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Acoustic Alchemy: Positive Thinking

Robert Spencer By

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Nick Webb is dead; the Acoustic Alchemy guitarist succumbed to pancreatic cancer not long ago. In the months before he died, his longtime partner Greg Carmichael worked up these tunes with him. He wasn't able to play on the album (he is credited with "composition, arrangements and inspiration"), so John Parson was recruited to take Webb’s place as Carmichael's guitar other half and foil. Miles Gilderdale plays electric guitar and takes care of the programming; Dennis Murphy is on bass guitar, John Shephard on drums, and Rainer Bruninghaus, Mario Argandona and Caroline Dale chip in with keyboards, percussion, and cello and string arrangements, respectively.

Perhaps because of the circumstances, there seems to be a bit of a melancholy edge on this one, cf. principally "Rainwatching W.I." Even the peppier numbers, like "Passionelle," "Cadaqués," and even the title track, sound a little gloomy. But the playing is as flawless as Acoustic Alchemy fans will expect: Carmichael and Parsons don't miss a beat in taking up where Carmichael left off with Webb; it's hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.

Kudos for the tasty ostinatos on "Passionelle" and "The Five Card Trick." The title track puts on a brave face and teases with an anthemic mood; certainly it sounds like a venerable tune, heavy with honors. We don't arrive in funkville until "The Better Shoes," which has the advantage of the sound of all these acoustic guitars skittering out over the heavy machine beat: a bit of refreshment over the tired arrangement. "Vapour Trails" sounds a little like "Wind Beneath My Wings," and "Augusträsse" is Kraftwerk Unplugged.

"Time Gentlemen Please" may be the most melancholy segment of a melancholy set; by the time "Limited Excess" begins, the birds are chirping. We seem to have arrived at dawn at a flamenco of sorts. As a tribute, this is a touching disc. As an Acoustic Alchemy offering, it is competently executed and tasty as ever. Nick Webb, RIP.

| Record Label: GRP Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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