Who is Geno White, you ask? Well, that’s what I asked as well when I received his 1996 instrumental guitar showcase Standing in Stereo
for review. However, after a few listenings, I was surprised that EVERYONE doesn’t know who this fellow is – White is an A-list guitarist with a sound very reminiscent of Lifeson and Hendrix, and at the same time manages to avoid the all to popular pitfall of noodling for noodling’s sake. Standing in Stereo
is not just another pointless collection of guitar solos, it is a collection of well-composed SONGS with guitar being the lead instrument.
The CD kicks off with the multi-track sounding attack of “Temptations of Electric,” a 2-minute warm-up piece that has White creating a layered guitar sound (a la Jimmy Page) peppered with feedback and other guitar trimmings. “Temptations” really isn’t a SONG per se, this sounds more like White revving up to let loose on the rest of the CD. And let loose he does with the second track “Army of the Gone,” which along with “Skin Risk” sounds very much like one of Rush’s signature instrumental pieces (“YYZ” and “Leave That Thing Alone” come to mind). The drumming of Chick Ragan helps to give the Rush comparison a little more credibility, as he does a great job laying out complex beats for White to jam on top of. Ragan also gets a groovy Mitch Mitchell vibe going on “Houdini Street” and “Lovechoke,” allowing lead man White to absolutely assault these tracks with mind-blowing Hendrix-like leads. This, my friends, is “cajones-out” rock and roll!
There’s only a few blunders on Standing in Stereo - the blues-flavored “Angel of Stereo” is a bit too slow and plodding and really never gets going. “Riverwide” and “Watertoys” are solo tracks by White and Ragan respectively, and frankly they both sound a bit like 2 minutes of dudes practicing in their basements. “Watertoys” actually does show a bit of promise with Ragan’s arrhythmic drumming, but the song really never takes off and ends before it has a chance to get started. However, other than those minor complaints Standing in Stereo delivers the guitar-laden goods in spades.
One of the reasons the CD works so well is White resists the temptation to stretch songs out past 4 or so minutes in length, and didn’t feel the need to fill the CD with 70+ minutes of music. The CD clocks in at a concise 35 minutes, and only one track breaches the 5-minute barrier (“Wasabi” at 5:05). The length of the CD and its tracks give ample space for White and his band to get across their musical ideas – any longer and White would’ve risked become tedious. All said, Standing in Stereo is an excellent collection of guitar-based songs, with some serious jammin’ from a guy who really knows his way around the fret board and is deserved of much more recognition than he’s enjoyed.