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The Graham Album Review #2183

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Brian Tarquin and his Heavy Friends: Beyond the Warrior's Eyes

(Independent Release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/24/2024)

Despite the proliferation of electronic-based music, the electric guitar remains fundamental to most rock, and as such, there is a long history of rock guitarists recording their own albums, many of them instrumental recordings. This week, we have a kind of classic example. It’s the new release by Florida-based guitarist Brian Tarquin and what he calls his “Heavy Friends,” called Beyond the Warrior’s Eyes.

Brian Tarquin does a lot of his work creating soundtracks, in fact, he has won three Emmy Awards for “music direction and composition in a dramatic series,”creating music for such TV series as “All My Children,” “CSI,” “Ellen DeGeneres,” “Seinfeld,” and “Sex and the City.” Over the years, he has released over 20 albums, many of them marked by an impressive guest list of collaborators.

The new album Beyond the Warrior’s Eyes continues in that tradition, with guest appearances by violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, blues and fusion guitarist Robben Ford, rock guitar maven Eric Johnson, Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs, Chris Poland from the band Megadeath, and Carl Verheyen from the Supertramp. The guests are generally featured in solos on specific tracks, while Tarquin plays most of the other instruments, with the exception of the drums, which are played by Reggie Pryor. On the jazz-to-rock spectrum, this album definitely lands near the rock end of things, with a fair amount of powered-up shredding, and compositions that tend toward the rock in their structure and rhythmic approach. Tarquin describes this album’s “mission” is to support the organization called Hope for the Warriors, which provides medical and mental health services to injured Navy Men and Marines, hence several of the titles make references to soldiers and their battles.

Opening is the title track Beyond the Warrior’s Eyes whose guest soloist is the great fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, now 81-years old, but sounding in great form. It’s pretty much straight rock, with repetitive riffs <<>> until it takes off in the bridge section with Ponty’s solo. <<>>

Eric Johnson makes his appearance on the following track The Gates of Valhalla. Another notable fusion guitarist Dean Brown also appears on the track. <<>>

More laid back in sound, but still pretty heavy is the bluesy track Quiet Desperation with blues guitarist Robben Ford and Hal Lindes of Dire Straits as the guest soloists. <<>>

Metal guitarist Chris Poland from the Megadeth band appears on a track called Behind the Iron Curtain, which tends to fall into cliches for this kind of electric guitar rock. <<>>

Also from the jazz-rock fusion world, is John Tropea, who played in Billy Cobham’s band, and Steve Morse, who was a founder of the Dixie Dregs. They both appear, taking turns on solos on the tune called Faith and Hope. It’s one of the better compositions on the album with its varying facets and more interesting arrangement. <<>>

The most bombastic track on the album is called A Solder’s Journey which features the Budapest String Orchestra. The guest soloist is violinist Steve Kindler. It sounds something like Queen or Pink Floyd at their more self-indulgent. <<>>

On the other hand, with a bit of jazz-influence with its 6/8 meter, is Le Sierra Del Norte. It features some nice guitar work from Supertramp’s Carl Verheyen. <<>>

The album ends with its only vocal, These Colors Don’t Run which again features Steve Morse, with the vocal by Phil Naro. It’s done as a ballad and its over-the-top patriotic lyrics would be more appropriate in the country music world. <<>>

Brian Tarquin & Heavy Friends’ new album Beyond the Warrior’s Eyes is a present for rock guitar fans who will get plenty of shredding and pretty straight ahead rock-style tunes, with not a lot of jazz complexity harmonically or rhythmically. The album does have its share of tropes, from the heavy dual-lead guitar passages, that recall 70s or 80s stadium rock, to fast guitar runs, to the track with all the strings playing the rock tune. But it’s all well done, and the guest soloists do contribute quite a bit, while Tarquin himself puts in some impressive guitar work, not to mention playing the keyboards and the bass on several tracks.

Our grade for audio quality is an “A-minus.” The mix has everything in the right place, but the typical bugaboo of excessive volume compression makes the music sound flat with the dynamics and especially the drums losing impact.

While the audience for Beyond the Warrior’s Eyes is likely to be guitar heads, the album has enough appeal that many will find it quite enjoyable.

(c) Copyright 2024 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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This page last updated January 29, 2024