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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Stu Hamm

The Diary of Patrick Xavier

Review by Gary Hill

Let's make this point abundantly clear, this is not progressive rock in traditional sense. Still, it is purely instrumental music, and often related to fusion. That makes it experimental in a lot of ways. I'd classify that under prog. I don't know of a lot of other albums out there made up of nothing but bass solos. As a bass player myself, I've always been a fan of Stuart Hamm's work. He definitely impresses, and this kind of un-augmented approach lets him drive that point home. I'd have to say that it's probably a limiting factor in terms of the size of the audience, though. However, fans of bass guitar will find themselves at home here, sitting in the presence of greatness.

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Track by Track Review
Bass opens this in a fine, mellow style, painting some intriguing pictures as it moves forward. This is mellower, expressive and quite pretty with a bit of a bluesy element to it in some ways.
My Boss Drives a Mercedes, but I'm Working for Minimum Wage Plus Tips
This bass solo is a bit less expressive at the start, but more dramatic in a lot of ways. It paints some intriguing musical elements and moods in that first section. As it gets more song-like in the next movement, it has a real progressive rock kind of vibe to me. This keeps evolving as it makes its way forward. Then it drops back to the opening section again as it approaches the end of the piece. A quick burst of fast paced bass jamming is heard at the end.
Smoke Break
After a chorus of "smoke break," the bass jams with some killer fusion textures. This is a powerful and dynamic, fast paced excursion. Another "smoke break" leads into a more old school jazz segment. After working through a few changes, Hamm ends it as we hear another "smoke break."
Bouna Notte Amore Mia, Ovunque Tu Sia
Coming in a bit slower and tentatively, Hamm's bass work creates some intriguing sonic tapestry. It builds just a little toward more fusion oriented stuff before it's over.
The City
I love the fast paced riff that leads this out of the gate. The cut works through explorations based around that for a few measures before shifting to a more trippy kind of thing for a bit. Then the opening riff segment returns. It works toward some weirder stuff beyond that in a real avant-garde way before coming back to that riff section. It shifts to a different section after that, and Hamm begins taking us into some cool fusion from there.
Chopping Wood
Dramatic, fast paced jamming brings this into being, and it's such a cool ride. There are some parts that feel a bit like classical music to me.
Co Rd
Mellower at the start, this is another cool bass exploration. It starts to work out into some cool rocking territory as it continues to evolve.
The Weeping Beech
Starting mellow and tentatively, this has a start and stop approach to it. That leaves a lot of white space in this artistic creation.
The Ballad of Billy Pilgrim
There is some ambient texture at the start of this cut. Chords rise up and play out, testing the sustain. There is a real dramatic textural element to this. I recorded a piece years ago that was basically distorted bass let to echo and feedback. This makes me think of a more mainstream take on that musical concept. This starts to really rock out with some distorted textures. Still, it remains exploratory and experimental.
I love the cool melodies on this exploration. I love how Hamm manages to play something that feels like a lead, to carry the melody, while also providing a rhythmic bass element, and do it all in what is often one bass line. This is quite a pretty piece and has a real grounding effect to end this set in style.
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