Bill Hart

Subject to Change

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Dabbling heavily in jazz-rock fusion, Bill Hart's third album roves between the good and the mediocre. There are strong hints of his guitar prowess worked into the proceedings, but the compositions (all originals) never quite give him the stage needed to break out. The album starts promisingly with a peppy piece that seems to have some inspiration from the Miles Davis fusion era (indeed, one of Hart's primary teachers and influences is Mike Stern, who spent time in Miles' comeback band). An overly deep bass groove kicks in for the next track, overpowering the lightweight guitar work, and continues into the third. In "Sara's Song," the overproduction lessens and Hart is able to put more emotion into his playing -- it's not technically amazing, but it's a welcome change. "Anna Banana" picks the tempo back up a bit, as well as the slickness of production (Hart also switches back from nylon to electric at this point). A quick stab at some stuttering funk guitar is all over the place (but with a nice solo worked in), and the title track is again overwhelmed by the overdramatic bass. "You're Next" has inklings of Jan Hammer's compositions, which works to Hart's advantage greatly -- one is reminded just a bit of John McLaughlin when he gets going properly. An African-inspired piece (according to the liner notes) has a loping approach with what may be a bit of darkness in the chord changes, and comes off as forgettable at best. The next two tracks feature guest star Stern, which picks up the proceedings a bit and makes the solos a bit more lyrical in the bargain. Hart shines in his soloing for "Inside Out," showing off speed and a bit of technical mastery that have been fairly hidden for the majority of the album. The picking style opens up a bit for "Spazio Aperto," making for a lighter sound and a spacier arrangement, both of which are to Hart's credit. After another forgettable piece of experimentation, the album closes on a slightly fuzzy track with a wandering focus -- that was the intention, but the execution does come out sounding a bit like a dramatic bridge for a cheap movie. Hart has some technical skill, but it never quite gels here. The songs all come out sounding either sludgy and heartfelt, or soulless and technically proficient. Or worse, manufactured for emotionality. With more development, especially in the composition, Hart has the potential to shine on future outings. Just not quite yet.

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