Hey isn’t that Steve Ray Vaughn?!?! No – wait a minute – it’s Clapton, I just know it! WAIT! It’s some cheesy new age acoustic guy! No, no, no... it’s Steve Vai! Hold on a minute... it’s...
It’s Jeff Kollman – man of 1,000 styles and studio guitarist extrodinaire – and a couple of his buds, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen bassist Barry Sparks and ex-Michael Schenker Group (remember them?) drummer Shane Gaalaas. These fellows have gotten together and created Cosmosquad, whose self-titled debut effort can be best described as belonging squarely in the metal/prog/jazz/fusion/new age/blues genre. In other words, it’s all over the place and as with most recordings that aren’t particularly focused, Cosmosquad works in some places, and not in others.
Before I get into specific tracks, I’d like to point out something that I think is an overlying issue that effects the entire CD. Kollman is a prolific session guitarist, and session guitarists often have to sacrifice their own personal styles for the style of the artist their working for. While that’s actually GOOD on other people’s work, carrying that over into your own work can be a problem. On Cosmosquad, Kollman SOUNDS like a session man in his own band, and not a creative stand alone artist. There’s no doubt that the man’s got some serious chops, but without doing anything innovative with them he’s not utilizing his skills to the fullest potential. The CD is full of impressive axe work, but the CD is NOT full of what it needs most – a soul.
Cosmosquad seems to get its best results when it shows the metal side of itself. Hard-edged tracks such as “I.N.S. Conspiracy” and “Stretch Hog” feature seriously aggressive guitar riffs, and killer drumming by the very talented Shane Gaalaas. The band is also effective in a more mellow mode with the acoustic ballad “Missing You,” which will have you pouring yourself a scotch and kicking band in the E-Z chair. Finally, Kollman and Co. really hit the mark with the sultry blues number, “Slowburn,” where Kollman’s guitar playing is reminiscent of some of Jimmy Page’s finer moments. As a matter of fact, I can imagine Robert Plant screaming “Since I’ve Been Loving You” over top of the tasty groove that Cosmosquad lays down here. Nice work.
Unforunately, things are quite as rosy on other tracks – the first two tracks “El Perro Vaila” and “Three A.M.” sound like Steve Ray Vaughn tribute tracks rather than original compositions. And of course, as on every other fusion guitarists’ albums, “lounge land” beckons and insists that Kollman and the boys take an wrong turn into smooth jazz land with the ill-advised cuts “The Scene” and “Pugs in Central Park”. It’s almost as if Jeff Kollman wants to prove to the world that he can play in every style imaginable. Well, I’m convinced... unfortunately I’m a little bored, too.
If Kollman and Cosmosquad could make a decision to focus on one or two particular genres (preferrably metal/blues), I’m certain they could make a killer album. Also, even though I know this may be blasphemous in fusion circles, but whoever said you can’t throw a vocal or two on some of these fusion CDs? Some of the tracks on Cosmosquad just screamed for vocal accompaniment, and I think the boys should give that avenue a try on their next effort. The musicianship is definitely top-notch on Cosmosquad, it’s just the talent is mostly wasted on fusion cliches and what amounts to a lot of pointless noodling.