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Tone Center On Song With Carlos Santana Tribute And Michael Landau Group

Jim Santella By

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Tone Center Records craft jazz fusion and tribute albums of significance, discs that either do justice to musical heroes who've made a difference or are by artists intending to do the same thing. Featuring fiery fusion guitarists who know how to work up a storm, the label offers action-packed electric vibrations. Recent projects have honored John Coltrane, Steely Dan and Weather Report. Here Tone Center presents a various artists Carlos Santana tribute and a strong double-disc from guitarist Martin Landau and his group.

Various Artists
Viva Carlos!
Tone Center Records

For their tribute to the music of Carlos Santana, Tone Center brings in ten talented guitarists and a powerful rhythm section the better to capture the heat of the original music. Each guitarist has one selection, paying tribute in his own way. Both Vinnie Moore and Jeff Richman wrap their guitars around familiar melodies with a free spirit, and Eric Gales takes on "Jingo with lightning bolts of electric-powered adrenalin. Here, and on Mike Stern's "Oye Como Va, we get the comfortable combination of Latin percussion with fiery guitar work and relaxed vocals.

Unlike many rock outfits, Santana's bands, and these ten compatriots, have always resisted the temptation to sing with a forced manner. Instead, the vocals are relaxed and enjoyable. Guitar assumes the central role of action-master instead. Stern and Pat Martino offer up the best portions of Viva Carlos! with their relaxed rhythmic façade and their enthusiasm for improvisation. They make "Oye Como Va and "Flor D'Luna, respectively, their own. Eric Johnson brings in smooth jazz on "Aqua Marine, while Robben Ford delivers "Blues For Salvador with authenticity. Like Santana, Ford knows the blues inside and out.

Frank Gambale reaches for a hot Latin beat on "Samba De Sausalito, keeping its rhythmic stride going at a fast pace, while Albert Lee's "Samba Pa Ti allows for a more relaxed demeanor. Coco Montoya closes out this excellent tribute with "Jungle Strut, a fast-paced and anxious ballad that pours melody over a rocking backbeat rhythm. He and the other nine, fine guitarists pay homage to a master with superb results.

The Michael Landau Group
Tone Center Records

Guitarist Michael Landau's 2-CD live album contains lyrics for an over-21 audience, with Parental Advisory/Explicit Content warnings, but it's nothing more than what comes with the typical blues and rock formula.

Working at The Baked Potato in North Hollywood, California, Landau rides a contemporary formula that centers on mean guitar. He sings lyrics that he's created, and most of them use everyday street talk. His vocal style is mild and conversational, while his electric guitar is over the top. Fire and hail are nothing compared to what Landau rains upon his audience when the lyrics stop and the guitar advances. His own "6/8 Blues and Maceo Merriweather's "Worried Life Blues take the first CD for a sidebar that honors tradition. Landau and his band feel very much at ease with this kind of relaxed attitude, and their cohesion is a big plus. Elsewhere the leader relies more on his explosive guitar and guy-next-door lyrics to reach his audience. The differences in character are like night and day.

On the second CD, Landau mellows a bit, taking greater care with his singing in order to pass each message across without losing it, while calming down his guitar. He communicates better this way, balancing his vocals sometimes with relaxed guitar asides, at others with fiery interludes. Only two of the six selections on the second CD feature vocals.

Overall, the album rides a high-tension rock wave for emphasis, while taking frequent breaks in the action in order to let Landau communicate with the live audience on other levels too.

Tracks and Personnel

Viva Carlos!

Tracks: Se A Cabo; Europa; Jingo; Oye Como Va; Flor D'Luna (Moonflower); Aqua Marine; Samba De Sausalito; Blues For Salvador; Samba Pa Ti; Jungle Strut.

Personnel: Vinnie Moore, Jeff Richman, Eric Gales, Mike Stern, Pat Martino, Eric Johnson, Frank Gambale, Robben Ford, Albert Lee, Coco Montoya: guitar; Peter Wolf: keyboards, organ; Abraham Laboriel: bass; Dave Weckl: drums; Luis Conte: percussion, vocals.


Tracks: Worried Life Blues; The Sun; A Peaceful Ride; Underwear; 6/8 Blues; Born In The Rain; The Mighty SB; Ghouls And The Goblins; Widow; Johnny Swing; Good Friend; Untitled.

Personnel: Michael Landau: guitar; Scott Kinsey: keyboards; Chuck Kavooras: slide guitar; Jimmy Johnson, Chris Roy: bass; Gary Novak, Ronald Bruner, Jr., Toss Panos: drums.


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