Mike Miller

Save the Moon

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The playful cover art immediately draws your attention -- it's like wacky video game characters, including a Planet of the Ape guy -- but it might not give off the right impression of the nature of this disc, which is a hip fusion explosion led by one of L.A.'s most ubiquitous guitar heroes who is known mostly as a first-call sideman. Though there's rhythm and melody to spare, the best way to describe Miller's brand of eclecticism is experimental rock. Over a bouncy bed of blues organ laid by Mitch Forman, Miller lives up to the title of "The Sky Lights Up," modulating his electric strings at different pitches while tweaking out a melody line over the moody grooves. "Beatnik" is less involving melodically, but has an irresistibly creepy groove, featuring Jimmy Johnson's throbbing low-end bass and the trombone harmonies of Bruce Fowler. The title track works as a funky rock-flavored anthem without words, highlighted by a sizzling duet by Miller and Fowler at their most intense. After the intentionally abrasive distorted guitar piece "Rocket Dog," a moody cover of John Lennon's "Julia" is a relief, introducing not only Miller's romantic side but also his love for the Beatles, which puts him on the musical path. He then goes "Lennon extreme" on a booming twist of "I Am the Walrus," which is psychedelic guitarisma at its finest. "A Dark Waltz" cools the pace for another romantic interlude. Miller's a bit all over the map, but that seems to be the point and such characterizes his life as an L.A. musician. Guitar fans will love this best of all, but Beatles fans really need to hear two of the finest instrumental covers ever.

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