Roy Montgomery

Silver Wheel of Prayer

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Recorded during the same sessions that produced The Allegory of Healing (and mixed at the same time as that album some months later), Silver Wheel of Prayer isn't so much a companion piece as its own particular, self-contained effort. Both sonically and in terms of how Montgomery named each piece -- "For the Imperiled," "For the Disoriented," etc. -- there's a greater sense on the solely instrumental Silver Wheel of conscious arrangement and organization than on the here and there Allegory. The album itself isn't a constant variation on similar themes, but the first three tracks make it seem so. All have a same near-trademark heavily reverbed, moody, and minimal guitar line at its center, each differing via extra elements or overdubs. "For the Disoriented" has an open-ended organ part leading the way, for instance, while "For the Mortified" similarly adds extra, mysterious drones, guitar, and keyboard washes to the core of the piece. After that, though, each of the four remaining songs is a different composition entirely, perhaps Montgomery's own little joke by setting up expectations and then undercutting them. "For the Dispossessed" is one of Montgomery's best songs, based around a repetitive, slashing guitar figure treated with heavy flange, while equally frazzled guitar and keyboard parts slowly build up around it to create a countermelody, all while sharing the same basic rhythm. It's a bravura effort, demonstrating how even with simpler approaches he can maintain a very distinct musical voice. The album concludes with one of his lengthier explorations, "For a Small Blue Orb." Described in the liner notes as first tried out on an acoustic guitar in a friend's place almost 20 years previously, here it's a lovely blend of, again, a core repeating melody and understated overdubs and extra parts woven together into a new attractive whole. It's further proof that electric guitar was alive and well in 2001.

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