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The Graham Album Review #2177

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Marcus Rezak: Guitar Head

(Independent release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 11/29/2023)

That most ubiquitous of instruments in contemporary music, the electric guitar, has engendered about as many styles of playing it as there are varieties of the music, straight rock, metal, straight jazz, jazz-rock fusion, blues, grunge, country, the list goes on and on. On this album review series, we have featured a fair number of albums by fusion guitarists, since that’s where some of the best musicianship on electric guitar seems to reside. But there are players in all these genres who are no slouches. This week, we have a new release from a first-rate rock player, Marcus Rezak, whose new third album is called, perhaps appropriately, Guitar Head.

Marcus Rezak is from Chicago and has strong academic credentials, including a bachelor’s in music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and a masters in jazz composition from DePaul Unviersity in 2012.

Over the years, he has developed a reputation as a road warrior playing over 200 shows a year, mainly with cover bands, including his group Shred Is Dead, a Grateful Dead tribute band, and also a band dedicated to the music of Phish. But Rezak has put his compositional skills to work on his solo albums, including Gateway to the Galaxy and Truth In Sound. The new album, Guitar Head features constant personnel with a quintet including keyboard man Ray Paczkowski, who has been part of Phish-founder Trey Anastasio’s band, bassist Chris DeAngelis, who played with the band Kung Fu, drummer Adrian Tramontaro also from the band Kung Fu, along with horn player Erik Lawrence, who has been working with the venerable band Little Feat. The result is a rather wide-ranging rock album, with Rezak doing the lead vocals, though it’s not his strongest point. But while keeping a rock sensibility, the album ventures into funk, blues and even a mellow ballad.

Rezak lives up to the album’s title of bring a “guitar head” with his impressive fretwork, fast and clean, energetic without being exhibitionist. His original tunes are generally appealing and highlight his guitar, while his lyrics are not exactly the stuff that will change the world. The bluesy tunes have appropriate lyrics, and several of the songs are self-referential, about the music.

Opening is one of the stronger rockers, Sweet Like Mary Jane, built around some classic-style memorable guitar riffs. <<>>

One of the album’s funky tunes is called Funk It Right, which shows some James Brown influence, and features Eric Lawrence’s overdubbed horns. <<>> Rezak gets to so some energetic soloing. <<>>

More toward mainstream rock is Time to Breathe Again with a slightly more produced sound and lyrics that are a cut above most of the rest of the album. <<>>

As mentioned, Rezak plays in a Phish tribute band, and this album’s keyboard man, Ray Paczkowski, is part of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio’s band. So it’s not surprising that the track called Soul Glow can evoke some Phish influence. <<>>

Rezak does a slow blues called Going the Distance, a track that is also one of the musically stronger on the album. <<>>

Likewise in the blues mode is Chicago Hometown Blues a kind of musical monologue about his hometown and its cold winters. <<>>

A considerable change of pace comes on Butterfly Fingers a slow, melodic instrumental ballad in the tradition of the old instrumental hit Sleepwalk. It’s nice to hear Rezak on clean-sounding guitar. It shows he can really play. <<>>

The album ends with a tune called Funky Bitch done in a New Orleans-style groove. The lyrics are a bit old-school in this day and age. <<>>

Guitar Head the appropriately-named new album from Chicago-based guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Marcus Reazk, is a nice collection of original music that highlights his notable guitar chops. The material is a good cross-section of various rock-influenced styles, and he does a very respectable job with each. The band, assembled specifically for the album, is tight and raises he level of the material.

Our grade for sound quality is an “A-Minus” with an admirable mix, decent clarity and respect for the instrumentation. But like so many recordings these days, it falls down for excessive compression which robs the recording of the dynamics and waters down the punchiness that these skilled musicians put into their performances.

In a world so dominated by electronic pop, a high-quality, straight-out rock guitar album is something of a rarity these days. But Marcus Rezak and his assembled band definitely deliver on this new album.

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This page last updated December 03, 2023