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(SCI Fidelity 1026 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 9/7/2005)
As long as there is rock music, there will be rock guitar luminaries. And from the earliest days of rock, there has been a kind of sub-genre of instrumental rock guitar albums, going back to people like Duane Eddy. This week, we have worthwhile and fairly distinctive recording by the Steve Kimock Band called Eudemonic. Although the sounds are familiar, the CD does not neatly fit into a stylistic niche. It's more mellow than your typical hotshot rock or fusion recording, but hardly lightweight in sound or material. There are some lengthy tracks, but it does not sound like a jam band. There are some interesting musical and sonic techniques, but the overall sound is comfortably familiar.
Steve Kimock came from a musical family. His aunt was a folksinger who performed with Pete Seeger at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. One time, Steve Kimock's older brother returned from the service bringing with him a gold-colored Les Paul electric guitar, and young Steve, who grew up on and was smitten at an early age by the Beatles, decided to get his own guitar, and was soon practicing some twelve hours a day. He is still said to interact with his instrument at almost every opportunity.
Kimock was in some high school bands, but after graduating, joined the Goodman Brothers band, and followed them as they relocated to California in 1976. For a while, he lived in a cabin next to the Ali Akbar Khan School of Music, and with the exotic Eastern sounds filtering in, he developed an affinity for world music influences. It's another ingredient that goes into Kimock's interesting mix. Other sideman stints for Kimock include being in the Heart of Gold Band with Keith and Donna Godcheaux, of the Grateful Dead, and a band called KVHW, with Bobby Vega, Alan Hertz and Ray White.
Kimock has been fronting his own band for some six years now, and he has finally released his first full album under his own name, Eudemonic.
For this recording, he is joined by his long-time musical colleague, drummer Rodney Holmes, along with former Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson, Jim Kost on keyboards, and Mitch Stein on additional guitars.
Eudemonic is not the kind of CD that immediately hit you over the head its power or flashy virtuosity, but is a solid, pleasing, tasteful recording that will quickly grow on one. The style is mostly unhyphenated rock, with some influence from soul and jazz-rock fusion, but for the most part it's rock guitar that's not turned up very loud, instead concentrates on the colors and textures of the sound
The CD opens with what is essentially the title track, Eudemon, which by the way, means a beneficial spirit. The track represents the more soul-influenced facet of the recording. Like the rest of the CD, it's nicely done. <<>>
The influence of the Eastern music Kimock was exposed to in his earlier days shows itself in the track called The Bronx Experiment, with its modal sound, plus acoustic instruments such as mandolin. It's one of the highlights of the album. <<>>
A bit more cranked up in energy level and volume is The Bouncer, which integrates early rock elements with more hints of jazz-rock fusion. <<>>
Sometimes the CD is a bit too laid-back for its own good. In Reply, though tastefully played, is the sort of piece that could find a home in the background to a film or commercial. <<>>
On the other hand, the lengthiest track is also one with lots of musical interest. It's called Elmer's Revenge. The vaguely spooky mood provides the backdrop for a musically creative composition which puts its length to good use, being more like an art rock suite than a jam band performance. <<>>
Also on the mellow side is One for Brother Mike, though it builds momentum, and features Kimock using a number of different guitar sounds. <<>>
Another track that sounds as if it could the theme song to something is Moon People <<>> which builds to one of Kimock's rare distorted guitar solos. <<>>
The CD ends with Tongue n' Groove a competent if not terribly memorable slower composition, that features Kimock on steel guitar, which does give the track a distinctive sound. <<>>
The Steve Kimock Band's CD Eudemonic is probably most of interest to rock guitar fans. But it's a recording that almost anyone can find themselves drawn to, with first-rate musicianship, a wealth of musical ideas, and a decent variety of sonic colors. It's a CD that can provide the musical backdrop to other activities -- it makes great driving music -- and also has enough ideas and sonic colors on its palette that devoting one's full attention to it is rewarded. Kimock, in his understated way, shows his versatility on everything from mandolin to steel guitar.
Our sonic grade is about a B-plus. The overall sound is a bit lacking in airy high-frequencies, and there is the usual excessive compression typical of CDs these days, but the mix has good clarity and everything is audible and in the right place.
Rock guitarists tend to make their reputation based on flash, speed or outright volume. Steve Kimock has made an instrumental rock album that is a more subtle effort, concentrating on good composing and tasteful playing. And although the CD contains some lengthy tracks, and was released by the label started by the jam band the String Cheese Incident, this CD does not come off so much as a jam band record. Though it avoids the easy stereotypes, Eudemonic is an enjoyable album of definite interest both to fans of rock guitar, and to those looking for some good, intelligent instrumental music.
(c) Copyright 2005 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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