If The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005) is Pat Metheny Group's magnum opus, then Secret Story is the guitarist's greatest achievement as a solo artist to date. A sprawling, 76-minute epic featuring a wealth of guest artists, members of a symphony orchestra and Metheny playing countless parts on an arsenal of guitars and keyboards, its only flaw has been the comparably thin sound that marred much of his Geffen-era work. Secret Story: Deluxe Edition not only gives the album the sonic upgrade it's been waiting for, but includes a second disc with five tracks that, while recorded for the date, were ultimately omitted.
Metheny has always leaned towards long-form, through-composed writing, especially in collaboration with pianist Lyle Mays on Pat Metheny Group albums. Here, as sole composer, one can hear Mays' contribution to PMG through its absence. While there's no lack of complexity here, there's stronger romanticism and less mathematical logic. Still, Metheny makes many of his roots clear, most notably the pulse-driven minimalism of composer Steve Reich, whose influence can be heard on the sweeping "Cathedral in a Suitcase" and multi- layered, contrapuntal "Finding and Believing," where the late Mark Ledford's many times overdubbed voice is pitted against percussive guitar and keyboard parts.
While Secret Story's rich compositional approach eschews the spontaneity of Metheny's more open-ended trio projects, there's still no shortage of strong improvising throughout, most notably his electric guitar solos on the propulsive Midwestern Americana of "Facing West" and more change-heavy "See the World," and his signature trumpet-like guitar synth on the balladic "The Longest Summer" and powerfully dramatic "The Truth Will Always Be."
Metheny's world view is all over Secret Story, from the opening "Above the Treetops," based on a traditional Cambodian hymn, to the classical romanticism of "Tell Her You Saw Me," the backbeat-driven and near-anthemic "Sunlight" and Brazilian-informed "Rain River." While most Metheny albums have each possessed a relatively singular focus, Secret Story's broad narrative is the most inclusive representation of the guitarist as composer and multi-instrumentalist.
Tthe added tracks on disc two are intriguing, but it's easy to see why they weren't included on the original release. The orchestra-driven "Back in Time," the best of the bunch, features harmonicist Toots Thielemans and Metheny's graceful nylon-string guitar, while "Et si c'était la fin" is a bright, Burt Bacharach-like piece of pop. These tunes bookend three tracks"Understanding," "A Change in Circumstance" and "Look Ahead" that are unfortunately mislabeled. The first features the entire Pat Metheny Group, a delicate, through- composed piece; the second is another orchestral piece featuring harpist Skaila Kanga; and the last is a brief orchestral miniature.
For those who already own Secret Story, the bonus tracks are an interesting view into how and why certain pieces make it onto an album while others don't. But it's the beautifully warm and rich remastering, revealing details previously unheard, that makes Secret Story: Deluxe Edition definitive, essential, and a welcome return to print of an indisputable masterpiece.
CD1: Above the Treetops; Facing West; A Cathedral in a Suitcase; Finding and Believing; The Longest Summer; Sunlight; Rain River; Always and Forever; See the World; As a Flower Blossoms (I am Running to You); Antonia; The Truth Will Always Be; Tell Her You Saw Me; Not to Be Forgotten (Our Final Hour). CD2: Back in Time; Understanding; A Change in Circumstance; Look Ahead; Et si c'Etait la fin (As If It Were the End).
Pat Metheny: acoustic guitars (CD1#1, CD1#2, 4-6, CD1#8, CD1#9, CD2#1, CD2#2), synths CD1# (1-4, CD1#6-10, CD1#12, CD1#13), electric basses (CD1#2), keyboards (CD1#2, CD1#3, CD1#6, CD1#7, CD1#11, CD1#12, CD2#1, CD2#2, CD2#5), electric guitars (CD1#2-4, CD1#6, CD1#7, CD1#11, CD2#2), guitar synth (CD1#3, CD1#5, CD1#12), keyboard bass (CD1#3), electric percussion (CD1#3, CD1#4, CD1#12), electric sitars (CD1#4, CD1#7), piano (CD1#4, CD1#10, CD1#11, CD2#5), acoustic piano (CD1#5), electric piano (CD1#6-9), pikasso guitar (CD1#10), Synclavier accordion (CD1#11), guitar (CD1#13, CD2#4, CD2#5); Charlie Haden: acoustic bass (CD1#1, CD1#8), bass (CD2#1); Nana Vasconcelos: percussion (CD1#1, CD1#4, CD1#5, CD1#10-12), voice (CD1#11); Armando Marçal: percussion (CD1#1, CD1#3-7, CD1#9, CD2#2); Members of the London Orchestra, conducted by Jeremy Lubbock; Lyle Mays: acoustic piano (CD1#2, CD1#6, CD2#2), keyboards (CD2#2); Steve Ferrone: drums (CD1#3, CD1#4 Part 1, CD1#5 Part 2, CD1#12); Mark Ledford: voice (CD1#3, CD1#4, CD2#2); Danny Gottleib: cymbal roll (CD1#3, CD1#11); Will Lee: bass (CD1#4 Part 1), electric bass (CD1#6, CD1#12, CD2#5); Steve Rodby: acoustic bass (CD1#4 Part 3, CD1#5-7, CD1#9, CD1#11, CD2#2) electric bass (CD1#6); Paul Wertico: drums (CD1#4 Part 3, CD1#5 Part 1, CD1#7, CD1#9, CD1#11, CD2#2); Gil Goldstein: accordion (CD1#4), acoustic piano (CD1#7, CD1#9); Sammy Merendino: drums (CD1#6); Andy Findore: flute (CD1#7); Michael Mossman: trumpet and flugelhorn (CD1#9); Mike Metheny: trumpet and flugelhorn (CD1#9); Ryan Kisor: trumpet and flugelhorn (CD1#9); Tom Malone: trombone (CD1#9); Dave Taylor: bass trombone (CD1#9); Dave Bargeron: tuba (CD1#9), trombone (CD1#9); John Clark: French Horn (CD1#9); Anthony Jackson: contrabass guitar (CD1#9 interlude); Akiko Yano: lyrics and voice (CD1#10); Toots Thielemans: harmonica (CD1#11, CD2#1); Skaila Kanga: harp (CD1#13, CD2#4); David Blamires: voice (CD2#2); Paulo Bragi: drums (CD2#5); Members of the Quebec Children's Choir (CD2#5).
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