Mike Keneally Band
Guitar Therapy Live


Given the fact that I'd enjoyed all the albums Mike Keneally had put out starting with his first official solo release, hat. (though I obviously didn't like every single featured item with exactly the same amount of enthusiasm), I was very surprised when, two years ago, I found myself being quite puzzled by the new Mike Keneally Band "rock" album, Dog. The compositions were good (if maybe not terribly different from what he had already put on record?). The players (with new drummer Nick D'Virgilio alongside familiar faces Bryan Beller and Rick Musallam), merely excellent. So? I arrived at the conclusion that - for this writer, at least - it was the "sound" of the record (i.e., spatial placement, eq., vocals/instruments level ratio) that appeared to work against the material.

That Keneally was not a tired composer was definitely proved, just a few months later, by the release of The Universe Will Provide, the album he had recorded with the Metropole Orkest. Perhaps he had become a tired "rock" composer? Well, for that question to be answered we will have to wait for the release of his next "rock" album of unreleased material. Meanwhile, we can have a lot of fun listening (and watching!) Guitar Therapy Live.

I hope it doesn't sound like a paid advertisement when I say that - the CD being released in a "plain" edition and in a "deluxe, limited" edition which offers both a CD and a DVD-V - it's the latter combination that's the real deal. Recorded on the tiny stage of the world-famous Baked Potato, the DVD-V shows the band in good light (at least musically: during a large portion of the second set Keneally's left cheek looks grey. Yikes!), and after a while one is so captured by the fine performances that one don't even notice the girl with the ponytail bringing much-needed liquid refreshment to the tables anymore.

The musical relationship among the band members is simply astonishing. Those "in the know" when it comes to Keneally matters will ponder the differences between the rhythmic axis of Bryan Beller and Joe Travers and the Beller/D'Virgilio edition shown on Dog's visual portion. Watching the Guitar Therapy video will also solve the mystery of who plays the intricate keyboard parts on Hum, where we already have two guitars (it's Keneally, playing the keyboard with his right hand while playing the fretboard with his left). While the work of the rhythm section is always inventive - and very clearly executed - for this writer it's Musallam that's the revelation here: see/hear him playing all the guitar parts on the Beller-penned Seven Percent Grade (off his nice solo CD View); that fine solo on Tranquillado; and in general offering Les Paul shadings to Keneally's Charvel sophisticated heavosity.

Speaking of Keneally: he plays with fire and finesse - what's this thing about his "overplaying on any single solo", as declared by the artist himself in the liner notes? While we are at it, what's this thing about "we mixed the guitar louder than the voice" and "my singing is what it is"? (Jimi Hendrix had the same problem, right?) "Pride Is A Sin", true, but isn't this going a bit too far in the opposite direction in the "moral virtuosity dept."?

The music presented here is obviously "rock" (for those on the "punky side" it'll maybe sound like "self-indulgent whatever", but it is "rock" - just think: King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa), not "a fusionoid extravaganza". (The very fact that nowadays it's necessary for one to stress such a basic concept shows how we've fallen.) Readers who prize those tiny gestures absolutely necessary to properly perform a piece need read no more.

The repertory comes from all over the map, with Panda and Pride Is A Sin off the last CD, a perennial favourite like Lightnin' Roy, intricate/humorous things such as Beautiful, (semi)acoustic excursions like Machupicchu, "prog" anthems such as Voyage To Manhood, and a different reading of Nonkertompf's Hum. Add Spoon Guy, Uglytown, Top Of Stove Melting, 'Cause Of Breakfast (and the epics Cowlogy and Own - DVD-V only).

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2006

CloudsandClocks.net | July 2, 2006