A thoughtfully developed theme or concept for a recording is an underutilized dimension that can add creative depth to a project. Guitarist Dave Stryker nests several themes into Eight Track, his follow-up to his well-received Blue to the Bone IV (Steeplechase, 2012). Eight Track is the guitarist's tip-of- his-hat to the classic AM pop tunes of the 1970s, tunes often heard playing on a car eight-track stereo system. These are songs from the pre-Disco '70s, when a certain sophisticated innocence existed and was dispensed in discreet, three-minute packets of quantum sonic joy. While AOR-FM stations were spinning full LP sides of Led Zeppelin and Allman Brothers, the AM stations were still focusing on the Top 40 fare that would become antique as the '80s turned into the '90s. This nascent nostalgia adds to the richness of Stryker's project
For the ten pop classics included on the album, Stryker uses his regular organ trio partners, Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter supplemented with vibraphonist Stefon Harris. The result is an almost fat-free (i.e., greaseless) performance that is, at once, graceful and swinging. The disc swings off with the Spinner's 1972 single, "I'll Be Around." Stryker establishes his clean round guitar sound early and it mixes well with Harris' soft vibraphone tone, transforming the light R&B anthem into a rolicking jump blues. While this does not establish Stryker's transformative method on the disc, it does set down the refined sonic environment.
Stryker put the polish to Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman/Superfly" medley, rendering the funk pieces smooth on the edges. Against this accompaniment, Stryker solos with funky authority and confidence. Gold cranks the grease only enough to encourage Harris into his best and bluesy Milt Jackson. Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" is given a lilting waltz treatment overwhich Stryker plays single notes peppered with octaves a la Wes Montgomery . "Aquarius" and "Never My Love" rub against each other, producing a warmth that is familiar and secure. If a song is out of place here, it is Pink Floyd's "Money," which is edgier by a half placed against the Jackson Five's "Never Can Say Goodbye" or Bread's "Make it With You." Nevertheless, "Money" is a standout that recalls Booker T. and The MGs more than Dark Side of the Moon (Harvest, 1973).
Stryker's recordings are always hardy and reliable projects, but all of the stars line up for Eight Track. It has a perfect appeal to the middle to late Baby Boomers who came of age listening to this music. And we all know that is the best music ever produced.
I'll Be Around; Pusherman/Superfly; Wichita Lineman; Aquarius; Never My Love; Superwoman; Never Can Say Goodbye; Make It With You; Money; That's The Way Of The World.
Dave Stryker: guitar; Stefon Harris: vibraphone; Jared Gold: organ; McClenty Hunter: drums.
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