"Next Stop" is the second release from the talented Scottish trio The John Irvine Band, featuring John Irvine (guitar and keyboards), Doug Kemp (bass), and Alan Emslie (drums and percussion).
"Next Stop" deviates ever so slightly from the 2012 debut "Wait And See", covering much the same territory. But considering the debut album was one of the musical highlights of 2012, I'm pleased to see the band continue in this vein without making wholesale changes from one album to the next.
John 's background includes a PhD in Composition from the University of Edinburgh and an affinity for free-jazz improvisational fusion. While attending school in New York he experimented with a variety of styles and textures, expanding his sound pallet by composing music written for acoustic instruments and tape - incorporating sampled and processed sounds with traditional acoustic instruments. This conflicting montage of traditional theatrical acoustic instrumentation and concrete sounds samples made for some interesting and possibly off balance avante garde compositions. And that confluence of styles and textures is reflected in his compositions on "Next Stop".
Comparisons to Allan Holdsworth and John Irvine are inevitable, since their style mirrors one another. And while his first album "Wait And See" bore a marked similarity to Holdworth's early albums "Velvet Darkness", "I.O.U", "Road Games" and "Metal Fatigue" - with "Next Stop" Irvine proves himself to be just as good as Holdsworth at his best, in both writing and performing.
The album opens with "High Mountain", a short cinematic prologue more akin to the expressive guitar-work of Camel's Andy Latimere or Steve Hackett - quite moving and majestic. Which segues into the title track "Next Stop", returning to more familiar territory for Irvine and Company, fusing elements of classical finger-style techniques, complex chord progressions, and augmented and chromatic scales, making his intrigate guitar-work comparable to such distinguished artists as Holdsworth, Pat Metheny, Alex Lifeson, Jan Akkerman, and the late Peter Banks.
The track "Your Skyline" has a nice smooth jazz flavor to it reminiscent of Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons. This track as well as many others features some nice complimentary keyboard work from Irvine.
The tracks that work best for me are the hard rocking numbers like "Slipstream", "Pyramid Power", and "Here Comes The Twister". Great guitar-work throughout.
The closing track "A Means To An End" was far and away my favorite track - a rousing number that had a 'Genesis on steroids' vibe to it. I was reminded of Daryl Stuermer's "Rewired: The Electric Collection". Stuermer toured extensively with Genesis after the departure of Steve Hackett, and that influence was in evidence when he recorded his solo album "Rewired". And that same 'harder-edged' Genesis sound can be heard on "A Means To An End" which features a nice blend of guitar and keyboard interplay.
Highly recommended to fans of instrumental guitar-driven rock fusion and artists like Allan Holdsworth, Pat Methany, Peter Banks, Vinnie Moore, Gary Moore, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, and Summers & Fripp.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on February 12th, 2014