Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Album Review - Lee Carlson "Essence Of Time"

Lee Carlson is an Instrumental Rock guitarist from Calgary, Alberta. His unique, epic style of composing and playing takes the listeners on an aural adventure. He has been likened to players such as John Petrucci , Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

Born & raised on Vancouver Island, Lee started playing guitar at age 12 taking private lessons and playing in the school band. After graduating, Lee attended Malaspina College for one year where he studied Jazz Theory and Composition. He moved to Vancouver after college and studied composition with music producer David Malecot of Malecot Music Enterprises.

A year later, Lee began teaching guitar lessons and joined the metal band, Acropolis. The band was a great musical outlet, he was with this band for a year and enjoyed many great shows. After Acropolis, Lee joined a band called Friday's Cry, toured Western Canada and recorded 5 albums.

Shortly after moving to Alberta in 2002 he joined Da Capo, a jazz quartet and recorded one live CD. A year passed and Lee moved on to form a heavy rock band called Critical Day. With this band, he enjoyed a host of great shows which included opening for Jars Of Clay, Starfield and Riley Armstrong. He has also studied music business under guitar virtuoso Tom Hess.

As well has having recorded a self titled EP, Lee has recently released his debut solo album, ESSENCE OF TIME. This marks the 8th album to his credit.

Kicking off the album is a straight-up, epic rock track called The Eternal. Lee told me that he really likes the solo section which has a Phrygian Dominant tonality! This song also appears on the compilation album, Guitars From The Shadows. The track is full of great ideas, but stays accessible enough not to make Lee sound like some kind of shred snob. Influences on this track range from the obscure to sounding like Satch himself wrote some sections. The hook is very singable too.

Track 2, For Evermore, is another rock instrumental. “This song kind of wrote itself,” says Lee, who had the basic chord progression and improvised on it until he heard the rest of the song in his head. There is a dramatic change of feel for the solo section, which is a lesson in virtuosic picking.

The title track, Essence Of Time, evolved over a couple of years and was originally written with many alternating time signatures, but Lee decided that it worked better in 4/4. The Steve Vai influence on Lee is most apparent in this track. Fortunately Lee isn’t just another Vai clone and exhibits his own tastes and style while playing on the edge (or is that the ultimate control?). The emotive bridge section creates an interesting contrast to the driving of the rest of the song.

Beyond is a lesson in song writing and imagination. “I wanted to write a song that just cycled the same chord progression from start to finish, but each section would have a different interpretation, so to speak, of the progression”, says Lee. Well, apparently, Lee has a bottomless bag of tricks. The solo on this song is my favourite part of the entire album.

The last track, Smooth Waters, is “Your basic guitar ballad”, according to Lee. However, Lee has definitely taken the time to acquire full control of that mystical 6-stringed beast called the electric guitar, and I can assure you that there is nothing basic about this track.

All-in-all, this is a great album for those who enjoy a good amount of feel/emotion on their shred records. You’ll be seeing and hearing more of Lee Carlson, that’s for sure.


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