Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lance Lopez - Live (2007)

Lance Lopez is one of the artists I discovered via Grooveyard Records (which has an internet radio station now), an independent record company dedicated to, as they describe it, "outstanding total guitar music" (in other words, it's right up my alley). Lots of it is blues-based rock guitar virtuoso type of stuff in the tradition of Jimi Hendrix, which is just the way Lance Lopez could be described. The other artist I latched onto via a Grooveyard Records release was none other than Joe Bonamassa, who has been decidedly more prolific in the past decade than Lance Lopez. Nevertheless, I was blown away by the first Lance album I picked up - Wall of Soul - and it kept me coming back for the subsequent releases of Simplify Your Vision and Higher Ground. Now, as you've probably guessed, I've got my hands on his live album.

My first impression of Lance's live set is that his voice is a whole lot rougher than on his studio albums, and unfortunately not in a good way. However, his guitar work is absolutely top notch, and he scorches on this short collection of numbers divided nicely between the harder rockers (like Hendrix's Spanish Castle Magic and Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor, or, more interestingly, the Lopez-penned There Is Love and the insane second half of Walk It) and, on the other hand, the searing blues (such as the remarkable Mr. Rattlesnake, and I'm Doin' Fine, which totally cooks). But the highlight of the disc would appear to be a twenty-three and a half minute long jam on the Stevie Ray Vaughan-esque slow blues Everytime I Turn Around - except that it's only a 12 minute long jam (though still very impressive), hiding a 12 minute hidden bonus track that turns out to be Hendrix's I Hear My Train A Comin' (always an exciting song to hear).

I have to wonder why they stuck these two tracks together. I'd suggest that they wanted to hide it in order to avoid royalty issues, except that there's already another Hendrix track listed on the disc. At any rate, they could have kept the bonus track hidden (as a pleasant surprise, I guess, or possibly to downplay the emphasis on Hendrix), and still given it its own separate (unlisted) track. As it is, sticking the two songs together is not only misleading (when I saw the track length, I was anticipating a 23 minute long jam), it also makes it more difficult to isolate those tracks for playing individually out of context of the rest of the album. But it's a minor quirk, and it doesn't change the quality of the material on this disc. His vocals might be lacking, but on guitar, Lance is at the top of his form. Fans will not be disappointed with this live album.

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