In January 1990, Glenn Phillips traveled from his home in Atlanta to San Francisco to record a duet with Henry Kaiser on "If 6 Was 9" for a Jimi Hendrix tribute album. But during the course of a week's visit, the two also recorded lots of other material, delving into the music of the Bay Area and California rock in general by doing covers of songs by Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, and Neil Young, with members of Kaiser's band providing the rhythm section and other guests sitting in. It has taken more than 13 years, but those recordings finally have been released in the form of Guitar Party, which thus ends up being not just Kaiser and Phillips' tribute to Hendrix, but also to such guitarists as Young, John Cipollina, and Jorma Kaukonen, along with versions of some of Phillips' own guitar showcases. As albums go, it's a free-form jamming session full of extensive, psychedelic guitar work. Bob Weir sits in on the Hendrix song, which expands into an improvisation called "Guitar Party." Bob Dylan is cited in strong versions of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (Susan James on vocals) and "Won't You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" (Kaiser's bassist, Gary Lambert, on vocals). There is even a second version of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" included as a hidden bonus track that features someone doing an impersonation of actor Walter Brennan's portrayal of Grandpa on the television series The Real McCoys. That track is odd, but it is carried all the way through faithfully, and you can say something similar about much of the rest of the album. It's an enjoyable busman's holiday on which a couple of friends run through some of their favorite songs and re-animate not a few of them in the process.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann