Given its full title, Guitar Obsession, leading Montréal-based new music guitarist and composer Tim Brady’s new CD covers much of the musical ground the electric guitar has travelled in the past three generations. In fact much of the zeitgeist of our popular culture has been saturated with this mighty instrument. In guises as different as serving in a Big Band rhythm section, to Stairway to Heaven, to the African Guitar Summit, this essentially quiet acoustic plucked string instrument has become through the mediation of electronic amplification a global musical juggernaut.
GO is really two CDs in one. While featuring the virtuoso cutting-edge guitar playing of Brady throughout, the first eight tracks are Brady originals, while the balance of compositions on the album are by others. Most notable of the other composers perhaps is the French Tristan Murail, known primarily for his “spectral” works. He is represented here in Brady’s ominous, ‘heavy metal’-sounding rendition of Vampyr! (1986), recorded live in a New York performance.
For me the outstanding track is GO. Here, Brady shows himself to be a musical quick change artist. In places jazzy, bluesy, and jaggedly new music-y, his guitar and composer chops effortlessly merge in a happy marriage. As a composer, he avoids solo guitar monotony by multi-tracking and thus layering his guitar lines, and varies GO with a rich palette of solo lines, solo with accompaniment and ensemble textures. He pays close attention to structure, variety of densities, tension and release, lyrical melodies as well as bell-like string harmonics.
If your personal musical obsessions include the extended electric guitar, then Tim Brady’s GO can certainly help scratch that itch.