Various Artists

Guitar Workshop [Castle] [Single Disc]

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Originally released on Transatlantic in 1973, the idea was to offer a showcase to "progressive" acoustic guitarists, and it certainly did that, picking on talent and originality rather than fame -- in fact, only three of these artists would do anything more -- Steve Tilston, Pete Berryman, and Willy Barrett, who became Wild Willy Barrett and joined forces with John Otway. The playing is uniformly excellent throughout, from the ridiculously fast picking of Simon Boswell's "Trout Joins the Cavalry" to the radical gestures of Barrett's "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Acoustic Guitarist." What's lacking all too often, though, is some vastly different viewpoint. The players mostly take their cues from folk and blues; for example, John & Mike Rogers offer dexterous hands but not much imagination on "Brother Nature," with its bluesy progressions and leads, although John Rogers redeems himself with a slightly wonky interpretation of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." So while it's impressive stuff for 1973, to hear it in any kind of retrospect lets you know how far acoustic guitar music has come, and why most of these people never made a name -- they had the skills, but not the minds, to make their individual statements. It just goes to show that fast fingers are never quite enough.

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