Fusion guitarist Daryll Dobson released Studio 21
back in 1994, a record of light, R&B flavored instrumental fusion with one song featuring a guest vocalist. Since then, Dobson has released several other electric fusion records, including Healing Intentions
and Mind Electric
The first half of Studio 21
is dreamy light fusion, with songs that seem to run together with similar sounding phrases. The guest vocals on "Down to This" and the soprano saxophone on several tracks help to revive this sluggishness and add a more distinctive character to those songs. The music picks up on the second half of the record, with snappy angular piano chording on "Now" and shifting chords under soaring electric guitar on "The Message." The acoustic guitar piece "Earth Sighs" is the album's strongest moment, where the synth drums and other unwieldy trappings are stripped away, leaving only a brooding melody and Dobson's skillful guitar work.
Dobson plays or sequences all instruments, except the piano on two tracks and soprano sax on three. The guitar playing is sharp, but the drum programming on several tracks feels stiff and awkward. The synth patches used for drums and some keyboards, such as the hand clap snare drum sound, sound dated and amateurish, even by 1994 standards. However, the tones from the real instruments like guitar and soprano saxophone ring clear and true.
Daryll Dobson's Studio 21 is a solid work in the lighter fusion / R&B style, showing potential but room for improvement.