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156

Michael O'Neill: Never Too Late

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Veteran guitarist Michael O'Neill brings to this album a set of enviable credentials. He worked with Stevie Wonder in the 1980's and has been with George Benson for the better part of 14 years. With that length of time, one expects to hear some of the master guitarist's style and approach in O'Neill. It's there, but O'Neill is no Benson clone by any means even as a member of the George Benson/Earl Klugh school of jazz. The O'Neill compositions, which are the bulk of the list (all but two), come from the smooth jazz school. This means that while the music overall is attractive to the ear, i. e., soothingly pretty and breezy, each tune lacks that individuality that sets it apart from the other selections. There's the ever present keyboard, played by a revolving door set of practitioners, including O'Neill taking a turn at the electronic gizmo. There are changes in rhythm and dynamics, but they are subtle to be sure. One gets a true sense of the breadth of O'Neill's skills when he turns down the amps for a lovely solo rendition of the Lennon/McCartney classic "Yesterday." "Echoes of Seville" offers rhythmic, romantic guitar playing and "I Ain't Lyin'" will get your foot tapping. But for the most part, O'Neill follows a road being trod by many of his contemporary/smooth jazz fellows. Like the fusionists of the 1970's, they are attempting to incorporate pop sounds and electronic wizardry into the genre without corrupting it. It is instructive that O'Neill is not only listed as a performer, but as one of the engineers as well. But if smooth jazz is your thing, then this album is a must.

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