After years of working his way around Minnesota and California in various jazz, R&B, and country & western bands, guitarist/keyboardist Keith Methven finally released his own original compositions on Check This Out. The songs are entirely instrumental and played by Methven, and they reflect his past jazz and rock influences as well as his experiences writing and enhancing music. Check This Out boasts a broad range of influences, including Spanish and synthesizer (which is prominent on the album) music, which brings to mind the score to a movie (or more exactly, a collection of individual sections from different movie scores). For that reason, the album is not entirely cohesive, as is the case with most scores. The individual songs, however, are fun, well-played, and packed with emotional expressiveness. There is a certain lightheartedness and playfulness to much of the album that pulls listeners into the experience and keeps them there for the length of the album. This is due to the shifting styles employed by Methven, and is a result of his excellent guitar playing and various synthesizer textures, often recalling theme music from the '80s (such as Jan Hammer or Harold Faltermeyer). Primarily, Methven can maintain interest throughout the entire album because he tells an instrumental story so clearly and grippingly. Each song takes a single idea or circumstance as its theme and spins a musical tale around it. The songs range from romantic ("In a Dream") and delicate ("Love Life") to exuberant and innocent ("The Child," "Snoopy Meets the Mario Brothers" and "The Land of La"). In between those extremes, Methven can get dreamily ambient ("Meditation in a Mixolydian"), classical ("Passion for the Living"), or fall into some smooth jazz ("Song for the New Farm"). James Bond even pops up on the album, on the movie theme-ish "Bond Goes to Spain" and "Big Band Bond." Fun and characteristic of music from a Bond film, the cuts, nevertheless, cannot hold the album together as a single theme. Check This Out is too various to be a single thought or to inspire a singular response from listeners. Many of the compositions, though, are individual pleasures, and for listeners willing to bring to the album a broad range of responses, Check This Out is ultimately rewarding.
Check This Out Review
by Stanton Swihart