Various Artists

The Royal Dan: A Tribute

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Guitarist Jeff Richman came up with this idea: get a house band together made up of A-list session guys (bassist Jimmy Haslip, saxophonist Ernie Watts, etc.) and then invite an all-star cast of guitar gods to come in and take turns interpreting the songs of Steely Dan as jazz-rock fusion. It works either as well or as dreadfully as you'd expect, depending on your perspective. What you need to understand going in is that Royal Dan: A Tribute is largely about tone: this is a guitar record for guitarists, and will appeal greatly to the kinds of guys who can sit around for hours discussing the relative merits of vintage and modern distortion pedals. But it's not all guitar-geek wankery. On "Hey Nineteen," Elliott Randall uses sneaky phrasing and delicate volume variations to turn his bluesy solos into something really special (though Peter Wolf's keyboards are a bit intrusive), and Frank Gambale eschews grandstanding technical fireworks in favor of tasteful harmonic experimentation on "FM." Al di Meola goes insane on his classical guitar on "Aja," and Robben Ford blows the doors off with a thrilling rendition of "Peg," but Mike Stern's take on "Dirty Work" isn't as exciting as it should have been, and Steve Lukather's version of "Pretzel Logic" has just a little bit too much Foreigner to it. Again: keep in mind that this is a guitarist's album -- guitar geeks will find something to argue about on every track, and that's really what it's all about.

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