Wolf Hoffmann

Classical

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Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann, formerly of the underrated German heavy metal band Accept, focused his love of classical music into a fascinating instrumental solo album, Classical. Yngwie Malmsteen is probably the only other metal guitarist who has tackled classical music in a serious way. A marriage of metal and classical, Classical includes interpretations of famous compositions by Georges Bizet, Edvard Grieg, Peter Tchaikovsky, Bedrich Smetana, Maurice Ravel, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Edward Elgar. Hoffmann plays all the guitars and he's joined by a handful of guests like Damn Yankees and Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Michael Cartellone, Giant and country music session bass guitarist Mike Brignardello, keyboardist Al Kooper, and bass guitarist Peter Baltes, a former Accept bandmate. In the liner notes, Hoffmann explains that he gives his versions a twist on the originals. Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is transformed into flowing hard rock. Bizet's "Habanera" (from "Carmen") effectively weaves classical guitar and meaty electric guitar lines. Tchaikovsky's "Arabian Dance" (from "The Nutcracker Suite") is given a strong, dramatic rendering. An eight-and-a-half-minute version of Ravel's "Bolero" is Classical's stunning centerpiece thanks to several distinct guitar parts and a few fleeting sound effects. Beethoven and the blues? Hoffmann makes it work on the splendid "Blues for Elise," and Kooper's Hammond B3 organ helps. Elgar's familiar "Pomp & Circumstance" is bombastic to begin with, and Hoffmann pushes that feel even further. The guitarist's lone original on Classical, the terrific "Western Sky," cleverly changes tempos and instrumental patterns. Classical is a successful experiment, and hopefully Hoffmann will continue this kind of work.

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