Greg Brown

Distant Places

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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann

Virginia-based guitarist and composer Greg Brown (not to be confused with the folk singer/songwriter of the same name) says that he has "been able to fuse my varied loves and compositional styles" on this disc, adding, "the result is this eclectic mix I call Distant Places." A better description might have been "Disparate Pieces," since the album contains tracks in a variety of styles that don't sound like they should all be on the same CD, unless it's considered a sampler. Brown begins with "Alpha Centuri," a classical composition performed by the Charlottesville Camerata Rotunda Orchestra, and ends (not counting the "bonus track") with the ambitious, four-part synthesizer work "Age of Fire" (tracks 9-12). In between, he applies himself to his solo acoustic (and, in one case, electric) guitar for a series of shorter efforts. These tend to jump around considerably, with, for instance, "Americana" being not so much an organized composition as a series of different effects -- rapid chording giving way to delicate fingerpicking and then some harmonics -- as if the guitarist was just playing to amuse himself. Later tracks in this group are better organized, with "Farewell 2001" revealing a strong Spanish guitar influence. Brown describes "Age of Fire" as an attempt to dramatize the Book of Revelation and "depict the last days of earth." He acknowledges that it draws on "themes I wrote while in my metal phase," and, indeed, the first ("Rebellion") and last ("Dragon Fire") parts in particular find heavy metal guitar playing contrasting with the synthesizer themes, albeit with the guitar much lower in the mix than heavy metal guitars are usually placed. "Maelstrom," the third part, is an electronic sound composition. The album ends with "The Forgotten One," a track from 1989, which is in a progressive rock mold and could be a section of a song by Rush. Brown exhibits both compositional and performing talents throughout the album, even if hasn't really be able to "fuse" the often very different pieces into a whole.

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