When a guitarist spends as many years near the top of the chops-for-chops'-sake crowd -- gracing guitar magazine covers and hocking guitar and recording equipment -- it's easy to understand how liberating things like bands and songs (aimed to entertain more than impress) could be. After years of shred domination, Blues Saraceno was one such musician. The guitarist took to the Hollywood hills some time in the late '90s, holed up with some like-minded musical collaborators, and together they created The Sky, the Stars, and the Great Beyond. This title perhaps suggests Saraceno's vision of the endless possibilities of pop music that emanates from one's heart and mind rather than one's fingers. The guitarist and the equally talented James E. Keegan (drums), Erik Topolski (bass), and Jason Freese (keyboards) together formed Transmission OK with the simple aim of writing and recording soulful, dynamic pop. Shades of artists as diverse as the Beatles, Beck, and the Backstreet Boys can be detected on this debut, as Transmission OK glide effortlessly through skin tight pop/rock with a little blues/boogie, alternative, R&B, and prog wedged in for good measure. Among the most pleasurable slices of crystalline songcraft are the mellow "Fiberglass," the bouncy pop "Rocketship," and rockers like "The Reason Why." Each of The Sky, the Stars, and the Great Beyond's mellower numbers, like "Supermodel," are standouts, but there isn't a clunker in the entire 12-song set. To say this record is a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. It isn't deep or important, but this debut is easy on the ears and guaranteed to energize listeners on a long stretch of highway or in a deep funk, searching for something sweet, thoughtful, and fun.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson