Michael Landau - Rock Bottom

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Provogue Records
Produced by Michael Landau

As one of the most highly regarded session players in the world, Michael Landau is often cited as a guitar player's guitar player, and while his decorated list of collaborators certainly only lends to his sturdy reputation as a sideman, his solo work is something that absolutely should not be overlooked.

The latest release from the West Coast guitarist is the aptly titled Rock Bottom, a brooding, dark and atmospheric album that sees him re-unite with Burning Water vocalist David Frazee. While the selection of different material on Rock Bottom is particularly satisfying, ranging from casual jams to some of the most angry-sounding rock that's ever come from the Landau, the album always offers a borderline-uncomfortably gloomy atmosphere. From the slow swagger of Gettin' Old to the aggressive punch of Bad Friend, both Landau and David Frazee's vocals remain appropriately inky, which only lends to the overall sonic theme that Landau seems to be trying for on this release.

In terms of the guitarist's actual playing on this album, Rock Bottom is certainly in keeping with the kind of smouldering, yet highly tasteful playing that makes Landau one of the most respected players in the world. However, on most of the material, lead playing takes a backseat in order to allow the songs themselves to shine, and while the lack of an instrumental number may be a disappointment for some fans after a string of all-instrumental albums before this, for the tone of Rock Bottom, it appears to be the right decision. For instance, the fiery breaks in Heaven In The Alley, or the soaring solo on the opening track Squirrels, feel like perfect culminations of the song up to that point. Landau's lead work on this album feels like shading and colour that only lives to serve the song it originates from, instead of using the song as a vehicle for pure guitar idolatry.

In general, Rock Bottom should be considered as a very strong release from the guitarist. The integrity with which it was written and produced allows it to be a unique and satisfying album. If any criticism were to be levelled, it could be argued that the quality of the harder rock tracks is so good, that it should have perhaps warranted the inclusion of some more of those, and at ten tracks long, there was enough room for at least one additional rocker. With that said, Rock Bottom is a brilliantly sophisticated and complex album, steeped in a sarcastic wit that makes for a unique and refreshing listen.

Tracklist: Squirrels / Bad Friend / Gettin' Old / We All Feel The Same / We're Alright / One Tear Away / Poor Dear / Freedom / Heaven In The Alley / Speak Now, Make Your Peace

Written by James Abel
More: 2018, Albums, Blues,

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