on Guitars

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Jam on Guitars, a new twelve-track compilation from Magnatude, assembles wildly eclectic playing from guitarists across a wide variety of disciplines. With music that ranges from warm & bright roots-rock jams and minor key, bluesy shuffles to wah-wah drenched funk throwdowns and borderline easy listening, the disc’s genre-jumping demonstrates the guitar’s range, but proves to be a bit of an uneven listen.

Michael Lee Firkins’ “Took the Words Right Outta My Mouth,” kicks off the disc with Hammond B3 fills and the leader’s twangy, slightly fuzzed-out slide work, and is followed by Steve Morse’s harmonized-lead stomp, “Free in the Park.” A joyous horn-and-organ driven take on Sly and the Family Stone’s funk-rock staple “Dance to the Music” precedes an unlikely pairing that follows: Alex Skolnick of thrash metal bastion Testament and the ever-adventurous eight-string jazz-fusion master Charlie Hunter, who bounce snaky, fluid lines off each other’s amps in “Scorch,” a cerebral, syncopated jazz-funk shuffle.

“Gulab Jammin'” is a six-minute detour into a heady Indian groove, replete with tribal-chant background vocals and pulsating percussion. After the breezy easy-prog of “Lake Shore Drive,” Phil Upchurch’s “Flashlight” gets the funk party going again, and Will Bernard cranks up the distortion for his fat power chords and serpentine-like slide guitar figures in “Dump Truck.” Unfortunately, “Rome” and “Disdots” are marred by heavy use of synth, and closer “Starlite Jamboree” continues the easy pace of its predecessors, and never quite catches fire.

Although it’s billed as a collection of the finest players in “jam band universe,” there isn’t much here to please the palate of the noodle-jam lovers. The liner notes also praise the disc’s emphasis on “substance, not technique.” There is some outstanding playing here – but only a fraction of it seems truly inspired.

Originally Published