And…it all works.
He composed all of the 14 tracks but two. “Black Dog” is, of course, a Led Zeppelin tune and “Actual Proof” is a Herbie Hancock composition. He also co-wrote the song “Melt” with William Harder. He plays most of the instruments too with but little help from his friends. The friends he does bring aboard, however, are monsters.
He is skilled at all genres of guitar playing from rock to metal to fusion to jazz to funk and all forms betwixt and between. Most of those forms are on full display on this album and he shows no signs of weakness on any of them.
The album opens with “RDX.” The heavy metal intro gives way to melodic twists with a great hook. Fry displays the master-chops early and often, setting the bar high for the remainder of the album. He does not disappoint.
“Celestial Circledance” is an excursion in rock ferocity alongside Arab virtuosity. This is a great track and is just as sweet on the third, thirteenth or thirtieth hearing of it. The move into “Black Dog” is not what you might expect. Instead of the raunchy rocker that is anticipated, Byron turns it something more interesting and developed.
Featured on “Black Dog” is the always-exciting Ronnie Ciago on drums. Ciago is also a name you should know. (See my article on Ronnie here) He has mastered the genres as well as anyone. When drummer Bill Ward was looking for a drummer on his own album, he got Ronnie Ciago.
Together, Byron and Ronnie turn this Led Zeppelin tune into something bluesier and jazzier with a great swing. This is genuinely exciting and intriguing stuff. “Moby the dog” makes an appearance on “Canine vocals.”
The fourth track on the album is “The Mercy of Love.” Beautifully lyrical, the bending and overall tonality makes this a moving piece with a great emotional depth of longing that makes it very touching.
“Of Rinoceri and Propane Tanks” follows quickly with its own cool groove. There is slick pedal work on the sizzling guitar along with the rolling bass. All of this admirably prepares the way for “Hexanite,” a raw and ferocious work that offers slight departures into Soul-like riffs. Chris Buck on bass and Nick Seiwert on drums add their talents to bring this monster home.
“Chowderhead Theorem” on the other hand shows Byron’s affinity for Middle Eastern forms and flairs. There is an almost Van Halen undercurrent here but in a good way. It is a keystone track to the whole album and mixes various styles into something supremely interesting and entertaining.
It is the same thing with “A Rose, A Flame, A Moth.” There are moments of rumba and of even “film noir” textures. Tasty stuff, this! Smooth and pronounced at the same moment. That arrangement style of inter-laced influences is fascinating and continues in “Sandfire.”
“Sandfire” brings Herman Mathews on drums and M.B. Gordy on percussion. After a staticky intro, Byron cuts loose the blistering licks. The rhythm section is a great addition and, with them in the pocket, Byron runs free. It is a well-placed track and serves as a good transition into “No, Really.”
There are fine moments of Allan Holdsworth references here. It is Byron who nails down the bass on this track and it is well done, indeed. “No, Really” provides some of the album’s most thought-provoking moments.
“Melt” was co-written with William Harder. It contains triumphant passages that seem to exalt and encourage. He plays with the melodic current with a very lyrical expression. It could be the most melodic piece of the whole recording. And it does not prepare you for “Fusillade.”
In “Fusillade,” horns are introduced for the first time on the album with Terry Landry on sax, Bill Churchville on trumpet. David Anderson sits in on drums. Anderson and the horns turn this into something reminiscent of Bill Chase’s band in the early 1970s. It is ferocious jazz.
That continues on the album’s finale—Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof.” Vince Norman takes over the sax with Bill Fulton on piano, David Hughes on bass and Anderson returning on the drums. This is straight-up jazz and it is loaded with brilliant guitar licks.
The compositions are strong and the arrangements are stellar. The performances, especially by Byron, are inspired. Mostly, there is no weak moment on the album. Elements of personal taste may make you enjoy one track over another but the entire album is an excellent work. It is an excursion into the details of guitarcraft.
To sample Byron's latest album or to purchase the CD go to http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/byronfry2
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