Various Artists

Jam on Guitars

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This compilation of some of the jammier guitar tracks culled from the prog-oriented Magna Carta label looks like a quickie job. There are no liner notes, credits list the musicians on each of the dozen tracks but oddly omit songwriters, and the cover art isn't exactly world-class. Still, there is plenty to enjoy on this sampler likely thrown together with the hopes that once you get a taste for the featured tune, you'll spring for the artist's release. Names such as Steve Morse, Charlie Hunter, Alex Skolnick, and Will Bernard are likely familiar to shred and/or jazz guitar fans. Others, like Oz Noy, Chris Poland, Michael Lee Firkins, and Bill Cutler, not so much. The music ranges from the funky yet straight-ahead jazz of Skolnick's "Scorch" to Fareed Haque's east India drone "Gulab Jammin'," and the Clinton Administration's hard funk cover of "Flashlight." All but one are instrumentals, the exception being the closing track, "Starlight Jamboree." This ballad, credited to Bill Cutler, is a schmaltzy tribute to Jerry Garcia, who appears from the grave to donate an overdubbed solo. Despite good intentions, it's the album's weakest song by a large margin. Elsewhere, Tishamingo does a good approximation of Santana on "Rome," and Ozric Tentacles takes off with its patented techno-space rock groove on "Disdots." Mike Stern, who is oddly absent from the cover credits, spars with Oz Noy on the driving "Downside Up," the disc's longest, most intense, and arguably most complex performance. The eclectic nature of the selections works in favor of the album's intent. Even though the styles and genres are varied, the focus on guitars and innovative playing remains constant. Despite its cut-rate appearance, this is a consistently enjoyable listen as a label sampler and should introduce at least a few new names to most jam guitar aficionados for further exploration. In that respect, mission accomplished.

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