The limited-edition EP O was originally intended as an appetizer, a brief preview of Monk's forthcoming sixth full-length album. But when the LP was waylaid indefinitely by label difficulties, Monk fans were forced to treat the appetizer as a main course. It is, to be sure, a tantalizing morsel. The set begins and ends with "Middle Way," which just may be the best and most completely realized song in the Monk catalog. It is the product of a remarkable dream-team trio of guitarists. Monk's resident ambient wizard, Ric Hordinski, wrote the song with contemporary folk veteran David Wilcox, who habitually writes intricate fingerstyle songs in inventive tunings. But they left the lead guitar to the venerable Phil Keaggy, CCM's most celebrated fretsmith. The song mates a well-crafted poem about spiritual self-discovery with a memorable hook and a richly multi-layered sonic environment. Hordinski takes the lead vocal on track one, the version that was to appear on the ill-fated Monk record. Wilcox sings track six, which was recorded for his own record, What You Whispered. Comparing that song and "Something to See," a hypnotic half-spoken tune which sports a funkier attitude than most of Monk's work, with the EP's live recording of "That's My Love," a catchy but more insubstantial track from Quiver, suggests that Hordinski has grown as both a songwriter and a producer since his debut. The textured world fusion of the instrumental "Lemon Grass" lends further support to that hypothesis. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that the sidelined LP would have been Monk's finest.
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