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Steve Tibbetts: Hellbound Train—An Anthology


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Steve Tibbetts: Hellbound Train—An Anthology
A career anthology of trumpeter Miles Davis' music would struggle for cohesion, trying to combine sounds from his Birth Of The Cool (Capitol, 1957) to the first and second great quintets, to Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) and On the Corner (Columbia, 1972). It is a stew that is hard to digest in one sitting. It makes more sense to listen to the albums separately rather than putting snippets into one package. The same could be said for pianist Herbie Hancock, considering Takin' Off (Blue Note, 1962) to Empyrean Isles (Blue Note, 1964) to Mwandishi (Warner Brothers, 1971), to Sextant (Columbia 1973) to Head Hunters (Columbia, 1973). As exceptional as all these albums are, an hour or two sit-down in front of the speakers sifting through portions of wildly divergent sounds that would come from an anthology probably would not gel.

Not so with guitarist Steve Tibbetts.

In a recording career that began in 1976 and picked up traction with his ECM Records debut, Northern Song (1981), Tibbets has maintained a remarkably focused and cohesive vision. He has played in soothing acoustic modes; he offers up some searing electricity, but always his music hypnotizes and pulses with an organic spiritual bliss. Pick an album, sit in a comfortable chair in a dim room, press "Play" and a vision might come to mind of a wall-mounted holographic television set from the future presenting amorphous shapes and striking alien landscapes opening an entrance into another dimension that offers an immersion into a completely otherworldly soundtrack. A whole new world.

Hellbound Train—An Anthology, brings the word "minimalism" to mind. The instrumentation is spare, consisting mostly of Tibbets' signature guitar work interwoven by percussion instruments (much from Tibbets' long-time cohort, Marc Anderson)—a kalimba, steel drums, congas, gongs, hand pans, bongos and the occasional bass and cello, all of these together shaping an understated ambience, with the occasional electric guitar squalling out of diaphanous backdrops.

The album is assembled in electric and acoustic chapters in a collation of mesmerizing stories that have absorbed global music influences to create surreal sonic landscapes that emerge from the hologram to surround and embrace those who choose to experience Tibbett's unconventional and distinctive art.

The two-CD, 127-minute set includes music from seven of Tibbets' ECM Records albums, collated in an unusual fashion—beginning with one tune from The Fall Of Us All (1994), then five from A Man About A Horse (2002), then one each from Exploded View (1987) and Safe Journey (1984), followed by five in a row from Big Map Idea (1989), and so on. This is brilliantly done, the tune choices and sequencing making a compelling experience. Tibbetts chose the tunes; Manfred Eicher, the boss at ECM Records, is listed as the producer, so a tip of the hat to both men for putting together a terrific package that showcases Steve Tibbets' idiosyncratic talents.

In addition, ECM Records is known for its appealing cover art. Things go to another level here, with a eye-grabbing cover photo and— instead of ECM's customary cardboard sleeve over the jewel case—a sturdy cardboard box to house a cardboard trifold album cover. It is as if Tibbets and Eicher knew they were giving the world something timeless and beautiful. And important.

Track Listing

CD 1: Full Moon Dogs; Chandoha; Lochana; Black Temple; Burning Temple; Glass Everywhere; Roan And Spy; Hellbound Train; Nyemma; Your Cat; Vision. CD 2:;Chandogra; Climbing; Black Mountain Side; Start; 100 Moons; Mile 234; Wish; Ishvaravana; Bloodwork; Life Of Someone; Life Of Emily; The Big Wind; Aerial View; Night Again; My Last Chance; End Again; Threnaody.


Steve Tibbetts: guitar; Marc Anderson: percussion.

Additional Instrumentation

CD 1: Jim Anton: bass: (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9); Eric Anerson: bass (1, 8, 9); Bob Hughs: bass (10, 11); Mike Olsen: synthesizer (7); Marcus Wise: tablas (8, 10); Claudia Schmidt: voice (1, 9); Rhea Valentine: voice (1). CD 2: Michelle Kinney: cello, drones (9, 10, 11, 16); Bob Hughs: bass (15); Tim Weinhold: vase, bongos (15); Marcus Wise: tabla (3).

Album information

Title: Hellbound Train—An Anthology | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: ECM Records

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