Andy Timmons

That Was Then, This Is Now

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Apparently nothing -- not punk, not grunge, nor any other movement based on the virtues of either economy or primitivism -- can kill the guitar god. There's just too much mythology woven into the idea of the nimble-fingered whiz standing heroically and playing faster than anyone outside of the Berklee School could imagine. So it is with Timmons, whose chops burn throughout this album like fire through dry brush. With only bass and drums behind him, he has unlimited room, all of which he fills with singing lines, hammer-ons, menacing low-register effects, and above all lots and lots of notes. (The one exception to this incendiary approach is the final track, "Slips Away," whose dedication to George Harrison more or less forces Timmons to put the brakes on.) The problem, of course, is that this style is about nothing else other than virtuosity; bluntly, the point it to show off. It's a gunslinger mentality that guides players like Timmons, but instead of pistols drawn at high noon, they stake out their territory at center stage and concentrate on blowing everybody away -- fans as well as the competition. Ultimately this aesthetic leads nowhere; the more real creative risks you take, the less likely you are to make an impression on connoisseurs who have learned to measure excellence by the guitarist's sheer velocity and use of certain idiomatic licks. The fact that these essentially similar tracks were recorded from 1994 to 2001 only makes their one-dimensional character more evident; in that respect, That Was Then, This Is Now is no better or worse than what's already been laid down in this genre and what's sure to follow (although, to be fair, it seems unlikely anybody else will dare to cover Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" as a surfer jam after this treatment by Timmons).

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