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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ben Trexel

Under the Radar

Review by Greg Olma

There are a few names out there in the instrumental guitar world that everyone knows: Joe Satriani, Steve Via, Eric Johnson, and Paul Gilbert to name a few. A couple of new names need to be added to that list. TD Clark, who I reviewed last year and now Ben Trexel can both be lumped into that group. I like fast leads and blinding guitar solos but it does not work for a whole song. Ben Trexel understands that. Like the few that came before him, he knows that a guitar can “sing” for your song without taking it over. The tracks on Under The Radar are songs, not guitar solos. If you’re looking for an Yngwie Malmsteen clone, look elsewhere. Ben Trexel plays with feeling and he gives the music space to breath. The styles change on the disc but the one constant is the quality of the tunes and playing. If you’re checking out music on, be sure to llook for Under The Radar. It’s a guitar album that is not just for guitarists.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Wake Up!
Here’s a song that does not quite fit the rest of the album. I would not judge the record on this track. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool piece of music, it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the tracks. It has an 80’s Miami Vice vibe to it that brings back old memories. I like it but the rest of the record molds together better.
Under the Radar
You can hear some Rush type playing on this one. It is more of a rock tune with a Yes ending.
Hard Drive
The Rush guitar sound comes in again on this edgy rocker. It is the hardest number so far and also one of the stand out cuts on the whole CD.
Alligator Waltz
After a rocker Ben Trexel shows a softer side with a short acoustic piece that has the Louisiana bayou all over it. The music and the title fit perfectly.
The acoustic intro is very similar to “Alligator Waltz.” After that short segment, the song turns into a Joe Satriani type rocker. This is exactly the kind of music I meant when I spoke of making guitar albums not just for guitarists.
March Moon
This cut is a soothing acoustic tune that emanates a happy, peaceful, vibe. It has an almost lullaby feel to it. It is a nice break after the previous rocker.
S.O.B. Blues
Of all the songs on offer on this CD, this is my favorite. All of the planets must have aligned and brought this one together. The guitar playing is emotional and fits beautifully with the rest of the song. It is, as the title suggests, a blues track but it has a great mood to it. I could listen to a whole record of this type of cuts.
Take the Fifth
While other tracks may have a Joe Satriani feel to them, this one has more of an Eric Johnson vibe to it. It’s a good rock piece that shows Ben Trexel’s ability to take different styles and put them together into one cohesive record.
This acoustic cut is similar to “March Moon” except it is not as “light.” It’s more of a heavy piece that has some southern twang added for variety.
I like this rocker but I’m not quite sure if it fits the rest of the CD. It has an older (almost late 70’s) rock feel to it. Either way, it is a good rock track that would fit nicely as a soundtrack for a jet video. I guess that is how he came up with the title.
Web of Moments
Another acoustic track and another style. This one has a Rik Emmett sound and feel to it. There is not much too it but it sounds great and at 3 minutes, is just the right length.
Strings Attached
The “March Moon” acoustic sound starts off this rock tune. There is something very “positive” sounding about the music and I would not recommend listening to this disc without going through all of the tracks. This is definitely one of the stronger cuts and it is a great way to finish off the record.
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