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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Joe Matera

Slave To The Fingers EP

Review by Bruce Stringer

Australian rock journalist and guitar player, Joe Matera, combines his love of straight out, balls-to-the-wall rock 'n' roll with a laid back Satriani-esque bluesiness that manages to capture a nostalgic bygone era of rock that was. If you grew up in the 1980s listening to AC/DC and The Angels (aka Angel City) then this may be an interesting – yet brief – nostalgic trip down memory lane. There are no pretensions: the CD EP has a fun, almost satirical humor to it making the most of what rock and roll is all about. Guest guitar performances from The Angels' Rick Brewster - a pillar of the Australian rock scene - and Mick McConnell from legendary UK band Smokie, add further dimension to a nice, multi-sided gem that pays tribute to a time when modern rock music still had its innocence.

The contained video clip “Face Off” has a retro, 1980s feel with regards the use of content and TV-grade bleeding of color. Footage of Matera is interspersed between (and over) a continuous run of highway driving film. There are some simple – yet effective – visual effects of graphic equalizer displays overlaying the driving and live shots, and a meaty rock vibe. There appears to be almost no footage of Matera’s band mates, even though some of the footage looks to be taken during an onstage performance but this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. All in all, it is a creative effort and fun to watch!

Joe Matera’s CD EP has some fine moments, reflections – if you will – of a time in rock true to itself and simply being what it is, not claiming to be what it’s not. As a known journalist in Australian music circles, penning pieces for the likes of “Australian Guitar Magazine,” he brings a well-read understanding of music in all its forms to his craft and – instead of throwing his hat in the competition ring – he manages to create something nostalgic, yet original, with a narrative that has a unique character. The outcome is never over-bearing; it has a palate of subtlety and flavor that is a welcome experience to the listener.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro

With a solid, four to the floor rhythm this 30-second introduction has a tasty smacking of Angels and AC/DC  Australiana. It’s short, sharp and to the point. A brief introduction, a no-nonsense guitar solo and it’s over. There’s no time wasting, just hitting the mark and moving on.

Slave To The Fingers
Minor key and melodic, this thematic rocker employs some interesting Thin Lizzy-like harmony work in the vein of the much underrated Renegade album. It has a straight feel and a very natural playing style. Drummer, James Strickler, holds the fort with some subtle closing hi-hat “splashes” and has a well-mixed, stereo tom imagery. Guest guitarist, Mick McConnell from Smokie, mixes up some smooth Snowy White blues lines with legato, Satriani-esque tapping phrases. Finally, the song closes with a reprise of the mood-inspiring melodies.
Cruise Control

Not to be confused with Steve Morse’s track of the same name, Matera’s piece is a Summer driving instrumental with some interesting six-string interplay. Tony Dolan’s bass weaves and works its way throughout with a certain menace, almost contradicting the innocence of the song. The double-tracked acoustic and electric rhythm guitars are nicely mixed leaving space for Matera’s dueling axes. Again, there are some nods to the harmony work of Irish rockers, Thin Lizzy, taking the song to its finale.
Out Of The Blue

This track could well have been a vocal-less studio outtake from The Angels’ classic era output. The chord work has the hooks of ascending and descending inverted chords (made famous by bands like AC/DC on Back in Black), where full chords and the more minimalist “no third” are utilized for a darker, minor key effect. The song tacitly queries what things would be like with singing on it, as it could well have pushed much further past the three-minute running time taking advantage of both the instrumental and vocal. Still, this is a standout track from the EP.

Face Off
Rick Brewster of The Angels guests with a double-tracked guitar solo and some more Renegade-era Thin Lizzy harmonies. There is a big rhythm sound, thanks to some spacious acoustic guitars and some well arranged turnarounds. Matera’s solo work makes an interesting companion to Brewster’s: he has a distinct style and attack, and his vibrato is defined by a harder edge, possibly in response to the excessive legato of many mainstream guitar heroes. Serving as the single, it’s apparent that Matera and backing musos, Strickler and Dolan, are having a ball of a time and savoring the enjoyment of every moment.
 
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