Album Reviews

California Guitar Trio – The First Decade

(Inside Out) UK release date: 6 October 2003

California Guitar Trio - The First Decade There is a scene at the start of The Beach where Leonardo DiCaprio advises wannabe travellers not to outstay their welcome. I think the same philosophy can be applied to music, and I think that on this album the California Guitar Trio don’t abide by it. With 19 tracks, this album is simply too long, even if some of the tracks, such as Kaleidoscope at under a minute, are short. It’s not that the songs start to become bad per se – it’s the fact that they start to sound too familiar, too samey.

On the flipside, this is a guitar player’s album. Most of the tracks are the said. trio with acoustic guitars and nothing else – no drums, no bass, no piano and no vocals. And what damn fine guitar players they are. The entire album shows off the Pittsburgh (!) trio’s talent. It sounds like it was recorded live and in one or two takes as there are times when you can hear “fret buzz”. This just adds to the character and adds a more personal touch.

The best tracks on the album are those that are more frantic. Opening track Yamanashi Blues, the opus Train To Lamy Suite Parts 1-5, Beeline, Melrose Avenue and Pathways are fast and hectic and for the guitar players, full of hammer ons, trills and pull offs.The trio speed up and down the fret board with each guitar accompanying the last with pinpoint accuracy and technique.

It has its own style, but there are touches of classical, Spanish, Flamenco, rock and jazz guitar. Many of the song titles give you an idea for the feel of this album: Beeline, Pathways, Scramble and Kaleidoscope. They all invoke an image by themselves and the relentless acoustic guitar adds to an almost futuristic soundscape.

For those not familiar with their work, take the guitars of an Ozric Tentacles album, put them onto an acoustic guitar and take away all the swooshes and electronic noise and you will be on your way.

The Last Decade is not the most accessible album and will not reach Number 1. It’s more for music connoisseurs who appreciate real musical talent and ability when they hear it, rather than over-produced, irrelevant pop tripe. That said, it is too long and even the most ardent fan will find themselves skipping some of the middle filler.

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