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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Guitar Garden

China Rose

Review by Gary Hill

It's not uncommon these days to find Celtic or even Middle Eastern sounds incorporated into rock music. Traditionally Chinese music, though is a different story. As well as the combination works on this disc, I have to wonder why it's not done more often. The music here is an instrumental smorgasbord that feels quite a bit like California Guitar Trio at times, but also has elements of Pink Floyd, Enigma and others. The Asian sounds run throughout most of the disc. Most instrumental albums are a bit boring and redundant at points, but this one never feels tired, instead it presents a relaxing, you interesting musical soundscape throughout it's length.

Guitar Garden is predominately the work of one man, Pete Prown who handles lead guitar, keyboards, guitar synthesizer, and various sound samples. Prown was editor-in-chief of Guitar Shop magazine and still writes for Vintage Guitar magazine. He has also written several books on music performance, and still he finds the time to follow his passion of creating music. Rich Maloof on acoustic-fingerstyle and electric guitars rounds out the actual lineup, but the disc also includes guest performances by Brett Bottomley (acoustic & electric bass), Steve Puglia (keyboards) and John Gannon (percussion).

Fans of mellower instrumental prog like California Guitar Trio will probably love this disc. It might be worth checking out for others, too, though as it is really an exceptionally good disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Erhu
Traditional Asian sounds give way to a mellow jam that seems a bit like a cross between Enigma and California Guitar Trio. The traditional Asian elements appear in the melody as this moves forward. This is a rather awesome way to start the disc.
China Rose
The traditional sounds dominate a lot of this cut, feels a lot like a Chinese folk song. This is interspersed with more of the modern elements form the previous track to create a moving and quite potent piece. The guitar feels just a little like David Gilmour at times here. There are points that feel like the most proggy and dramatic Paul McCartney solo material. This is another winner.
Green Mountains
This is pretty and folky with less of an Asian presence. This one gains a lot of intensity and power as it carries forward, moving further into more pure prog territory. This is a rather amazing piece of music.
Cloudburst
Appropriately a driving rain starts this. Acoustic guitar joins, and the rain dwindles and stops. Keys and other instruments join in, and the melody begins to build. The Asian tones show up here only in the form of flute. Overall this is a pretty acoustic guitar solo with accompaniment that again calls to mind CGT. This one is quite lush in its arrangement at times, but doesn't wander overly far in scope. The rain returns to see the track out.
Lotus
This comes in totally traditional Chinese and carries in this manner for a time. Eventually other elements appear over top of this backdrop and the cut starts to grow and mature. The Chinese modes take control again later before a lush melody returns to take the piece forward, but then the Chinese elements gain control again. This is a pretty incredible piece of music.
Bird of Paradise
Once again traditional elements begin this, but an electronic beat come in as the backbone and the cut continues with just those two elements for a time. Then a full prog arrangement explodes in, the traditional tones running over top. This is another killer number and feels a little like Steve Howe solo material at time. It also rocks out heavier at points than anything thus far on the disc. Tradition elements and birds take it for a time, thin it shifts a mellow prog take on the themes.
Blue
Atmospheric tones start this and carry forward, at first accompanied only by gentle percussion. The lead elements come over top in gentle veins until the piece eventually ramps up a bit in its prog textures. It's still fairly mellow, but has have a little crunch at times. This is quite a pretty and relaxing piece of music and another that at times feels just a little like Pink Floyd. The arrangement here gets quite powerful and this is a definite winner.
Ashes of the Pagoda
This start with xylophone like sounds, then Asian instruments and electric guitar come over top. As an electro rhythm takes it guitar screams over top in the hardest rocking segment on the disc. The xylophone like sounds take it after this, then a full on hard edged rock guitar solo dominated new prog segment takes over propelling it even higher. This ends abruptly.
Erhu (Extended Remix) (Bonus Track)
The disc closes with a slightly longer take on the opening piece. This version has a bit more drama and power than the opening take and helps to make for a nice bookend conclusion to the album.
 
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