Richard Bishop

Improvika

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Sir Richard Bishop's guitar work harks back to an earlier time, when acoustic guitar virtuosos like Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho reigned supreme. Back then, players rarely sang, but used all of their energies to create original music that would never be confused (as is the case in the early 2000s) with new age music. This skill and seriousness is reflected even on the title of Bishop's Improvika, and deepened by the odd titles -- "Gnostic Gem" and "Skull of Sidon" -- of individual compositions. But unlike a number of late-'60s and early-'70s guitar icons, Bishop's seriousness of purpose never impedes his ability to make entertaining music. In the driven "Rudra's Fest," for instance, there's ample use of odd chords, but instead of meandering into an Eastern morass, the piece builds in intensity for over eight minutes. The odd "Cryptonymus" qualifies as rather cryptic, but it never indulges in dissonance like a John Fahey composition, and Bishop's smart enough to keep the piece under two minutes. The longest effort is "Tripurasundari," and while the title may be difficult to pronounce, it successfully builds an affecting tension for over eight minutes. Improvika is the type of album guitarists study, wishing they could slow the CD down (as players used to slow down LPs to learn a guitarist's technique); acoustic fans, on the other hand, will be pleased to have a meaningful, full-bodied guitar album.

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